I admit it; I was one of those people who read the news reports leaked by police about the Ramsey family’s actions after the murder of JonBenet and found the family unsatisfactory in their behavior. While I never jumped to the conclusion that the Ramsey family was complicit in the murder of their daughter, I bought into the media hype at the time that the family ‘should have done more‘. I am sorry for that, as many of us should be.
By now many people have heard about the arrest in Thailand of John Mark Karr, who confessed to ‘being with JonBenet when she died’. Further information indicates Karr knew details not available to the general public, but it remains to be confirmed whether Karr’s confession proves he was the killer. After so much hysteria and unfounded assumption, we should be wary of assuming that appearances are accurate.
But one thing which has become clear, should be shouted loudly and often; as a federal judge said in dismissing a 2003 civil case against the parents of JonBenet, “the weight of the evidence is more consistent with a theory that an intruder murdered JonBenét than it is with a theory that Mrs. Ramsey did it.” In fact, a substantial amount of evidence pointed away from the parents, including the DNA samples from the murder scene. Putting it bluntly, the DNA evidence cleared the Ramseys, but almost no one ever heard about that, because the media had targeted the parents.
Just two months ago, Patsy Ramsey died of Ovarian Cancer. She’d fought it off before, but it came back and killed her.
It’s sentimental perhaps, to think that the stress of first losing her daughter then being persecuted as if she had something to do with it for a decade could have led to the return of her cancer, but clearly the last decade of Patsy Ramsey’s life was a tragedy that was made worse by the media and the police. Perhaps in the coming weeks, we will see a proper apology from the worst of the Ramsey’s venomous antagonists, but somehow I doubt that.
We bloggers have a responsibility in this sort of affair, as well. There were no real bloggers on the job in 1996, but there have been a lot of websites started in the past decade, and more than a few devoted to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Most of them took the media at face value, and focused almost solely on the family as complicit, like this forum.
Imagine what the father went through. The daughter murdered, from the start the media is ruthless and hungry for a high-profile target, like the mom or dad. You try to get through the burial and to protect your family by having an agent hired to deal with the press, for which you are even further vilified. Along the course of a decade, you are personally accused, even sued, for the death of your own daughter, your wife is also accused on no evidence, then your son – nine years old when his sister was murdered – is blamed in the press. You finally get a taste of vindication for the crime, but not until your wife dies, in all likelihood never knowing for sure who murdered her daughter. It is hard to imagine a more heinous injustice for a family to suffer than the Ramseys endured. It’s even harder to imagine what can be done to properly apologize for the conduct of the police and the press. For my part, I mean to keep this whole incident in mind as an especially painful and gruesome reminder to make sure of facts, and to avoid wholesale and salacious condemnation. I can’t but wonder who else would have the honesty to make the same commitment.