Mark Beckner opens up about JonBenet Ramsey case, then regrets it
Former Boulder chief: 'Misunderstanding and naivete on my part'
By Charlie Brennan
Editor's note: The box of excerpts has been changed to remove a question about Burke Ramsey that was not answered by Beckner but rather by a Reddit commenter.
Beckner on Ramsey
Excerpts from former Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner's Q&A on Reddit:
• On initial police handling of the case: "I wish we would have done a much better job of securing and controlling the crime scene on day one. We also should have separated John and Patsy and gotten full statements from them that day. Letting them go was a big mistake, as they soon lawyered up and we did not get to formally interview them again until May of 1997, five months after their daughter was murdered."
• On whether a stun gun was used: "Stun gun — no. The coroner and others who looked at the abrasion did not believe it came from a stun gun. The distance between the two marks did not match the probes of any stun gun we found. Stun guns are loud and hurt like crazy — which would have probably elicited some screaming. That probably would have woke someone up."
• On possible sources of unidentified DNA on JonBenet's clothing: "Manufacturing process is one. Interactions with other people is another. Intentional placement is another. Belongs to an intruder is another. Yes, you can often tell where DNA comes from. In this case, it is small enough that it is difficult to tell. CBI thought it was either sweat or saliva."
• On whether there might have been an intruder the night of the murder: "Most investigators do not believe there was a legitimate point of entry. It is unknown how an intruder may have gotten in. Lou Smit always believed it was the basement window, but we did not agree with him, as the dust and spider web were undisturbed."
• On public interactions between JonBenet's parents: "They rarely interacted and this did not seem normal given the circumstances. Lots of speculation as to why."
• On relations between police and the Boulder District Attorney's office under Alex Hunter: "DA involvement in this case was inappropriate. They interfered in the investigation by being roadblocks to getting things done. They did not want to do a grand jury until forced to. We never allowed the DA to get that involved in a case again. Today, the new DA is great to work with and the police and DA's office work as a team."
Read the full Q&A at bit.ly/1DRQoLS.
Former Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner made his most extensive remarks to date about the JonBenet Ramsey case in a rare online Q&A over the weekend — but he's now expressing misgivings about having done so.
The former chief, 59, and now living in Firestone, said Tuesday he didn't realize his comments during an "Ask Me Almost Anything" session for the Reddit online community would filter out to the public at large.
"I talked to the organizer and my impression was that this was a members-only type group that talked about unsolved mysteries all around the world," Beckner said of the Saturday Q&A, which garnered more than 600 comments.
"In fact, they had to give me a password to get in," he said. "I didn't know it was an open-architecture type thing, or I wouldn't have done it. It was a misunderstanding and naivete on my part.
"I've tried to put the media attention behind me."
Although Beckner said he was not getting much feedback from the piece — as of Tuesday — he now wishes he had not participated in the Reddit forum.
But now with the chat out of the bag, he was asked if there was anything he wished to take back, add to, or clarify.
"I tried to be honest and fair," Beckner said, "and I think the only thing I would emphasize is that the unknown DNA (from JonBenet's clothing) is very important. And I'm not involved any more, but that has got to be the focus of the investigation. In my opinion, at this point, that's your suspect.
"The suspect is the donator of that unknown DNA, and until you can prove otherwise, I think that's the way you've got to look at it."
JonBenet Ramsey was found dead in her parents' basement Dec. 26, 1996, hours after her mother, Patsy Ramsey, had called 911 to report finding a lengthy ransom note demanding the unusual sum of $118,000 for her child's safe return.
The star-crossed investigation was marred by open feuding between the office of then-Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter and the Boulder Police Department. A grand jury heard evidence from September 1998 through October 1999, but was discharged with no action publicly revealed.
In January 2013, the Daily Camera reported that the grand jury had voted to indict both John and Patsy Ramsey in their youngest child's death, but that Hunter had refused to sign the indictments, judging that there was insufficient evidence to prove the charges at trial.
A subsequent lawsuit by a Daily Camera reporter revealed in October 2013 that each parent had been indicted for felony child abuse resulting in death and accessory to the crimes of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. Hunter, however, refused to sign the indictments.
JonBenet's parents always proclaimed their innocence in the case. Patsy Ramsey succumbed to cancer in 2006 after a long illness, and John Ramsey no longer lives in Colorado.
In August 2006, then-District Attorney Mary Lacy ordered the arrest in Thailand of American schoolteacher John Mark Karr, who incriminated himself in JonBenet's slaying through a lengthy email correspondence and a series of 11 phone conversations with University of Colorado journalism professor Michael Tracey. Karr was brought back to Boulder to face charges, but then was abruptly cleared and released on the basis of DNA testing.
No one has ever been criminally prosecuted in JonBenet's death, and Lacy publicly exonerated the Ramseys in 2008 based on DNA evidence.
'It's an open homicide investigation'
Current Boulder police Chief Greg Testa on Tuesday said Beckner didn't tell him he was going to discuss the case on Reddit.
"I learned about it by seeing it posted online," Testa said.
"I can't control him. He's not an employee here anymore," Testa added. "I think that most of the information that he discussed was already in the public domain. And I didn't read it line for line, but Mark understands the nature of that investigation, and certainly wouldn't do anything to compromise it."
Beckner stated on Reddit that the case is "not actively being worked, unless some new information would become available."
Testa elaborated, in Tuesday's interview, on the Ramsey case status.
"It's an open homicide investigation. We have detectives in our major crimes unit who are assigned to all of our cold cases, and there are two detectives assigned to that case currently," Testa said.
"The work they're doing is, anytime we get info from the public, tips or leads, that information would be evaluated and assigned to a detective to look into. It's not actively being worked, in terms of new information, but new information that comes in, is looked at. That was really the situation when Beckner was here, too. That hasn't changed."
Beckner may write book — about Ramsey and more
On Reddit, Beckner was more willing to voice opinions on some points than others, and stepped lightly in certain areas.
For example, asked his "opinion" on Patsy Ramsey's frantic early morning call to 911, Becker merely stated, "Sorry, I'm going to pass on this one."
But he had far more to say about Karr's arrest and subsequent release.
"My gut reaction was that Mary Lacy did not know the facts of the case and was making a big mistake," Beckner told the Reddit forum. "His confession, once they shared it with us, did not match the evidence at the scene.
"After she asked for our help in proving he did it, we knew in about 18 hours he was not the guy. We were able to confirm he was not even in Colorado at the time by just doing some routine checking and then obtained photos of him in Georgia at the time. The DNA test, which she thought would prove he did it, proved her wrong."
Beckner also admitted in the forum to initial botching of the crime scene by his department, to the lasting detriment of the case.
And, while noting that the Ramseys' "position" in the community could have influenced its handling, he added, "I think the primary reason was a perfect storm type scenario. It was the Christmas holiday and we were short staffed, we faced a situation as I said earlier that no one in the country had ever seen before or since, and there was confusion at the scene as people were arriving before we had enough personnel on the scene."
Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett on Tuesday said of Beckner's comments: "He's retired, he's a private citizen, he can make his own decisions." He added, "He was a fine police chief, I'll tell you that."
Beckner now said he is teaching several law enforcement classes online through Norwich University in Vermont. He was asked on the forum if he will ever write a book about the Ramsey saga.
"If I write a book, it will not be specifically about the Ramsey case," Beckner said. "Too many on that already. I might write an autobiography covering my entire career, of which the Ramsey case would be a part of."
If Beckner does, he doubts it will have a dramatic concluding courtroom chapter, having told Reddit, "(I)do not believe anyone will ever be convicted in the Ramsey case."http://www.dailycamera.com/News/ci_27591666/Mark-Beckner-opens-up-about-JonBenet-Ramsey-case-then-regrets-it