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PEOPLE MAGAZINE: May24
BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
new pictures: Patsy draped all over John the candidate, she's looking slimmer and healthy, John, at desk, with picture of campaign button inset
By Pam Lambert, Lauren Commander in Charlevoix
Fairly or not, John and Patsy Ramsey have been haunted by suspicion since their daughter JonBenet's murder. After almost 7 and a half years of proclaiming their innocence and chasing privacy, why is John now running for office?
They, are of course, the couple at the center of a true crime mystery. The public first saw John and Patsy as grieving parents. Over the next few weeks that followed, questions grew about the couple's innocence: Why, when police started asking questions, had they gotten lawyers and refused to take lie detector tests? Why had someone composed a "practice" version of a ransom note on one of the Ramsey's legal pads? Why had that note demanded $118,00-the amount of the work bonus that John had recently received?" Neither John nor Patsy was ever charged with a crime, but in the face of relentless press coverage, why were they all but found guilty in the court of public opinion?
After the Ramsys' trial by media, during which they were chased from Colorado to Atlanta, to their summer refuge in northern Michigan, one might expect that the family would crave nothing more than their privacy. Instead, John has done the one thing guaranteed to have the opposite effect: On May 11 he announced that he would run for a seat in the Michigan House, thereby reopening the Ramseys' lives to scrutiny. "One friend said, 'Why don't you open a restaurant instead? That's probably the next most crazy thing you could do. Why would you want to subject yourself to that?' " admits Ramsey, 60.
"Some of that is true," allows Patsy, 47, who is in the midst of chemotherapy for a recurrence of ovarian cancer. "But we have been through the worst. This is something he's embarking on to try to make good come of the rest of his life."
Or might John Ramsey just be tying to focus public attention on dramatic new turns in the investigation, that he claims will help exonerate him and his wife for once and for all? " A non-cynic would say this is clear evidence that they don't fear public scrutiny because they are not responsible for the death of their daughter."
Whatever happens, judging by an emotional Mother's day interview with PEOPLE at their cottage-style home in Charlevoix, the lakeside Michigan community where they moved last summer, it's clear that the Ramsey's see themselves as writing as a new chapter in their life without JonBenet. Son Burke, now 17, is growing up fast, with college applications on the horizin. Perhaps a campaign isn't so risky after all. "John and Patsy have already been investigated clear back to their birth," says Patsy's sister Pam Paugh. It's clear there are no skeletons in their closet."
It's true that the 'umbrella of suspicion"- as one Boulder police official called it-hanging over the Ramseys now appears to have some holes in it. In October 1999 a Boulder grand jury declined to indict either John or Patsy after a 13-month probe. On March 31, 2003 Atlanta judge Julie Carnes concluded that based on the selected documents and evidence she had reviewed in a civil lawsuit against the Ramseys, "The weight of the evidence is more consistent with a theory that an intruder murdered JonBenet than it is with a theory that Mrs. Ramsey did so."
Mary Keenan has said "The investigation is continuing, we feel we are making forward progress." Colorado LE finally submitted DNA from a blood spot found on JonBenet's underwear-long known to have come from a male unrelated to her-to the FBI database.
DA Keenan faces the same problems her predecessors confronted: The first police arriving at the Ramsey house allowed John to search his home and carry his daughter's body upstairs, thereby seriously contaminating the crime scene.
"If the killer can be found, this group will find him," predicts Patsy. And then, she claims the mysterious clues such as the ransom note and the DNA "will fall in place." Even if that were to happen, the couple doubt they will ever be vindicated. "We can have a confession and we can have an execution, and there will still be 10 percent of the population who believe that somehow Patsy and I are involved," says John.
During the months after JonBenet's murder, when the family relocated to Atlanta, that grim reality, they say, was at times too much to bear. "I was broken all the time. I couldn't even stand up for several days," says Patsy. Feeling under siege, the Ramseys turned to one another and in John's words, developed an "us against the world" attitude. "For better or worse, in sickness and in health," says Patsy "we have really tested those vows."
To help protect Burke, the Ramseys went without television for three years." "We didn't want Burke to flip across Geraldo Rivera," says John. "And frankly we didn't need to see it either." says John.
Since moving back to Charlevoix, the Ramseys have plunged full tilt into town life. Burke is an avid skate boarder at a local park. "Charlevoix really gave him back his childhood," says John. "He's able to be on his own and be safe.'
in Box: KEY EVIDENCE IN THE RAMSEY CASE
When asked if John and Patsy have been cleared of their daughter's murder, Boulder DA Mary Keenan says, NO, we have not excluded anyone from the investigation."
To which John Ramsey responds, "That's the correct answer. No one should be excluded." But investigators are now looking closely at the intruder theory, which hinges on several pieces of evidence, Including:
RANSOM NOTE: The 3 page letter demanded $118.000 for JonBenet's safe return-the exact amount that Ramsey had recently received as a bonus. Ramsey calls this coincidence "bizarre".
FIBER EVIDENCE: Fibers, possibly from the clothes of JonBenet's parents, were found on her body and duct tape covering her mouth. Ramsey lawyer Lin Wood says since they shared the same home, that should come as no surprise.
DNA EVIDENCE: Police found blood in JonBenet's panties. They initially said the sample wasn't of sufficient quality to test, but last December the FBI sent it to the national database.
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