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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    The Forums

    From the Boulder Weekly

    The dead (web) posters society
    Boulder’s most notorious murder lives on in a heady web world of memorial pages, message boards and cyber-sleuth stomping grounds
    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    by Jared Jacang Maher (Editorial@boulderweekly.com)

    Seven years ago, when Summer was nine, she was watching TV at her Chicago home when images of a little beauty queen began flitting into her living room along with some ugly details: body found in family’s home in Boulder, dark basement, murdered. Summer looked at her younger brother, who was the same age as the dead kindergartener, and felt a deep sadness. Like the rest of the country, Summer soon became entrenched in the media barrage of reports and speculation. With a ransom note, a wealthy family, beauty pageant culture and a roster of suspects, the case was a perfect real-time murder mystery playing out in the public’s collective mind. But for Summer, as time went on JonBenet Ramsey’s death became personal.

    Summer has always loved children. Now in high school, she heads a club that assists developmentally disabled kids and baby-sits for a girl who, she notes, "curls her hair like JonBenet would." After reading every one of the dozen-or-so books written about the Ramsey case, Summer began making semi-regular trips to Boulder to see the actual places she’d heard described so many times and to investigate her own theories about the crime. She took pictures of the DA’s office and the Boulder Police Station, and when her parents parked in front of the Ramseys’ former house on 15th Street, Summer put a white flower on the ground and wept.

    "I honestly don’t know why I got so interested in it," Summer says. "I read other true crime books and it doesn’t really interest me at all… She was so little and her life was taken away so shortly. Not a lot of other murder cases have all these clues and everything that I actually know were so bogus. I don’t know," she laughs bashfully, "I really feel a connection with her."

    When Summer was 12, she donated her babysitting money to "*******245," a well-known and ubiquitous character within the JonBenet Internet subculture. Like Summer, ******* had long asserted the Ramsey family’s innocence and helped the young Midwesterner set up her own memorial webpage to JonBenet.

    The result is a Care Bears-like webscape of clouds, butterflies, angels, personal poems and JonBenet photos galore.

    "I tried to put my mindset on how JonBenet would like her website," she says. "The goal of my website is to be happy and to look at the real JonBenet, not [at] what the stupid tabloids made her to be out to be."

    Tami, a Sheriff’s Deputy from Roanoke, Ind., shares Summer’s personal commitment to the memory of JonBenet. "I just fell in love with the little girl," says Tami, whose e-mail tag is "Tanmalibubarbie" and who was one of thousands of visitors to Summer’s site. After following the case in the news, last year Tami decided to name her newborn daughter JonBenet. "I just thought [JonBenet] was a pretty girl. She didn’t deserve what she got," she says.

    Summer and Tami are not alone. The frenzy surrounding the Ramseys within the media spectrum has faded in recent years, but the case still has an active, if not thrashing, existence on Internet message boards, websites and forums. A quick Google "Ramsey" search reveals a strange web world of epic proportions, filled with JonBenet devotees, true-crime aficionados, obnoxious hackers and cyber gumshoes. It’s a constantly evolving community, fueled by newsbits like JonBenet’s father’s recent announcement that he may run for a seat in the Michigan House.

    And while Summer and Tami may cause random web-surfers to wear out their "S" keys furiously typing "excessive" or "obsessed," they should first note that in the online world of JonBenet, these two are virtual lightweights.

    Bob Cooksey started like most: a remote in one hand and a mouse in the other. On the first day of 1997, the video game designer from Austin, Texas, was watching the CNN interview where John and Patsy Ramsey, JonBenet’s parents, had bypassed the local media to take their plight–and suspicion–nationwide:

    "[I]f I were a resident of Boulder, I would tell my friends to keep," Patsy paused during the interview, choking back melodrama, "keep your babies close to you, there’s someone out there."

    Cooksey had followed true-crime books, movies and TV shows for years. Fancying himself endowed with an eye for detective work, he raised a brow.

    "I just thought the whole thing was strange because I’ve never seen the parents of a murdered kid get on CNN."

    So the 33 year old did what any self-respecting computer geek would do. He took it to the Net, baby.

    That was seven years ago. Now 40, Cooksey is one of the many old-timers who have watched the JonBenet online community whittle down from thousands of curiosity seekers scrolling through poorly managed message boards in the late ’90s into today’s well-defined crews of electronic sleuths who have constructed their own complex network of online forums. Many of the hardcores have spent thousands of hours at their keyboards compiling vast databases of evidence, debating the facts and oftentimes dividing into contentious factions.

    Though hot developments have been few and far between since the Ramseys went on a lawsuit-slapping rampage four years ago, the forum brethren still work toward a resolution in the case. But Cooksey for one is doubtful that it will ever be solved. Why, then, does he still stick around?

    "I think most of us are still here not so much because of the case but because we’ve gotten to be friends over the years," Cooksey says.

    The way it works: on ezboard.com, one user posts a new subject thread called "JonBenet’s bike!" theorizing the girl’s death as an elaborate cover-up of a bicycle accident (sexual injuries found on the victim’s body are attributed to the bike’s crossbar). Other members then log in comments below, brainstorming other possible sources if the injury.

    "I wonder if in some of her dance routines JB did the splits?" says "Sophiered," who has posted more than 1,200 times since last year.

    The JonBenet forums attract different types of people, Cooksey points out. Mostly it’s middle-aged, middle-class mothers who identify with this case because it resembles the outline of their own daily lives: a non-working housewife with two young kids and a husband who’s frequently away on business, when, dum-dum, the plot thickens.

    Oftentimes, Cooksey says, the forums also attract women who were sexually abused themselves, "and so they insist that this was a sexual abuse case."

    For example, Cooksey says he attended a JonBenet forum meet-up in Dallas in 1998 where several women introduced themselves to him as victims of sexual abuse. Other posters, Cooksey notes, are women who were involved in beauty pageants who "see Patsy as some sort of pushy, stage-mom, -type," and sympathize with young children herded into show business by overzealous parents.

    And then you’ve got the men. Because posters log in under aliases, or "hats," personal information and even gender is often difficult to determine. But manly names like BobC are clearly outnumbered on the JonBenet boards by more feminine handles like "Snapple" or "candy." Although a man’s motivation for following JonBenet’s body this far might be even more murky then a woman’s, it’s safe to say that most guys like Cooksey are in it for the true-crime aspect.

    "The Ramsey case is really the most notorious unsolved murder in the country," says Cooksey, whose main haunt is Cyberslueths.com. The crime news site also discusses a variety of other high-profile murders and regularly publishes feature stories about various cold-case crimes.

    "I personally don’t think that anybody’s gotten it quite right about what happened in the [Ramsey] house that night," says Cooksey.

    Like the invention of the telephone and the telegraph before it, the Internet is arguably mankind’s greatest achievement in creating advanced ways for humans to and screw with each other over long distances. Ironically, the JonBenet Internet subculture was inadvertently birthed in the house of Boulder’s oldest chatterbox: The Daily Camera. With the nation’s attention suddenly focused on the foot of the Flatirons, several local papers snatched up URLs and began feeding the public’s appetite for everything Ramsey. The now-defunct Boulder Planet snagged www.ramseymurder.com and www.ramseycase.com, and the Camera led in with the Boulder News Forum, an online chat room where people from around the world could discuss the case.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    Part Two

    The Ramsey case arrived at a time when many everyday Americans, not just stockbrokers and lonely college students, were beginning to use the Internet as a primary source of communication, and they showed up at the Boulder News Forum in droves. Because the technology was relatively new, the chat room didn’t have the strict supervision one sees in today’s forums and the online discussion quickly took on a Wild-West feel. For many, this was the first time they had ever actively participated in an Internet chat room and its anonymous nature emboldened many posters. Debates about who killed JonBenet became supercharged, lines were drawn and personal attacks were waged. But where there’s smoke there’s fire, and that’s when Internet troublemakers called the Phone Losers of America showed up and started flaming.

    Today, posting ridiculous messages to incite arguments, or "flaming," will get guilty users kicked out of most tightly monitored forums. But in ’97, to the dismay of serious fanatics, the Camera’s moderators were unsure or unwilling to deal with the Phone Losers, who used their hacker prowess to post crude, immature messages under others’ names. Soon, whole threads were being filled with mini-wars and threats of legal action with little discussion of JonBenet.

    "One thing lead (sic) to another and by the time we knew it," reads the Phone Losers’ website, "we had been doing it for two years."

    When the Camera finally took heed of abused posters’ pleas, they solved the problem by simply unplugging the chat room. But by this time, several posters, unwilling to let the gossip die, had already established rival forums and websites. The now-departed Mrs. Brady’s URL was the original heavy-hitter of JonBenet websites. Headed by a mother from Pennsylvania, Mrs. Brady gained a fair amount of media exposure when she and about 30 of her followers convened in Boulder in 1998. Complete with a sight-seeing tour of McGuckin Hardware, the Boulder County Courthouse and High Plains Elementary, the JonBenet expedition yielded few new clues–but it was a hootin’ good time.

    Mrs. Brady’s URL linked up with a popular new forum called Justice Watch, a stomping ground for posters who believed the Ramseys were guilty. Users would leap between forums, picking apart debates, stealing evidence and waging attacks on the URLs themselves. Infighting inevitably developed and troublesome users were banished from multiple boards.

    Interested in this phenomenon, B.J., a 60-year-old Cleveland grandmother, used her computer experience to form A Candy Rose, a massively extensive archive on the "JonBenet Internet subculture." With over 25,000 files, the database contains depositions, audio files and minutiae on the "pro-rams, anti-rams and fence sitters."

    "It seemed like somebody was fighting with somebody else every other week," says B.J. "If I took sides, then somebody would hack my site. If I tried to remain neutral, then somebody was mad because I didn’t take sides. It was crazy."

    For outsiders visiting these forums, it often feels like they’ve wandered into the living room of a dysfunctional family. Except here the fights, passive-aggressive bickering and power plays are printed on the walls for everyone to see, read and continually re-reference. After a while they can breed their own fodder and entertainment, and JonBenet simply becomes the back story.

    "Remember this is about JonBenet," users will periodically write.

    The dialogue on the Justice Watch forum eventually became so ugly the owner shut it down. But in 2001 from the ashes of Justice Watch arose the formidable Forums for Justice, which Tricia Griffith, from Park City, Utah, heads like Super Mom on a blood vendetta. No more of this sitting around and complaining. No more creepy web-gossip in the electronic alleyways of the Ramsey case. It’s time to get proactive.

    "A lot of people believe that, one way or another, that this was a miscarriage of justice," says Griffith. "And for the first time in history, we can all participate."

    Like many of the other JonBenet forums, Forums for Justice has expanded out to other high-profile cases. Currently the forum is focusing on the disappearance of missing young women like Rachael Cooke and Dru Sjodin and the murders of hundreds of women in Juarez, Mexico. In many of these cases, Forums for Justice works directly with the families of victims, dispersing immediate information about the cases through their network of 400 members, which Griffith says includes professional women, lawyers, government workers, retired people, educators and "lots of computer people."

    But the Ramsey case is still a huge thorn in the side of members and Griffith, who by day runs a law enforcement speakers bureau, doesn’t shy away from announcing Forums for Justice’s true intention: "Basically we try to poke a stick into [Ramseys’ lawyer] Lin Wood’s cage."

    From the beginning of the Ramsey case, Boulder police have been highly wary of dealing with anyone from the Internet after a series of early leaks sent evidence and rumors like wildfire through the forum boards. But do Boulder investigators keep tabs on the tips carefully laid out on the forum boards by these amateur Internet detectives?

    "We never really pay any attention to them," Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner says. "Most of the stuff on those websites are things that have been made public anyways and there’s certainly nothing that they have that we don’t have in terms of information and reports and stuff like that." He later adds, "I find it hard to believe that people find the time to do that."

    But find time they do. Though numbers are down, there are over 7,500 websites currently devoted to the Ramsey case, estimates Tom Ben-Net, the retired police detective hired by the Boulder DA to investigate the Ramsey case.

    "[The sites are] heavily burdened with old rumors or pieces of information that the writers have come across through reading a book, an article in the paper or periodicals," says Ben-Net. He says he doesn’t interact directly with any of the web sleuths, but adds that investigators sometimes access the websites themselves, especially when there is a flurry of e-mails from one Internet host in particular.

    "It is time consuming to a fault," he says, "to place the limited resources this office has in tracking down each [web rumor]."

    But no matter how much officials would like to ignore the Internet subculture given rise by the death of JonBenet, it’s clear that these web detectives oftentimes have great influence on high-profile crimes and can insert themselves into investigations whether police like it or not. Griffith says that members of her forum are working on another project called Virtual Gumshoes, where regular citizens can work with local law enforcement to solve specific crimes and cold-case files.

    On April 30, Griffith and other Forums for Justice members will be convening in Colorado like many JonBenet factions before them, except this time it is to give Colorado Governor Bill Owens the 1,400 signatures they’ve gathered online requesting he appoint a special prosecutor to take over the Ramsey case. Forums for Justice members believe the lack of a special prosecutor was one of the reasons the Ramseys weren’t charged with the murder of their daughter. And if anyone tries to tell them the Ramseys are innocent, they’re ready to respond with all the power of the Internet.

    "When somebody says something in writing, or somebody says something in a book, we have a record of it," Griffith says. "And so when that’s contradicted, we’ll bring that up. Because it’s our chance to become involved. And just to let the Ramseys know, and let anybody who tap dances around the law know, that there will always be people kind of watching this. You can’t escape it now, because of the Internet."

    Local residents should also be on the lookout this week for Summer–watch out, she may take a picture of you–who again is spending her spring break off-line and on the streets of Boulder, still searching for answers about the little girl closest to her heart.

    "A lot of people say, ‘Oh the Ramseys are guilty,’ but they don’t look at every aspect," says Summer. "They need to realize that I do look at every aspect, that I’m not some dumb teenager. I do care."

    Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Brooklyn, NY
    When Summer was 12, she donated her babysitting money to "*******245," a well-known and ubiquitous character within the JonBenet Internet subculture.
    Just when you thought Darnay was the lowest of the low.........or maybe that Lin Wood was the lowest of the low............or maybe OJ...........or maybe........................


    Thank you RR for bringing this to us. You go Tricia!
    This is my opinion only
    This post may not be copied to any other forum

    God Bless America

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Tricia you were right on the money you Super Mom on a blood vendetta!
    "A lot of people believe that, one way or another, that this was a miscarriage of justice,"

    Does this mean you want your cape back?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. Buddha
    Damn Seeker I have been looking for my cape all week. Did you take it?LOL

    I am at a loss as to why the writer chose to give me that title.

    Unless it was when he asked something to the affect of, "Does America now believe the Ramseys are innocent?"

    "NO WAY IN BLOODY HELL."I screamed into the phone. Then the poor guy had to listen to me scream for about 2.7 hours. He called the police. Filed a restraining order against me. justkidding.

    I really liked him. He was clueless about the forums and he did a great job. Like all of you I don't like the word "cult" but oh well. We just need to change the preception.


    Tricia Griffith
    6300 N Sagewood Drive
    STE H 214
    Park City UT 84098

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    No, Mom sent it to me last Fall, she said you didn't need it anymore and with what's going on in my life that I would. I think she cleaned out your dresser too...I'd swear this teddy is yours. I've never seen it before...

    Will send it right back, sounds like you'll need it in April! Good luck on that BTW.

    Yes, he did a pretty good job on that article for being forum green. BobC was also right on when he said, "I personally don’t think that anybody’s gotten it quite right about what happened in the [Ramsey] house that night".

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2004

    Don't believe her, Tricia

    Quote Originally Posted by Seeker
    No, Mom sent it to me last Fall, she said you didn't need it anymore and with what's going on in my life that I would.
    Mom did nothing of the sort. Seeker, go to your room.
    All posts are my constitutionally-protected opinion.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Yes she did!! It was in a box marked "things yo sistah doesn't need anymore" and was sent UPS and COD I might add...

    Of course she is getting older.....

  9. #9
    [QUOTE=RiverRat]From the Boulder Weekly

    The dead (web) posters society
    Boulder’s most notorious murder lives on in a heady web world of memorial pages, message boards and cyber-sleuth stomping grounds
    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    by Jared Jacang Maher (Editorial@boulderweekly.com)
    "I personally don’t think that anybody’s gotten it quite right about what happened in the [Ramsey] house that night," says Cooksey.

    Excellent read/post; IMHO the R's are in the "normal" DENIAL MODE!

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