From the Boulder Weekly http://www.boulderweekly.com/coverstory.html The dead (web) posters society Boulders 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 familys 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 publics collective mind. But for Summer, as time went on JonBenet Ramseys 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 shed heard described so many times and to investigate her own theories about the crime. She took pictures of the DAs 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 dont know why I got so interested in it," Summer says. "I read other true crime books and it doesnt 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 dont 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 familys 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 Sheriffs Deputy from Roanoke, Ind., shares Summers 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 Summers 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 didnt 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. Its a constantly evolving community, fueled by newsbits like JonBenets fathers 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, JonBenets parents, had bypassed the local media to take their plightand suspicionnationwide: "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, theres 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 Ive 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 todays 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 weve gotten to be friends over the years," Cooksey says. The way it works: on ezboard.com, one user posts a new subject thread called "JonBenets bike!" theorizing the girls death as an elaborate cover-up of a bicycle accident (sexual injuries found on the victims body are attributed to the bikes 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 its 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 whos 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 youve 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 mans motivation for following JonBenets body this far might be even more murky then a womans, its 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 dont think that anybodys 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 mankinds 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 Boulders oldest chatterbox: The Daily Camera. With the nations attention suddenly focused on the foot of the Flatirons, several local papers snatched up URLs and began feeding the publics 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.