Thursday, August 17, 2006

An American Tragedy

Okay, it's been several days since I last spouted my mouth off and I just can't stand it any longer. Yesterday I was shocked to hear that an arrest had been made in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case. Initial details are sketchy, but should be forthcoming in the next few days as the ravenous media suss out whatever they can about the suspect, a 41-year-old former substitute teacher from Georgia.

The Jon-Benet Ramsey case has bugged me for quite a while. There's just so much tragedy and heartbreak involved in it. The loss of a lovely six-year-old girl, not through illness or accident but through the malevolence of another human being -- that's a soul-crushing blow that I cannot imagine ever recovering from. I think pretty much everyone agrees that the authorities who initially investigated the case bungled the investigation, through inexperience, incompetence or maybe even a little malice toward the well-heeled Ramseys. Ten long years dragged on since Jon-Benet's murder, during which her parents and her brother were the only ones consistently mentioned as serious suspects. Just a few months ago, Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer, leaving her husband and children bereft again, without a resolution to her child's murder and without personal vindication.

What surprised me the most about the media coverage in the past 24 hours was the continued hostility toward the Ramseys. Several commentators, instead of stating outright that it looked like the Ramseys had been vindicated, used very cautious language: "there are still a lot of unanswered questions," "I've always thought certain things about the case to be very odd," "pedophiles will say anything to build themselves up," and even "if I were stuck in a Thai jail, I'd confess to anything to get sent back to the US."

I suppose it's hard to say conclusively that the Ramseys had nothing to do with it, given that so much is unknown about the suspect. But numerous media reports indicate that the suspect, apparently a previous sex offender, not only confessed but also revealed to investigators certain facts about the crime that have never been released to the public. If this is true, then either this guy did it, or he heard those details from someone, presumably the killer. He is reported to have lived in a suburb of Georgia, where the Ramseys lived before moving to Colorado, and an ABC report suggests that the suspect had some kind of obsession with the six-year-old, saying he was in love with her. And the Philly Inquirer reports that the suspect stayed in touch with someone in Boulder who was close to the investigation, apparently to keep tabs on what law enforcement was doing. So why the continued hostility to the Ramseys?

The strange details of the crime? (It happened inside a home on Christmas Eve and no one heard anything, there were suggestions that Jon-Benet had been wrapped in a favorite blanket, the particulars of the ransom note, and so on.) My husband thinks it was the fact that the Ramseys immediately "lawyered up," as he puts it. (I saw Mark Klaas, the father of murdered child Polly Klaas on TV last night, and he reiterated how when his child was missing, he told the cops over and over, "I'll take any test, do anything, keep me as long as you want, just do whatever you have to to eliminate me as a suspect and find her" -- something the Ramseys apparently didn't do, or didn't do effectively.)

For me, though, the indelible images of Jon-Benet are the ones from her beauty pageants. The six-year-old -- SIX! -- moussed, pouffed, heavy makeup, clad in bizarrely Las Vegas-ish costumes, and most of all, the sashaying, the swinging hips. The turning of a sweet innocent girl who should be playing with Barbies into a real-life Barbie doll. What always left me cold about the Ramseys was their seeming willingness to allow their young daughter to be sexualized, because if you see those videotapes of her working it for the judges, tarted up like a streetwalker, that's the only way I can describe it. I suspect that a lot of other Americans felt the same way when they saw those video clips, and it is that lasting icky taste in the mouth from seeing them that has people so willing to believe the worst of the Ramseys.

I hope the case is solved. I hope that authorities can take off the streets the dirtbag who did this, both to punish him and to prevent any other children from being victimized by him. I hope the Ramsey family can find some small comfort in knowing that the crime is solved, that they can achieve the exoneration they certainly must feel is long overdue. Most of all, I'd like to see some photos of poor Jon-Benet where she was not gussied up like a show pony, where the natural innocence and beauty of an unadorned child, who never got the chance to live out her life, can be seen clearly.


Liz K. said...

This week in Richmond, VA is a trial for a murder even more heinous. They were a family, at home on New Year's Day, planning a party. The door was open, someone came in, and now we know they all (mom, dad, two daughters) died in the most horrific and senseless way. They were my neighbors, living three streets away.

Between this and JonBenet, I am rocked at the horrific things people can do to other people, including children. My faith in the world has been deeply shaken.

But let me also say that while I am really skeeved out at the pageant thing, dressing up your daughter and participating in the very insular world of pageants is not nearly the equivalent of killing her. The only reason those tarty pictures of JB ended up on TV were because she was dead. I am in no way defending the pageant moms, but that world is a very isolated one, and it's not as if JB went to school or church all Final-Netted and Mascara-ed. I don't think any pageant parent imagines that participating in these contests, however weird, would place their child in the sights of a pedophile.

Again, I would never defend child pageants, but I am so glad that the Ramseys have been vindicated. I never ever believed they killed her.

Anonymous said...

The show photos of Jon-Benet completely freaked me out. I'd never seen a girl that young so bouffed out, and I found it not attractive but downright scary.

Carol said...

Lee Ann - help me out here. What exactly is the idiomatic translation for the Quebec license plate motto "je me souviens"? merci, ma chouette.

Norskybear said...

I am always surprised when people who take advantage of their constitutional rights are then presumed to be guilty. You have the right to "lawyer up"; you have the right not to provide consent to a search; you do not have to allow the police into your house; you do not have to answer their questions and, at times, can even walk away from them. That's not to say that they won't arrest you or violate your constitutional rights, but you will certainly have grounds for an acquittal and a lawsuit in the future. And it certainly doesn't automatically mean that you are guilty of anything.

As an Anglo-Manitoban, I always read "Je me souviens" as a call by the Quebecois to remember a time before English "oppression". Literally, it is simply "I remember" and is the first line of a three-line poem inscribed by Tache on the "National" assembly in Quebec: I remember/being born under the fleur-du-lys/but growing up under the rose. It was appropriated by the Parti Quebecois under Rene Levesque as a call for soverainty and Quebec separation. Politics aside, Quebec is one of the most beautiful cities in North America.

Charleen said...

This morning's news had pictures of her in front of the Christmas tree, etc. looking like a very cute little girl. I don't remember ever seeing those pictures, it's like they wanted us to see the beauty pageant kid. I also found it hilarious that Diane Sawyer was acting so sympathetic to the mom now that they have a suspect.

Wily Jeneric said...

I agree with your sentiments. This seems to be another example of people coming to their own conclusions, despite being presented with facts to the contrary. Yes, she was in beauty pagents, but that doesn't make her family guilty. DNA evidence didn't match any from her family - wouldn't that indicate that an outsider was responsible? I'm happy to hear that police continued their search and have found a very plausible suspect.

brewerburns said...

I'm just glad to see that someone has been charged with her murder and that one pedophile is off the streets.

M-H said...

I think that it is generally held that parents should keep their small children out of danger, and should teach them how to avoid danger in their lives (and later, how to face and cope with it). Dressing and exhibiting Jon-Benet as they did in fact put her in danger. What do they think paedopholes masturbate over? Is that what they wanted for their little girl, for her image to be masturbated over? Their apparent inability to make the connection between their actions and her fate was what made a lot of people very angry with them, I think.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think there's still ugliness towards the Ramseys because of their own very odd behavior and apparent unwillingness to do whatever it took to find their child's killer. That's suspicious. There's also the matter of dressing a baby like a hooker and parading her before the world like she's a sexual being. That's sick and that's the parents' work.

Even as I write, serious doubts are being raised about the validity of the "killer's" confession.

I won't stop suspecting that the Ramseys are implicated until there's far more proof than we currently have.

Don't most of us still believe, despite the acquittal, the OJ Simpson killed his wife? That's how I feel about the Ramseys. If they didn't do it, there are too many odd things going on. They know, or strongly suspect, who did, IMHO.

Diane said...

The more you hear about this guy the less it seems he's actually involved in this particular case.

I think in this case the police did not investigate as well as they should have and jumped to the conclusion that the parents were involved and no one else. The media turned the whole thing into a circus and the truth may never be known.

We can point fingers at pageant parents. We can say they are not doing what's best for their children. But my kids didn't come with owners manuals so I've been winging it their whole life doing what I think is best for them. I'm sure you are all doing the same.

When all is said and done all we really know is JonBenet was horrifically killed in her home about 10 yrs ago and no one knows why.

Kim said...

I don't think Americans want to believe that a child could be killed right under a parents nose in his/her home. If the Ramseys had something to do with it, that means that such a tragedy could never happen to you or me...because you or I would never be as crazy (or stupid, or whatever else they've been called) as the Ramseys and that makes sense. The idea that you can't protect your kids while they are asleep in their beds is something I don't think many people want to deal with.

That said, I'm not sure this guy is *the* guy. I would like to know about these supposed letters that were exchanged with Patsy before she died.

Anonymous said...

I fear I agree with all who feel that the Ramseys behaved oddly in the aftermath of Jon-Benet's (even her name gives me the eehees) murder.
Had this hideous thing happened to one of my children, I know I'd be absolutely forthcoming and cooperative.
It strikes an odd and creepy note when parents don't.
I (note, please, that this is my opinion only)have always thought that the guilty party the Ramseys felt they were sheltering was their son.
His life must have been hellish before J-B was killed and certainly not much better after.

There is no good whatever in beauty pageants for any age girls.
None at all.

Unknown said...

I agree completely with M-H. The Ramseys put that child on parade and let her wide open to be preyed upon.

Whether or not this guy is actually the killer remains to be seen. If he is, the Ramseys are certainly vindicated. Although I believe that these so-called "beauty pageants" are dangerous because they teach girls absolutely the wrong message and open them up to pedophiles as well, I never thought the Ramseys themselves were the perps. The son? Perhaps. But one way or the other, this guy Karr will be off the streets for good, hopefully.

Top news story today in NJ: "A self-employed contractor was indicted Friday on hundreds of counts of child sex assault and child pornography after authorities said he spent years molesting children and recording them while he worked at their homes."

This breaks my heart.