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.