Newcomers to this blog are advised to begin with the first two posts, Just the Facts, Ma'am and Case Solved, which explain in very general terms why I believe I've solved this case. Some important questions are answered in the following post, Misunderstandings, Misconceptions, Misdirections. After that feel free to browse whatever topics might interest you (see blog archive).

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Shielding a Child Molester -- Some Lessons from Penn State

Can the actions, or more accurately, inactions, of the Boulder County District Attorney's office with respect to the Ramsey case be compared to the failures of various Penn State officials regarding the behavior of Jerry Sandusky? While the circumstances were, of course, very different, I find some disturbing parallels as far as mindset is concerned.

From a NY Times report of July 12:
Behind the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal at Penn State lay a series of failures all the way up the university’s chain of command — shortcomings that were the result of an insular and complacent culture in which football was revered, rules were not applied and the balance of power was dangerously out of whack. (My emphasis)
Change the word "football" to "business success" and you'll see what I mean.

From the Freeh report:
The University Police Department promptly responded to the 1998 complaint about Sandusky's conduct, but the sensitivity of the investigation and the need to report on its progress to a senior administrator could have compromised the extent of its inquiry. . .(My emphasis)
The law enforcement officers did not question Sandusky at this time. Had the officers been better trained in the investigation of child sexual abuse they would have interrogated Sandusky directly after his confrontation with the boy's mother. A timely interview with Sandusky may have elicited candid responses . . . (My emphasis)
. . . Seasock opined that "there seems to be no incident which could be termed as sexual abuse, nor did there appear to be any sequential pattern of logic and behavior which is usually consistent with adults who have difficulty with sexual abuse of children." Seasock's report ruled out that the boy "had been placed in a situation where he was being 'groomed for future sexual victimization.'" (My emphasis)
[B]etween May 27, 1998 and June 1, 1998, the local District Attorney declined to prosecute Sandusky for his actions with the boy in the shower in the Lasch Building on May 3, 1998. A senior administrator of a local victim resource center familiar with the 1998 incident said the case against Sandusky was "severely hampered" by Seasock's report. . . (My emphasis)
The crime log entry would have been a public record of the incident concerning Sandusky with the boy, yet Harmon reported to Schultz before noon on May 5 that "[w]e're going to hold off on making any crime log entry. At this point in time I can justify that decision because of the lack of clear evidence of a crime." . . . (My emphasis)
Spanier explained that he was concerned with Sandusky because the situation "doesn't look good, I was concerned with what people will think, the visibility and the public relations aspects of it. . . (My emphasis)
. . . Spanier said that he still thought nothing would come of the investigation because other grand juries had reviewed the matter without bringing charges.483 Over the weekend of October 28-30, 2011, Garban had conversations with Trustees John Surma and Jim Broadhurst and told them what he learned from Spanier and Baldwin.484 Garban also spoke again with Spanier who told him Baldwin was going to try to convince the Attorney General's Office that they did not have a case.485 Garban told the Special Investigative Counsel that he was "astounded" to see Sandusky in the Nittany Lion Club at the football game on October 29, 2011, given what he had learned. (My emphasis)
While there are certainly some very real differences between the two cases, what stands out in my mind are the following similarities:
  • the reluctance of authorities to take vigorous action due to the "sensitivity" of the situation and the prominence of those under suspicion.
  • the long delays in interrogating those involved, despite strong signs of possible culpability.
  • the inability of the authorities to act firmly and decisively, resulting in long delays over a great many years. Sandusky was only brought to justice very recently, despite accusations dating back to the 1970's, while the Ramsey case remains unresolved up to the present moment with no resolution in sight, despite the very strong indications of Ramsey guilt as stressed by so many law enforcement personnel involved in the investigation.
  • the callous disregard of the possibilities for future abuse by the suspects in both cases. Sandusky remained in close contact with young boys for many years due to his involvement in his Second Mile charity. The Ramseys retained custody of their young son Burke, despite strong indications that John could have both abused and murdered his daughter. 
Once it had become evident that there was no sign of forced entry and no evidence of an intruder, then it would have been imperative that both John and Patsy be interrogated separately as soon as possible. Since they "lawyered up" immediately and then refused such interrogation, child welfare authorities should have been informed and Burke should have been removed from their home until the police had had an opportunity to question them properly and form an evaluation regarding the possibility of their involvement in the abuse and murder of their daughter. As long as they remained under suspicion, they should not have been given access to their son, just as Sandusky while under suspicion should have been prevented from having any contact with children. We must remember as well that Burke was also a potential witness. If either John or Patsy were involved in his sister's murder then his life might have been in danger.

Yet the District Attorney's office, in all its incarnations from that day to this, has shown no concern whatsoever for this aspect of the case.


  1. Doc, many times wives and mothers will turn away from any indication that their husband is molesting their children. Especially a woman like Patsy Ramsey who appearance meant a great deal. It crossed my mind that perhaps she took Jonbenet to the Dr. so often, with hopes he could reassure her, or perhaps find something wrong and direct her about what to do. I read in Steve Thomas' book that the police found a dictionary opened to the word "incest". What are your thoughts about this?

    1. Imo "incest" is by far the best word to describe what was going on. And the many trips to the doctor are definitely a red flag, yes. I feel sure, however, that Patsy suspected nothing. In some ways she had a more forceful personality than John and imo would have confronted him if she'd suspected anything. The pediatrician never examined her vagina in any case.

  2. DocG, I am so glad that you have written this blog and so throughly explained the details. I have followed this case throughout the years and never really knew what to believe except that the case would never be solved. At first I believed media's version of events that it was Patsy, but I did not trust them. Also, as gruesome as the crime scene was and as a mother I just could not accept it was her knowing how she loved her daughter. Then when additional details were presented, I believed the intruder theory simply because how could any member of the family be guilty of such a heinous crime like this. I must admit, when I first starting reading your blog I suspected the brother Burke. I never suspected JR. Finally, after reading several posts, you have convinced me the John should have his day in court.

  3. It is absolutely crazy that the Ramsey's (mainly John) got away with the abuse and murder of their own daughter!! It is even worse how they have now been eliminated officially as suspects. I wish the truth would come out. The only piece of evidence that troubles me is the tiny amount of DNA that was found mixed in with a drop of Jonbenet Ramey's blood