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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Friday, July 27, 2012

The Magical DNA

Over the years, as one by one various red herrings tossed out by "team Ramsey" were accounted for, they and their defenders took refuge on a single fragile, but in their minds secure, lifeboat: a few fragments of "foreign" male DNA found in JonBenet's panties, mixed with a spot of her blood, that couldn't be sourced to anyone in the family or the larger circle of friends, employees, etc. This was the perfect refuge, because the Ramseys could always claim this DNA was that of their daughter's killer, and so long as no source could be found, there was no way such a claim could be refuted, absolutely positively, with no possibility of "reasonable doubt."



What has often been overlooked in this case is the very real difference between any doubt at all, no matter how remote and unlikely, and doubt that is indeed reasonable, i.e., that can be reasonably maintained on the basis of normal common sense. There is probably no criminal case ever tried in which some element of doubt could not be raised, but in order for this to count in a court of law, the doubt must be deemed reasonable, i.e., not simply a legal maneuver deliberately concocted to sow confusion.

DNA evidence is almost always based on DNA extracted from identifiable human cells, e.g., blood cells, skin cells, saliva cells, sperm cells, etc. Such cells can be transferred from one person to another in all sorts of ways, both directly and indirectly. If one cannot either trace the circumstances by which the cells were transferred or identify their source, then the DNA evidence is essentially meaningless, since it could always have been transferred in a perfectly innocent manner. To make this point as forcefully as possible, I'll once again quote The Guardian, Jan 17, 2012, CSI Oxford: behind the scenes at Britain's top forensic lab:

Rigour, continuity, integrity of procedure are all. . . Because the thing about DNA evidence, strong as it is, large as it looms in the public's imagination, is that it connects a human and an object. It doesn't prove when the two came into contact. Nor does it necessarily prove they were actually in direct contact at all. "It's not just the finding of the evidence," says Ros Hammond, a senior scientific adviser who has worked on many high-profile cases. "It's how did it get there, and can we rule out any other way it did so? And what does it mean?" (My emphasis)
In the Ramsey case, the blood DNA that arguably played the crucial role in forestalling prosecution for so many years couldn't even be traced to a particular cell. No semen was found. No skin cells were found. No foreign cells of any kind were found. The fragments of foreign DNA had been mixed with the victim's blood, thus mixed with her DNA, and could be isolated only thanks to a recently developed, highly sophisticated and complex, methodology. No one had any idea where that DNA was from or how it could have gotten into her blood. Nevertheless, the Ramsey attorneys insisted this had to have originated from her attacker, and since no match was ever found (to this day), no DA felt safe in attempting an indictment.

Over time, other bits of DNA from inside the victims fingernails were examined (this turned out to be contaminated and was ultimately discounted) and further testing of the blood DNA led to the production of 10 markers (there were originally only 9), which made it available for inclusion in the FBI's CODIS database. Team Ramsey then assured us it was only a matter of time before CODIS came up with a match. Of course as we know, almost 16 years after the murder, no match has been found.

Even if a match did somehow emerge, there were only 10 markers, while a complete set is 13, meaning that a prosecution based solely on a DNA match would have been impossible in any case. The prosecutor would still have to offer additional evidence that this person had been in the house on that particular night. But what evidence could he possibly present? That the suspect once owned HiTec boots? That he owned a Maglite? That his palm print was identical to that of Melinda Ramsey's? That someone once saw him carrying some rope in a bag? Also how could the prosecutor prove that the DNA hadn't been transferred to JonBenet indirectly, through some completely innocuous connection? I'll have more to say on this possibility presently.

Even if his handwriting were matched to that of the note, a good lawyer would undoubtedly point to all the experts on record as convinced that Patsy and only Patsy could have written it. If Patsy hadn't written it after all, that meant the whole idea of using "experts" to identify handwriting was totally discredited. His lawyer would no doubt point to all the absurdities associated with the intruder theory that have never been explained: why would a kidnapper leave the body in the house; why would he go to the trouble of hiding it in a remote basement room; and why if he had no way of removing the body, would he leave a note behind even when it no longer could serve any purpose? Also, how did he get in and out, and why wasn't there more evidence of his presence than just some odd snippets of DNA?

For some time nothing much happened on the DNA front, until in July 2008, there was a dramatic "break" in the case. According to an ABC News report,
New DNA evidence from the JonBenet Ramsey murder case positively clears her parents and points the finger at a man whose DNA profile is not currently in any criminal database, the Boulder County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday. . .

On Wednesday, District Attorney Mary Lacy told John in the letter that "significant new evidence that has recently been discovered through the application of relatively new methods of DNA analysis" clears John, his wife, and their son, Burke, from "any suspicion in the commission of this crime." . . .

Lacy explained that last summer, investigators became aware of a new method of DNA evidence collecting called "touch DNA" that would scrape places where there were no stains or other signs of DNA presence to see if genetic material could be collected. The District Attorney's Office contacted the Bode Technology Group near Washington, D.C., to scrape JonBenet's longjohns, which were probably handled by the perpetrator.

The firm confirmed that the DNA it collected on the waistband of the two sides of the longjohns matched the DNA of a blood drop on the inside crotch of JonBenet's underwear."The match of male DNA on two separate items of clothing worn by the victim at the time of the murder makes it clear to us that an unknown male handled these items," Lacy wrote. "That genetic profile belongs to a male and does not belong to anyone in the Ramsey family."
I'll discuss the meaning of this new evidence and respond to Lacy's very questionable interpretation in the next episode. Stay tuned . . .


16 comments:

  1. I have always wondered if Team Ramsey, upon learning of the new collection technique realized that they were almost certain to find some touch DNA somewhere, which could then be attributed to the "intruder". I wonder who's idea it really was to do the touch DNA testing.

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  2. DocG, I'm still reading and trying to resolve the intruder theory. I think the most useful tool in resolving the IDI theory would be criminal profiling. So say an IDI, the profile seems to go something like this:
    Caucasian male (based on majority of the population in the community), age 25-30 (based on verbiage in the RN), of small to medium build and stature (just an assumption, if and only if the basement widow was either an entry or exit point), an acquaintance of the Ramsey's (based on remarks made in the RN).

    Then. I have some answers to the questions posed in this post associated with the intruder theory that have never been explained:
    why would a kidnapper leave the body in the house?-- the intruder was not strong enough to carry her out, there was some evidence that she had been dragged around. Also, removing the body from the house was very, very risky.
    why would he go to the trouble of hiding it in a remote basement room. To create the illusion that she had truly been kidnapped.
    - why if he had no way of removing the body, would he leave a note behind even when it no longer could serve any purpose? Oh but it did, it allowed more time to receive the randsom money or for the get away. As we now know, no calls were ever made for the randsom so the intruder never intended to collect and it was only to allow more time for an escape.
    - how did he get in and out? I suspect in through the basement window and out through the Butler door, but unfortunately any number of ways since the security alarm was not on. How tragic the Ramsey's had an alarm but did not activate it.
    - why wasn't there more evidence of his presence than just some odd snippets of DNA? The intruder was completely covered from head to toe, no hair or skin was exposed. The intruder obviously wore gloves since the were no other fingerprints found at the scene.

    One has to think like a criminal to catch a criminal and I don't recollect seeing anywhere that a criminal profile has been developed.

    As it stands, to me only two scenarios fit the evidence: JDI or IDI. If it was an intruder, it was a carefully thought out and planned crime. I would venture as far to say the person had entered the home on more than one occasion, if only to grab the pen and paper and scope out the place. I find it so hard to believe JDI, since there was no previous signs of criminal behavior on his part although it is still very possible.

    Just my thoughts as an average person who would really like closure and justice for JonBenet Ramsey.

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    1. MG, I urge you to comment only after the most recent blog post, so the others can easily find your comments. Otherwise I'm the only one reading them.

      If you read more in this blog you'll learn why I'm not a fan of criminal profiling. It can be of use in identifying prospective suspects, yes. But not much use in actually solving a case, in my opinion, because there are just too many different ways to interpret what is said and what is done by anyone for any reason. Many people have attempted to profile the killer, of course, especially the Ramseys and their team, who seem to have at one time or another suspected just about everyone they knew.

      The bottom line, as I see it, is that no intruder theory makes sense. Once we realize the note was written on a notepad found in the house, then we are forced to the realization that this is something no intruder would have done. You can find explanations for many of the odd aspects of this case, such as the fact that the victim was never actually kidnapped, but you can't explain that note as something an intruder would have taken the time to write while in the house. All such possibilities are covered in this blog. Use the search engine.



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  3. I always wondered about this case. It seems that the killer had to have known the Ramseys, specifically JonBenet herself. One, because of details in the ransom note. Two, because I think the killer lured JonBenet downstairs/ down the hall into the kitchen because she knew and trusted him. He made her pineapple. She ate it. The killer may have worn gloves at some point, but they were removed, I think, because the flashlight was wiped clean which would indicate he wiped away his own fingerprints after handling the flashlight. The notepad used to write the ransom note... It's not unheard of the killer would use the Ramseys' notepad. Who DOESN'T have a pen and paper pad somewhere in the kitchen? He probably wrote the note before the Ramseys even got home. I think the killer broke in, hid in the storage area or cellar until the family was asleep. Snuck into the girl's room. She knew and trusted him. She followed him to the kitchen. He gave her pineapple, then maybe he promised to play with her or paint with her in the hobby room where he found the paintbrush, or maybe, if he had been in the house before the Ramseys got home, he had already found the paintbrush. This is more likely because think about it: the (nylon?) rope I think the killer brought with him only because I've never read anywhere that a similar type of cord was ever found in the Ramsey's home. But we know the paintbrush belonged to the Ramseys and the other half of it was found in a tote in the hobby room. There's no way in my mind that the killer rendered her unconscious, then wandered the house looking for strangulation tools. I think he was in the house for a long time before the Ramseys got home, wandered into the hobby room, found the paintbrush, and broke it to his desired size and fashioned the garrote all before the Ramseys even got home. I don't think he could've fashioned those knots and found the paintbrush in a murderous frenzy. I think he found and used to flashlight to navigate the home, then later removed his fingerprints.
    Also, I always thought the note was strange in the way that it only addresses John Ramsey. What do you make of that? Why did the note target John, but never mention Patsy or the other family members?

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    1. "There's no way in my mind that the killer rendered her unconscious, then wandered the house looking for strangulation tools."

      According to most of the forensic experts consulted, the strangulation occurred anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours after the head blow. So your intruder would indeed have hung around for at least 45 minutes. Why?

      And why do you think JonBenet would have accepted pineapple from someone who did not belong in that house?

      Just two reasons of many to discount an intruder. I urge you to continue reading here so you can get the full picture.

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  4. I think the son was incredibly envious of his sister's relationship with their mother, Christmas probably added to the jealousy. In interviews as a child and an adult, he exhibits very odd behavior mentally. I believe in my heart Burke struck his sister out of anger and the parents panicked and covered for him. Neither of the 3 have shown true grief in any interview I've seen. As parents we will go to great lengths to protect our children. just my own personal thoughts...

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  5. Please tell me what the abbreviations JDI and IDI mean?

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    1. JDI = John Did It

      IDI = Intruder Did It

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  6. I believe Burke is the guilty party, struck her with the flashlight because she grabed pineapple out of his bowl and he chased her with the flashlight and struck her in the head, and John and Patsy covered up Burkes misdeeds as not to loose there son also.

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  7. As for a believable explanation CBS version of Burke being the killer makes sense except for one thing that I cannot wrap my mind around. And that is the DNA found in the underwear, the longjohns, and also under her nails. All Male? And all samples from all three places from the same male? If so, that is proof to me there really was an intruder. No way the same factory worker made the panties and the underwear and had his dna under her nails. I wish they would have went into all three samples of the dna from the three separate places. And if it was an intruder; why do they only think he could have gotten in thru that basement window? He could have been hidden in the house a day or two before the murder. There were plenty of places for him to hide without being spotted. And plenty of time when they were not in certain places or out of the house to scout around and even take the time to write a long; elaborate letter. Also, I saw on TV how a burglar can somehow pick a door lock with some sort of magnet. I do believe something was not quite right with Burke back then and even now. But; by the strange male DNA being brought to light I cannot just dismiss it like they did on CBS. Because, once again; if it was all the same DNA then it indeed was an intruder in my opinion. All of it together cannot be overlooked just in order to pin it on the Ramsey's because of the circumstantial evidence that made them look suspicious. could someone help me out on this DNA evidence?

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  8. what if it was an intruder that had something against John Ramsey and really wanted to get back at him by killing his child? And as stated above maybe he just staged it to look like a kidnapping? How do they know beyond a doubt that no one else knew about the 118,000 bonus? There are many ways of finding out info. Or maybe someone overheard a conversation concerning the bonus.
    And if intruder theory should happen to be correct; then if that individual was perverted/mentally imbalanced then a lot of what he said in the letter did not have to make a lot of sense. Nor did how she was killed or where she was placed in the basement have to make sense. But it could have made perfect sense to a deranged mind.

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    1. Such an intruder would have had no reason to write a ransom note. Nor would he have had a reason to wait until inside the house to write it.

      As for an intruder with a deranged mind whose actions need not make sense, sorry but I don't buy it. I suppose a defense attorney could try to establish reasonable doubt on that basis, but I don't think he'd get very far. That note was not written by someone with a deranged mind, but a cool and calculating killer trying to misdirect away from his own guilt.

      No one acts in a manner that makes no sense. I don't know of any such psychological category. Even a schizophrenic's actions make sense, within the framework of his disease. I don't know of any disease that would cause someone to do all the things that were done that night.

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    2. The jdi,pdi.bdi and idi theories can all be explained from our various imaginations, and perfectly possible. However, out of the four theories, only one is correct.
      your theory is believable; but the belief that john was previously molesting her ---jon benet's physician said he had examined her vaginal area several times recently just in the months before and that he never detected any sexual abuse. Any thoughts on that?

      And also you said that no one acts in a manner that makes no sense I beg to differ. Because if it was any one of them in the home; then what they did to that poor child made no sense. I can buy her accidently (patsy or burke) or purposely (your theory on john) being killed. But to take a garotte and twist it so tightly that it was imbedded in her throat was not necessary if that was done by a family member. That was just too cruel for any of her loved ones to do to her and I cannot see how any one of them would have been cold hearted enough to do that even when she was already dead--especially when they could have smothered her with another piece of duct tape over her nose. Or they could have even taken a paper towel or tissues and covered her nose till she was no longer breathing, and then flushed that evidence down the toilet. Even if it was a family member it not only took a cold and calculated killer; it also took a DERANGED , cold and calculated killer.
      And why didn't they hide patsy's own brush,her notepad and pen knowing if they were found it would cast suspicion on them? If John wrote the note; why did her make those odd looking c's that pointed to Patsy? Was he trying to frame her; or maybe an intruder who knew what her handwriting looked like was trying to frame her?
      Do you know if the pen was fingerprinted;or wiped down? Were fingerprints found on the garotte or brush or were they wiped down? And the part of the brush that was probably used to insert into her vagina--wonder why that was never found. Could it have been kept for a suvineer maybe? And if the panties were new; was the package they came from fingerprinted and checked for dna?
      If John had planned it; why would he not have chosen a more convenient time when every little detail could have been covered up?
      thank you for your blog on this. It really helps private citizens get the opportunity to post their questions and maybe help or be helped in some way


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  9. I feel like maybe it was someone who worked for them around the house and knew that nobody went down into the basement.
    Burke seemed like an odd child and is now an odd adult but i dont think his sister took some pineapples from him and he waited an hour before deciding to go hit her in the head with a flashlight. And i also dont see john or patsy using i broken broken paint brush on their dead daughters body to make it look like she was sexually assaulted.

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  10. if burke did it; I think he was the one that made the first hit. after that, I would think one of the parents or both staged the rest of the scene.
    but I agree with you that neither of them had the heart to finish jb off in such a cruel way. all signs point toward the parents loving the child very much. as has been mentioned before the 118,000 I believe plays some part in it. why would if the parent wrote the note mention exactly 118,000 knowing that was johns bonus? I would think they would be smart enough to put no personal info like that in the letter; knowing that would be incriminating toward them. and also as mentioned before, the pen,pad and paint brush--why didn't they try to be more careful about using something like those items that were left out in plain sight? if there was a fireplace in the home; why didn't they burn the pad or bury the pen and flashlight or destroy them in some way?
    all the theories can be explained. but only one is correct and I myself do not know which one. just trying to figure out which one is most logical; but then the most logical one may not be correct because all we can do is speculate. but the 118,000 being the ransom--could it be from someone who knew about the bonus; hated john and then resented him even more because of the bonus. therefore, killing his daughter and naming that bonus as ransom? just a thought.

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