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).

NB: If anyone has trouble posting a comment, email it to doktorgosh (at) live.com, and I'll post it for you.

Notice to readers of my Kindle book: I recently noticed that, on certain devices (though not all), the Table of Contents begins with Chapter One and omits the Introduction and Preface. Since the Introduction is especially important, I urge everyone to make sure to begin reading at the very beginning of the book, not the first chapter in the Table of Contents. Thank you.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The "Touch" DNA

(continued from previous post . . . )

What is "touch" DNA? According to an article at the Forensic Science website,
Touch DNA has to do with skin cells. Humans shed tens of thousands of skin cells each day, and these cells are transferred to every surface with which human skin comes into contact. Locard's Exchange Principle states that with contact between two items, there will always be an exchange. So, when a crime is committed, if the perpetrator deposits a sufficient number of skin cells on an item at the scene, and that item is collected as possible evidence, Touch DNA analysis may be able to link the perpetrator to the crime scene, by collecting the skin cells and analyzing them.
The new "touch" DNA was in fact better than the old partial sample taken from the victim's blood. For one thing, it was associated with a particular type of cell, skin cells. For another it contained, apparently, a full set of 13 markers. What's more, both samples matched the old blood sample, providing three different places that the source apparently touched.



Sounds convincing, yes. And to someone such as DA Mary Lacy, mesmerized by the DNA "evidence," it was more than enough to convince her that this was indeed the DNA of JonBenet's attacker and that John and Patsy Ramsey must both be innocent.

Not so fast. Remember  the words I've already quoted, of leading DNA specialist Ros Hammond:
"It's not just the finding of the evidence. It's how did it get there, and can we rule out any other way it did so? And what does it mean?"

To understand the DNA evidence, it's essential to keep in mind all the many different ways DNA can be transferred and to remind ourselves that a DNA match between a  human and an object does not "necessarily prove they were actually in direct contact at all" (see quotation in previous post). What made me suspicious of this so-called "evidence" from the start was how incredibly sparse it was. If an intruder had actually attacked JonBenet with bare hands, then his DNA would be all over her body and her clothing, not to mention the "garotte" he used to strangle her. The complex, sophisticated methods used to produce miniscule traces of blood and "touch" DNA should not have been necessary. The DNA should have been evident from the start, using conventional methods. And if the attacker used gloves, then there would have been no DNA at all, certainly no touch DNA.

The fact that the DNA that was found was present in such small amounts tells us that, in all likelihood, it was either the result of an indirect transfer or came from a very old contact. Think of all the many ways in which JonBenet might have touched or been touched by someone -- a teacher, a classmate, a casual acquaintance. Think also of all the ways an indirect contact could have been made -- via a water fountain, a toy, a fall on a sidewalk or a mound of dirt, etc., etc. Once this got on her hands it could easily have been transferred to any part of her body, and certainly to her panties and longjohns.

The exotic and painstaking methods used to extract partial strands of DNA from blood, or "touch" DNA from some fabric that might contain only a handful of skin cells are meaningful only if there is already a viable suspect or set of possible suspects to test. And if in fact a match is found, then that would certainly suggest that this person might have been in contact with the victim. Though a lawyer could certainly argue for an indirect, and thus meaningless, connection. In cases where semen is found, and DNA from the semen can be matched with a suspect, that of course is a very different story. But in the Ramsey case no semen was found. In fact the body had been very thoroughly wiped down.

In sum, the DNA evidence -- all of it -- means nothing. A real intruder would have left all sorts of signs of his presence, including gobs of DNA (unless he was wearing gloves), and a real intruder, as I've already argued, would not have done all the things this intruder is supposed to have done. This DNA, like all the other "intruder evidence," is simply one more red herring to be added to all the rest in a long long story of obfuscation, delusion and denial.

38 comments:

  1. Keep it coming, Doc. This is an excellent blog. I look forward to reading it every day.

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  2. It's too bad that TDNA can't tell us the age of the person. I've long had a feeling that it might be incidental transfer from another (male) child at the party that night.

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    1. Theoretically, everyone who'd had recent contact with JonBenet was tested, but realistically I don't think that would have been possible. Certainly all her schoolmates could not have been tested and the DNA could have been a residue from some week old or even older encounter. The DNA is pure desperation, but unfortunately no one in the DA's office had the guts to say the Emperor has no clothes.

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    2. She would not have been in school because of Christmas vacation.

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    3. JonBenet bathed before the big Christmas dinner. Patsy washed all new clothes before wearing. All people in contact with JB that evening were tested, all were cleared by the DNA. That DNA HAD TO COME FROM THAT NIGHT, she was clean, the clothes were clean etc..Touch DNA will not survive a bathing or a machine wash. Patsy and John passed a total of 5 lie detector tests, lets all remember that.

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    4. So how did six different unidentified DNA profiles get placed at the crime scene? As reported by the chief detective at the time, James Kolar.

      If John wore gloves while committing this crime, the DNA could have been on those gloves and transferred to her longjohns and her crotch during the assault.

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  3. Here we are in complete agreement. I think all the DNA samples that are not JBR's, and Kolar lists at least six, are artifact. Not out of the realm of possibility since they are all different. I'm sure a gang of six didn't kill JBR.

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  4. Yes, as I understand it Kolar reveals the existence of these additional samples for the first time. I'm very much looking forward to reading his book.

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  5. I understand that the touch DNA could easily have come from any kind of direct or indirect contact, but what about the blood on her underwear? It was blood, not skin cells, which isn't as easily transferred, and to end up on her underwear. If it wasn't John or Patsy's blood...whose was it?

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  6. It was JonBenet's blood. Intermixed with her blood were some very tiny, microscopic traces of foreign DNA. Which could have originated almost anywhere and as I see it were very unlikely to be connected with her murder. DNA from her attacker would have been all over the place, but nothing of that sort was found.

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  7. How do we know this touch DNA did not come from Lab techs-and/or person performing autopsy? Someone had to remove Jon's clothes post morterm right? This would explain "touch dna' on panties and longjohns, and even under finger nails. I will bet no one has tested all the lab techs and everyone involved with the autopsy. If they did, I would also bet they would find a match. It's very clear to me how Jon was killed -- mother accidentally in a fit of rage over something. There wasn't an sexual molestation either. All one has to do is look at Jon Benet's issue with "wiping" and figure out the death likely occurred at the time the mother "wiped" too hard, giving the appearance of sexual abuse. Mother prob struck Jon, causing the head injury. Murderers dont both bash the head and then strangle with a Garrot, and they dont leave ransom notes either. Clear cover up in my mind.

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    1. As I understand it, the DNA of everyone who handled the evidence, including the lab techs, is routinely tested for possible contamination -- and in fact some contamination was apparently found in the DNA extracted from under her fingernails. So if the "touch DNA" was the result of such contamination, they'd know it. But it could easily have been due to coincidental contact, either direct or indirect. Suppose, for example, that she'd petted a dog in the last few days of her life. Touch DNA from the dog's owner, or from some other person who'd petted it, could have been transferred from the dog to JonBenet's fingers -- and from there to many other parts of her body and clothing.

      As far as JonBenet's death is concerned, if it were an accident, it could have been reported as such. No need for an elaborate coverup. They could have said she fell in the bathtub and hit her head.

      And yes there WAS sexual molestation for sure. Her vagina had been penetrated digitally, drawing blood. If we discount an intruder, then the most likely person to have sexually assaulted JonBenet was her father, not her mother -- and most certainly not her 9 year old brother.

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    2. I believe focusing on father and son is most important right now. A man's hand is much more powerful than a female's. I think the father and son know more than has been acknowledged. Perhaps dad is covering for son? Perhaps dad found the kids playing and lost control, after all 6 and 9 are curious minds? Dad may have staged what was left. After all there was a party that very same night. Alcohol does cause strange behaviours and reactions. I do not remembering any mentions in articles that son was DNA tested. I do recall the son may have spoke during the trial.
      my scenerio: Dad checks on kids, finds they had played a strange game, dad looses temper. Mom sound sleeper. Dad realizes what he did, tells son to go to bed and not to come out till told. Grounded perhaps. Dad takes daughter to basement to create a staged situation. Damage already done. Panics, does what he can to protect his son. After all Daughter is mom's pride. Can't handle loosing both, because of himself and PR. For his own selfishness.
      Dad creates note, gives to mom. Mom panics calls police for the sake of her child lying dead in basement.
      Son never really interrogated because of his young age. He was not even present most of the day, but supposedly asleep, if I am correct.
      The devil's playground. It happens. The children are only children. Someone needs to come forth, its been a very long time now. My own daughter was 6 when this all went down. She knew about JonBenet and I assure you I did not tell her the story.

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    3. There are many things about this scenario that seem unlikely to me. First of all I see no motive for JonBenet being killed, either by the son or the father. A father should be able to handle spat between two kids without killing one of them. Also, if it was just a matter of a head blow, then it could have been reported as an accident. No need for the complicated kidnapping scenario.

      It's unlikely in the extreme that a nine year old boy would be sexually assaulting his six year old sister. Far more likely that the father would. But if that were the case I very much doubt the father would have wanted to do such a thing in the presence of her brother.

      It's also unlikely that the mother would have wanted to cooperate in a coverup after discovering the death of the child that was the apple of her eye.

      I do think that Burke may know more than he's let on -- but I don't see any evidence of his direct involvement.

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  8. Do you think possible that in the next 10 years until Patsy death , it would have been possible that she learned everything from John R ?

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  9. I feel it's a mistake to think that Burke could not have done this. When I was 9/10 years old, I had a friend of the same age that was sexually active with his niece!

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    1. James Kolar went to a lot of trouble to locate studies indicating that boys of Burke's age could be sexually active, and on that point I see no reason to disagree. The problem is that such instances are very rare, and almost always accompanied by other behavioral issues. Burke was under the watchful eye of his parents, his grandparents, his aunt, and his teachers, with no sign of any such interest and no behavioral issues of that kind. He did have problems, and may have been borderline Aspergers, but that's a completely different thing. The fact is that there is no evidence pointing to Burke and nothing in his past to suggest such aggressive and violent behavior on his part.

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  10. And I am absolutely certain that Burke knows a lot more than he's letting on! He HAS to!

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    1. On that point I agree. As I see it, he's been covering for his father all along.

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  11. I was curious what you thought about the fact that the touch dna was indeed found on both sides of the band on her long johns? You're saying it is reasonable to believe that the touch evidence made it to those exact points on her pajamas from an old contact by accident? I really enjoy your blog and was beginning to see your case here, but I was unaware that the dna was found there..(only been following this case a few weeks now). Thanks!

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    1. The most likely explanation, as I see it, is that JonBenet must have, at some point, held someone's hands, or petted a dog or cat, or even touched something someone else had touched, maybe at school or during a party. DNA can be transferred that easily. Once the traces of DNA are on her hands, then they could be retransferred very easily to anything she touched, including her private parts and her long johns.

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    2. Here's the clincher, as far as I'm concerned: if her attacker were not wearing gloves, then his DNA, and his fingerprints, would have been found all over the crime scene, and sophisticated methods of DNA retrieval would not have been needed; and if he'd been wearing gloves, then he would not have left any "touch" DNA at all.

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  12. Her mother stated that Jonbenet was asleep when she laid her in bed & changed her pajamas that night. Your explanation is that some time after being woke up before being murdered, she touched the sides of her long johns and privates? I'm not trying to be snide, I'm wanting you to just clarify how you believe the dna must have gotten there. As far as the gloves, you believe John wore gloves for the duration of the crime? I have not read far enough on your blog to know if you believe it to be premeditated. How would they have been disposed of? I'm just thinking out loud here but I don't find it totally absurd that a pedophile would want to take off gloves to be able to touch Jonbenet at least one time during the crime. You talk as though everything a criminal does would be logical but that's just not necessarily the case. Some criminals intentionally leave behind clues or put themselves in danger of getting found out simply to satisfy a psychological desire. Thanks for your response!

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    1. Yes, JBR could certainly have adjusted her long johns after getting up in the middle of the night to have some pineapple, presumably with her father. And she could have touched her privates any time she went to the bathroom during the previous day.

      John wouldn't have needed to wear gloves, as he was her father and was in close contact with his daughter many times on the previous day, I'm sure. He also is the one who carried her into the house that night and he also is the one who discovered her body and carried it upstairs the next day. There's never been any mention of his DNA being found at the crime scene, but it would be very surprising if it weren't. Since the presence of his DNA is to be assumed it was probably never made public by the authorities as it wasn't considered relevant. In any case, he'd have had no reason to wear gloves, as this was his house and JBR was his daughter, so his fingerprints and/or DNA would not have been evidence.

      I don't think someone entering the house wearing gloves would want to take them off when handling his victim's long johns. Presumably he took them off when he inserted his finger into her vagina, but other than that I don't see any reason for him to do that.

      Now it's true that we can't be completely sure about what someone would do or not do in a situation like that, but if an attacker took off his gloves for any appreciable length of time while molesting JonBenet, then it seems likely his DNA would have been much easier to find on her and on her clothing, with no need for the authorities to wait several years until super-sensitive methods could be used to detect it.

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  13. So your case is that touch dna is easily transferable. Hmm, so she manages to "pick up" someone/somethings dna that authorities were not able to source and yet managed to avoid any transfers that could have been linked to any of the dozen folks she touched, hugged, greeted, played with at the party the afternoon prior?

    As for John and gloves..If he was not wearing gloves then his dna and/or fingerprints would have been found on the garrote, the paint brush handle, etc. I don't really believe the authorities would have dismissed that sort of evidence if they targeted the parents as the killers to begin with. They made sure to document that Patsy & Burke's fingerprints were on the bowl and cup but they found it irrelevant that anything pertaining to John showed up on the evidence? I can't agree. And if John was indeed not wearing gloves and fed JBR pineapple, wouldn't his fingerprints also show up on the bowl and cup?

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    1. You make some good points, and your skepticism is understandable.

      However:

      1. According to James Kolar, who was the lead investigator on the case under DA Lacey, six unsourced "touch" DNA profiles were identified from DNA on JonBenet's clothing, in addition to that from family members. He says nothing about other DNA profiles, from friends of the family, that also MIGHT have been found, and sourced, but not made public because these people had been investigated and cleared. There are many things we still don't know about this case.

      2. John may have decided to put gloves on when assembling the "garotte." Why not? No DNA was retrieved from that, apparently, so whoever assembled it was most likely wearing gloves.

      3. As far as the prints on the bowl and cup are concerned, any policeman will tell you that prints are very often not found, even on objects known to have been handled. JonBenet's prints were not found on these items either.

      If you have any lingering doubts, I suggest you think a bit about the absurdities associated with any intruder theory. No potential kidnapper is going to wait to write his ransom note until he's already in the house of his victim. That's absurd. No pedophile is going to have a reason to write a ransom note in the first place. No one deciding to kidnap on last minute impulse is going to sit down to write a detailed 2 1/2 page ransom note, taking the trouble to dot every single i and cross every single t. He'd simply take his victim and phone the family with his demands an hour or so later. No one out to frame John or Patsy is going to leave a note written in his own hand. If anything he'd leave a forged note -- but no one has ever suggested the note was a forgery. While "anything is possible," no one has EVER come up with a credible intruder scenario.

      Finally, I suggest you take a look at the following blog post, titled "The Case Against John Ramsey": http://solvingjonbenet.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-case-against-john-ramsey.html You'll learn why I feel so sure John and only John could have committed this crime. Once it becomes evident that John lied about so many key aspects of the case, then all the so-called "intruder evidence," including the DNA evidence, is beside the point -- i.e., meaningless.

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    2. I was aware that many incomplete dna profiles were found thru-out. I was trying to read Cynic's post on Forums for Justice about the dna being revisited after Kolar's book. Was trying to conclude if any of the profiles were found on all three articles of clothing. Again, it's hard to find an objective answer. They spend pages tearing apart the TDNA but set their case on graphology which I find to be even more unreliable haha. They want to argue that Lacy cleared the ramseys with the dna evidence so if the dna speaks, there were what, 6 intruders? Not really so. Perhaps 5 are artifact and 1 is an intruder. Or all are artifact and John is the killer. I did find it interesting though, that they did a test on the "sweatshop theory" and the dna found after the test was only 1/10th of the amount they actually found in her panties.

      So ya, okay, if James Kolar's book is correct, and there are indeed 6 unsourced profiles found in the dna, it's still not proof that one of them could not be from an intruder. By negating the dna evidence, you are sort of picking and choosing what is reliable since in your post "the case against john ramsey" you are using John's fibers as damning evidence. DNA evidence "means nothing" but the fibers found on her panties catches him redhanded? Sounds like youre shooting yourself in the foot to me:/ If the shoddy dna evidence is unreliable,the only sure thing I can conclude from this specific post is that I believe the killer wore gloves (for at least majority of the crime). I'm in the midst of reading the lengthy "case against john" post but I will respond there with my thoughts once finished:) Thanks for taking the time to respond!

      P.S. Kolar's book stats there was tdna found on the garrote. Male #5 with 7 markers. I wonder if that is separate from John's bc he did say he tried to remove the rope before taking her upstairs?

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    3. I never attempted to negate the DNA evidence. All I've done is explain that, like literally all the other evidence in this case, it is inconclusive. Sure, if you focus only on the DNA you could argue that one of those profiles might belong to her killer. But that's very far from being evidence consistent with an intruder. It's just a possibility, no more. When you consider the case as a whole it becomes clear that there could not have been an intruder AND that John Ramsey is by far the most likely suspect, certainly likely enough to be indicted for probable cause.

      Also I've never claimed that the presence of John's fibers was "damning evidence." I mentioned it because it's relevant, but I've never claimed it proved anything, because it doesn't. Could have been the result of innocent transfer. But maybe not so innocent. We will probably never know.

      My reasons for believing John guilty are presented in the first two blog posts, the series of posts on the basement window, and the post titled "The Case Against John Ramsey."

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    4. I was responding to the DNA evidence because that's what this particular post was discussing. I'm not relying solely on it, I just think each piece of evidence should be dissected. As you've stated, this particular tdna isn't too helpful as it's incomplete. I don't believe it clarifies, on it's own whether it was an intruder or John. So since your belief is that John was the killer, do you believe he wore gloves or are you firm on the idea that he left traces of himself that the cops considered irrelevant because it was indeed his home? Thanks:)

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  14. i'm sure some of touch DNA's coming from a John coworker , i see no reason at all other than trying to convince the police to look towards John's working colleagues they possybly visited or met days before...then knowing that , on Jonbenet's body it's still possible that in the last days , some DNA still on Jonbenet's body...the 118 000$ ramson is the key to where to look....i would be very curious to know from John's police interview , who he thinks might have done this ...we will never know if he suspected a co-worker...sad :(

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  15. Wasn't there a non family member pubic hair found?

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    1. It was determined that the "pubic hair" was probably from Patsy's underarm.

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  16. Lou Smit testimony is convincing. "Doc", not so much.

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  17. It appears after you weigh it all out that this precious little soul was either killed by someone in a heated moment and then comes the cover up, or perhaps an insurance policy collection? I wonder if there was a life insurance policy? It appears from what I read Mr. Ramsey knew where her body was when prompted by police, and retrieved it rather quickly. It apppears it happened in a heated moment. Which propelled a cover up. I wonder about the personality mental help of the mother? If Mr. Ramsey resorted to damage control as to not lose his wife to prison? If they assumed the police would not search the entire house but limit it to her bedroom and main areas. I believe the Ramsey placed the body into wine cellar. Perhaps to present it at a later time as if abducted placed it on their porch or in a place sure to be found. Pasty would have written another note self mailed stating they contacted police and caused the death of their daughter for disobeying the first note. Except John was unnerved by the suggestion of the officer to sweep the house and stumbled under the weight of guilt and fear exposing the evil deed an attempt to confess by revealing the body.

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  18. I confer it was a heated moment incident. I doubt that a nine year old boy would be capable of such. The parents involvement in attempting to hide the truth cover up is obvious. And that not a lot pre meditation went into it. Heated incident them quick cover up. It was also Christmas. That can be a very stressful time for some mothers. I don't put much faith in the Boulder police or forensics abilities. Not that practiced. There was no intruder. That was staged. Maybe this Lacy thing was to avoid liability for looking so hard at the Ramseys. If something sounds unbelievable it usually is. The rich find favor. But Mr. And Mrs. Ramsey, a word from God, "Be sure that your sin will find you out." You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool God at any time. Judgement and justice for Jonbenet awaits.

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  19. A lot of things can come down to just basically common sense. Common sense tells me that there is ZERO reasons for this family to do this to there child, even if there was a accident of some sorts, this is the kind of family that would have never taken to this extreme. To continue to crucify a innocent family after all these years is pretty sad.

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  20. there is a lot of facts that make the ramseys look suspicious. however, there have been other people who looked suspicious because of certain facts and were imprisioned only to be proved innocent later and cleared because of improved dna tests that proved someone else committed the crime. so it sounds like dna is to be taken as valuable evidence in those cases but in the case of jon benet and the dna that was found on her that dna really does not mean a lot and that circumstantial evidence means everything.
    not saying they are guilty or innocent, but it seems nothing has really been taken seriously except for circumstantial evidence. if every case is like this one, then dna is not what it is so highly sized up to be.

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  21. how about the piece of train track that cbs thinks was used to put the marks of jbr's body. was the prongs tested for any of jbr's skin cells?

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