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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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Desperately Seeking Patsy

[NB: 1-25-2013 - Yesterday I received a notice from "The Blogger Team" that this blog post was being temporarily removed due to a notification they had received regarding the supposedly unauthorized use of copyrighted material. I was told I could repost it once the material was removed, but given no information regarding exactly who filed the complaint. Consequently I have decided to remove all materials that might have prompted this notification, at least for the time being, until I can more accurately determine its source. In my view all such materials are covered under the Fair Use provisions of the copyright laws, but that's not my call in this instance, so I have no choice but to comply.]

I believe I've demonstrated very logically that Patsy could not have been involved in any aspect of this crime, including the writing of the "ransom" note. Nevertheless, many of those following the case will find this extremely difficult to accept, because of all the supposedly "obvious" similarities between her handwriting and that of the "kidnapper." I've already covered some aspects of this issue in earlier posts, here and also here, but the handwriting evidence is so widely misunderstood that I feel the need to tackle it in more detail at this point.

To understand the public's fascination with Patsy, it is necessary to review some of the early history of this very very strange case. Once it was announced that John had been "ruled out," then all the many difficulties with the intruder theory prompted many to focus on Patsy, as the only other logical possibility. It wasn't long before samples of her writing were appearing in the tabloids opposite samples from the note and not long after that a New York lawyer named Darnay Hoffman inserted himself into the case by hiring a team of handwriting "experts" to confirm his suspicions (or more accurately his conviction) that Patsy had written the note. And lo and behold, this is precisely what they did.

Between the tabloids and the confident conclusions of the "experts," as trumpeted at every opportunity by Hoffman, a bandwagon mentality developed, in which hordes of Internet posters vied with media people and, ultimately, book authors, to find one reason after another why Patsy would have murdered her daughter, in a fit of anger over bedwetting, or by accident, while taking a swing at her husband, etc., and to top it off, staged a vicious "garotte" strangulation and vaginal penetration as part of her "over the top" attempt to cover herself by making it look like an attack by a crazed pervert. Oh, and of course she would have to have been the one to write the note, because her husband couldn't possibly have written it, according to all the "experts." For some this meant John must be totally innocent, but others felt sure he was conspiring in some way to protect her, out of concern for "the family name."

Never mind how absurd all this sounds. Many to this day are convinced it happened more or less as described above. In his recent book, James Kolar provides an alternative theory, in which the fatal blow is struck not by Patsy but her 9 year old son, Burke. Since Burke could not have written the note, however, Kolar has no choice but to fall back on Patsy, who, in league with her husband, would have staged a kidnapping to preserve "the family name."

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

I'd like now to consider some of the evidence that's convinced so many that Patsy absolutely positively must have written the note. Here's a particularly striking comparison that's been floating around on the Internet. I'm not sure where it's from but the similarity looks really convincing:

[Image removed due to possibility of copyright infringement.]

The similarity is also extremely misleading, because the exemplar from the note is taken from a very poor copy that gives the impression of blotting, making it look a lot more like Patsy's exemplar than is actually the case. Here's a better quality copy:

[Image removed due to possibility of copyright infringement.]

This more accurate image, taken from exactly the same place in the original, is clearly quite different from either of the above. We can't always trust what we see.

Another troubling instance is this version of the ransom note, as printed in the National Enquirer:

[Image removed due to possibility of copyright infringement.]

Here samples of Patsy's writing are compared with a completely phoney version of the note, rewritten to look like the real thing.

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Darnay Hoffman's "experts" were hired expressly to confirm his suspicions and so they did. Here's one of the most widely seen comparisons, produced by Cina Wong:

[Image removed due to possibility of copyright infringement.]

While this comparison looks convincing, it's important to understand the process by which it would have been produced. Individual letters by the same writer can be formed in a variety of different ways, even in the same document. And any two writers using essentially the same method (such as the manuscript method used by both Patsy and the note writer) can be expected to form at least some of their letters in a similar way. Thus, if enough samples are available to pick and choose from, finding similarities becomes a kind of game, which can be loads of fun, but whose significance is questionable to say the least. A more complete comparison would show a great many differences as well, but would be less impressive to someone desperately seeking Patsy, as Hoffman most certainly was.

I played a similar game with exemplars I found in this document written by John -- the only example of his writing that's ever been made public (to enlarge any of these images, right click and open in a new tab or window):

Working only with this very limited sample, I was nevertheless able to produce the following comparison, equally impressive as Wong's it would seem, but this time focused on John:

I've already presented this in an earlier post, as a puzzle, since John's exemplars are mixed in with exemplars from the "ransom" note. To date no one has ever been able to distinguish which is which. This time I'm going to provide the key, but first I need to clarify a couple points: 1. I cleaned up most of the letters so the guidelines wouldn't get in the way; 2. I flipped one exemplar horizontally, just for fun, the next to last pair of ll's on the fourth row.

Now, let's sort the thing out, so everyone can see how easy it is to play Wong's game. Basically, I alternated. Each line begins with an exemplar from the note and is then followed by one from the above document of John's, and so on, alternating exemplars from the note with exemplars from John. The only exception is line 6, which contains the letters "sey" from "Ramsey" as found, first on the note and second and third, from John's deposition.

Take a look first at line one, the row of "y"s. At first glance it looks like they were made by two hands, the first three by one person and the last four by another. Actually they alternate, the first coming from the note, the second from John, etc. (as do all the other rows, except for row 6). What this tells us is that BOTH John and the writer of the note are inconsistent and moreoever inconsistent in similar ways. There are obviously very strong resemblances between John's "y"s and those in the note.

I find the "w"s in the next row to be very interesting. We see that both John and the note writer have an odd tendency to curve the rightmost segment of the "w" upward and to the left. The first two exemplars show how similar John's "w" and the note's "w" can be. Usually, however, the writer of the note added an extra upward squiggle to the "w" -- but the rightward curve is still apparent. The upward squiggles look to me as though they were added on in a crude attempt at disguise. Another interesting aspect of this row is the way the letters slant. The text we have from John tends to be pretty consistently slanted to the left (so-called backslant), which has led many to conclude he is left handed. His "w"s confirm this. (John stated in Death of Innocence that he is right handed, but this example suggests he could be ambidextrous.)

The ransom note is mostly slanted to the right, but there are some very interesting exceptions. On this row, the third and fifth examples (from the note) are slanted to the right, but the first (also from the note) is slanted slightly leftward. If the note was indeed written by John, he must have made an attempt to reverse his normal slant -- but was not completely consistent.

The six "e"s on row three are strikingly similar to one another. All are backslanted. Slant is the most interesting aspect of row 4, containing the word "will." The first two "ll"s from the note slant to the right. John's first "will" (the second example on this row) slants strongly to the left. Example four is the one I flipped horizontally, so it could better be compared with the double "ll"s in the previous "will," from the note. [Actually on second thought, I may have flipped this exemplar back into its original form at some point, since it actually doesn't match the previous one. Sorry about the confusion. Honest, it's the only thing like that I attempted.] Reversing the slant of John's exemplar in this way reveals a strong similarity between the two sets of double "l"s. The final example, another set of double "l"s from the note, is slanted to the left and should be compared with example 2 on this line, by John. Again I think it possible John attempted to reverse his normal slant as a method of disguising his hand, but failed to be totally consistent. The "ll"s in examples 2 and 5 are remarkably similar (neither was flipped).

Continuing down the page I think the resemblances between John and the note are quite clear and quite strong. Note that the first two "sey"s on row six seem closer to one another than the second and third, both by John, whose "e"s are quite different from one another. Moving briefly to line seven -- it's been pointed out that the crosses on Patsy's "t"s tend to carry smoothly into the next letter, as in certain examples from the note. As this line reveals, this can be true also of John's.

What does the comparison tell us? Does it demonstrate that John Ramsey wrote the note? No -- because in my opinion this sort of comparison can never be completely conclusive. If nothing else, however, it tells us how careful we need to be when making direct letter by letter comparisons. If we look hard enough, there's no telling what sort of similarities we might find between any two documents, and what we might think we have proven.

Returning to Patsy, I'd like to present one more comparison, between a document penned by Patsy and a page of the "ransom" note:

[Images removed due to possibility of copyright infringement.]

This is the sort of comparison we rarely see, as the two documents have such a totally different overall look. Again, if we are bound and determined to seek similarities on a letter by letter basis, we might well find some, but the overall looks are so completely different that someone not desperately seeking Patsy might well have ruled her out immediately. Of course, if you are in fact desperately seeking her, you will be impressed by the circled "two gentlemen," which, as has often been pointed out, can be found in the note. In other words, if you can't get Patsy one way, keep trying because, hey, the possibilities are endless.


  1. Hello, DocG !

    One thing that has always perplexed me about the RN ?

    WHY write a 3 page note ?

    WHAT would be the reason, or motive, for such a long note, as most "ransom notes" are usually straight and to the point ?

    Yes, it was part of the staging ... but did he think it would "throw everyone off his track" ?

    Makes NO sense IMO.

    Your thoughts ... TIA !


  2. I'm sure doc will answer, but may I take a stab?

    The note could have been shorter, but it had to have some things in it a real note might not need.

    One, It had to say that the kidnappers had JB, and that would be true even if the note were real. A real note wouldn't need to say who had her, but that might have been thought necessary to help fool PR? (a group of individuals representing a small foreign faction)

    The note, if real, didn't really have to say how much the ransom demand amounted to, that could be said on the phone, but JR needed a record of the amount so he could justify withdrawing that amount. The note had to specify a call coming "tomorrow" (the 27th) to provide time to dump the body and collect the money.

    The note also had to have several warnings of dire consequences if police were called in.

    So yes, it could have been shorter, but something like "We have your daughter, will contact you soon" would not suffice for JR's plan.

    1. Yes, thank you, and I agree. The note was not simply a fake ransom note, but part of a plan, so it had to be long enough to set the plan up convincingly.

      As for "throwing everyone off his track," I don't think the note in itself could have done that, but the plan as a whole, including the note and the window staging, plus getting rid of the body and all the evidence, would have made it almost impossible to make a case against him. If all had gone according to plan, there would be no evidence, period. Of course, what actually happened was so bizarre and so difficult for the police to figure out, that he got away with it anyhow. At least as far as the law was concerned. Public opinion is a different matter. He paid dearly for the failure of his plan, losing his business and having to fight for years to avoid prosecution, after spending a fortune on lawyers, PR people, handwriting "experts," private detectives, etc. If his plan had worked he might not have had to deal with any of that.

  3. I believe the note was written by a person's "off" hand or left hand if he/she ws right-handed. That could be why the letters were crooked and not well-made.

    1. In their book, John says he's right handed. But the court document we've seen looks like it was written with the left hand. So does the note, yes. It's possible John is ambidextrous, but usually writes with his right hand, so most of his historic exemplars could have been done with the right hand. This might be what threw the "experts" off when they ruled him out.

  4. You will notice that in the word small the two ls were not written like this: ll. The first l was written like a capital L and the second one was written in lowercase. The way they were written resembles an open-top numeral 4. This is the only time in the note where the ls were written in this manner. What significance, if any, do you think the number 4 has?

  5. Interesting observation. But to me it just happens to look like a "4." The writer seems to have gone to some trouble at the beginning to distort the letters and make them look odd. The two different "l"s seems consistent with that effort. Later on we see more normal and consistent lettering.

  6. There is a connection with the number 4 and the words small foreign if you think about the Ramsey family history.

  7. Patsy must be involved by evidence that she swept up the glass from the window John broke months before.

    1. Well, first of all, she was lying. She did not sweep up any glass when she said she did. If that story were true they'd have had no problem recalling whether the window had been repaired or not. Also the housekeeper denied knowing anything about any broken window in the basement and denied helping Patsy clean up the glass as Patsy had claimed.

      While Patsy's willingness to lie to support John's lie about breaking in earlier certainly implies she was involved in the entire coverup, there is other, more convincing, evidence that tells us she must be innocent. This is one of the most baffling aspects of a very baffling case, and it wouldn't surprise me if you were skeptical. To be brief, if Patsy and John were in it together, then the 911 call would not have been made while the body was still in the house.

      So to understand why Patsy would lie to support John's version of what happened we have to go elsewhere and find some other motive for her to lie for him. I believe I've found it and discuss her situation in the following post:

      See under the heading "Why Did Patsy Lie?"

    2. Oops, I provided the wrong link. Here's the correct one:

  8. What makes me suspicious is the bed wetting that night. Was that a frequent occurrence? At age six children should not have issues with that. Which means that she was a secondary bed wetter indicating either emotional or physical abuse at home. Every child around Christmas time should be excited yes but not stressed out.

  9. jon benet was being sexually abused before the murder, and that is the key to the whole case in my opinion.

  10. remember patsy and john's prints were not on the ransom note. they should have been because they found it, then read it.

    1. All that tells us is what law enforcement people already know: fingerprints aren't always retrievable. I see nothing suspicious in the lack of prints, because as you say, if their prints had been found on the note, that was only to be expected, as they made no secret of having handled it that morning. If your hands are clean, you may well not leave prints.

  11. did patsy and john wear gloves when they wrote the ransom note.

    1. Why are you assuming "they" wrote the note? If "they" wrote it, then they would never have agreed to call the police while the body was still in the house. And no, I see no need for the writer to have worn gloves -- unless it was an intruder, which of course it wasn't. If John wrote the note, as I feel sure he did, there'd have been no need to wear gloves since his prints could have gotten onto the note while he was reading it. On the other hand, he might have worn gloves as an aid in disguising his hand. In any case, prints often don't show up even when someone has handled something.

  12. maybe they didnt take jon benet outside because it was to risky. so they leave her in the cellar. the 911 call was the first part of the staging. the ransom note was the second. patsy purchased duct tape and cord on the 2 and 9 of decemeber from mcguckin hardware. why was she buying these items. it can never be proved she bought these items, but its obvious she did. it makes me wonder if the murder was premeditated.

    1. If they thought it would be too risky to remove the body from the house, then they would not have reported a kidnapping. Nor would there have been any reason to hide the body in the basement. They'd have displayed the body prominently and claimed she'd been assaulted by a pedophile intruder. Workmen had been in the house recently, so the duct tape could have been left by them. If the murder had been premeditated, the note would not have been hand printed, nor written on a pad from the house.