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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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The "Experts" See Patsy - Part 7: Cherokee

"Cherokee" is the name used by someone posting for several years at the Forums for Justice forum, among others. I have no idea whether this person is a he or she, but I have feeling it's a "he," so that's how I'll refer to "him" until I'm informed otherwise. I also have no idea whether Cherokee is a bona fide "expert," but I'm including him here because 1. he definitely sees himself in this category and 2. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll mention that Cherokee and I have a "history" on the Internet, going back many years, which I won't get into here, except to say that this person is extremely touchy and quick to take offense -- which may be the reason why I have managed to offend him so many times both past and present. On the other hand, I may simply be an offensive sort of person, who offends everyone, in which case I hereby apologize to one and all. (Incidentally, my offensiveness is intimately associated with my "popularity," oddly enough, as discussed in this amusing blog post.)

Cherokee's investigation of the ransom note, dating from 2005, can be found at the Forums for Justice website under the heading Analysis of the Linguistics and Handwriting in the Ramsey Ransom Note. Since this posting is protected by a very intimidating copyright notice, and since I have no desire to upset Cherokee any more than is absolutely necessary, I will refrain from long quotes and will not be posting any of his very interesting displays on this site.

It may surprise him to learn that I am genuinely impressed with his work, and will go so far as to say that I have far more respect for his efforts than those of any of the other "experts" whose reports I've been considering here. Which is not to say that I accept his findings, only that he alone, of all the so-called "experts," goes beyond the simple minded accumulation of "similarities" to 1. consider the content of the note as well as the handwriting;  2. apply a healthy dose of critical thinking to his evaluations; 3. explain his methods; 4. consider not only Patsy's exemplars, but the single exemplar we have from John, something none of the others bothered to do.

Unfortunately Cherokee shares with literally all Darnay Hoffman's "experts" the fatal flaw of prejudgement. Based on everything I've read of his over the years, he was, from the very start, or at least from the first moment he set eyes on the ransom note, convinced that Patsy wrote it. This is an odd conviction I've encountered a great many times on the Internet, where people tend to set their hearts on Patsy very early on -- no one else will do, and there is no hope that any future theories or revelations regarding her role in the case will ever change their minds. Not everyone is so closed minded, thank goodness, which is one reason I started this blog.

From the beginning, however, it is clear that Cherokee has had his heart set on Patsy from the start, and is bound and determined to see her as the writer of the note, if not the murderer of her child. And this conviction colors every segment of his presentation. It's literally impossible to do full justice to all aspects of his analysis, as he tends to be extremely verbose, and much of what he writes, though interesting and often meaningful in itself, sheds little light on the identity of the note writer. So I'll touch only on what I find especially relevant.

Cherokee makes the point that a handwriting analysis in itself is not sufficient to identify the writer, and here I fully agree. He begins, therefore, with an extremely long and ultimately tedious "linguistic analysis," which purports to demonstrate that, based on content and linguistic style, Patsy and only Patsy, could have written the note. And here, as elsewhere, I have no choice but to invoke the theme I've returned to over and over again in the last several posts: cherry picking.

For one thing, Cherokee sees the note as definitely written by a woman. This idea has cropped up before, of course, but only in the wake of John's being "ruled out," so for those of us unable to accept the intruder theory, there appears to have been no other choice but Patsy. Ergo, if John didn't write it, the note must have been written by Patsy, ergo by a woman. And once that conviction is established, then the race is on to find evidence of the "woman's touch." Cherokee has no trouble finding it:
Further analysis of the note showed that even though the author strove to present a threatening tone, a strange concern for the recipient of the ransom note was present. There was almost a “motherly” quality to the instructions given in phrases such as “Make sure that you bring an adequate size attache,” “put the money in a brown paper bag,” and “I advise you to be rested,” among others.
I don't have the time or interest to go over all the many reasons Cherokee sees a "motherly touch" in a document filled with phrases such as "foreign faction," "If we monitor you getting the money early,"  "Any deviation of my instructions will result in the immediate execution of your daughter" (very motherly, that), "Speaking to anyone about your situation, such as Police, F.B.I., etc.,
will result in your daughter being beheaded," "You will be scanned for electronic devices," "law enforcement countermeasures and tactics," "constant scrutiny," "Don't try to grow a brain," but such is the magic of cherry picking that all such evidence of typically male content can be explained away as deliberate deception, while everything "motherly" clearly reflects the actual author of this very disturbing text. Why would such a "motherly" text be so disturbing? Why? because this is a very disturbed mother, as should be obvious, no? Why not, since she's just murdered her child.

I can't imagine a Pageant Mom like Patsy ever using a phrase such as "foreign faction," not to mention words such as "monitor," "situation," "scanned," "countermeasures," "tactics," etc. And what about those percentage figures emphasized in the note, do they sound like Patsy --  or John? But that's me, and if I try to take that sort of thing too far then I'd be cherry picking, wouldn't I? Sorry, but I'm not. In my opinion, it is not possible to determine from content alone whether such a deliberately deceptive document was composed by a male or female, by Patsy or John. One can speculate all one wants and one can offer all sorts of reasons based on ones ideas about profiling, psychology, what have you, but to my knowledge no science has ever been devised that can help us with that sort of deception, and if one were ever devised you can be sure deceptive individuals would be the first to take advantage of it.

Especially weak in this regard is the notion that phrases such as "The two gentlemen" or "Use that good southern common sense of yours," give Patsy away, as these are just the sort of phrases a "southern belle" such as her would use. Sure, if this were not a document intended to deceive, but the more typical type of "questioned document" most of these "experts" normally deal with, then such phrasing might indeed mean something. But why would someone whose intent was to deceive deliberately insert phrases that could give herself away? Well, one might want to argue that she simply forgot herself for a moment. And sure, that could be it. But the phrases could also be there for some other reason, as a form of taunting for example. We simply have no basis for deciding one way or the other, so what's the point in speculating?

Finally, after what seems like an endless dissertation on all the ins and outs of "linguistic analysis," Cherokee turns to his far more interesting and meaningful "Handwriting Analysis." I'll deal with that next time.


  1. I have always thought Cherokee to be a woman. However, I’ll go along with referring to Cherokee as a he until notified otherwise.
    I hope you don’t mind a mini-post (maybe several) because I’ve always had a real problem with the linguistic analysis, though certainly there are some points I agree with.
    Not wanting to violate copyright, I won’t quote, but will merely provide the link to the analysis and refer to the post numbers.
    What follows is taken from post #1.
    In post 1 Cherokee speaks of the “motherly” quality of giving advice. I have a hard time seeing that, and I agree that it seems as if a female author is a foregone conclusion.
    Cherokee first mentions the advice to bring an adequate size attaché case. What this says to me is that the author had little idea how much space the money would take up. The two stacks of bills, $100s and $20s would each be less than 5” high. Since all American money is the same length, width, and height, it’s simply a matter of finding the thickness of a bill and doing the multiplication. An adequately sized sandwich bag would have sufficed.
    But maybe the author did have a notion, as Cherokee next mentions putting the money in a brown paper bag as another “motherly” instruction. It’s difficult to see this as “motherly”, “fatherly”, “uncly”, “autny”, “sisterly”, etc. It’s simply an instruction which reveals nothing about gender.

    “I advise you to be rested” does on it’s face seem to show concern for John, but my take is this is simply a signal that the drop will be long, and involved. (e.g. JR will be driving around for some time trying to find a place to dump the body, and may also decide to spend time destroying the ransom money).
    Next up is the implication that the note must have been written by an educated person, maybe a journalism major, because the author is familiar with the mechanics of letter writing. A salutation, a closing, and indentation when beginning a new paragraph are mentioned. This is all stuff learned in grade school, and gone over again in junior high and high school. While I find it strange that a RN would be this long, and this formal, it doesn’t seem to me to indicate anything beyond a high school education.
    I think it’s worth mentioning that Patsy learned writing in the “olden” days, before computers and email and texting. Most people her age, and John’s age, would, I think, tend to indent, use and opening salutation, and a closing, at least if they intended to write a Ransom Letter, as opposed to a Ransom Note. And really, this is a Ransom Letter.

    Cherokee goes on to suggest that the “caret” used to insert a word indicates someone with journalism training. I recall using it in grade school, and by no means was I a precocious student. I suspect most people know the “caret” and what its use is, even if they may not know what it’s called.

  2. ...continued....

    Cherokee then goes on to suggest the two misspelled words in the first paragraph were attempts to hide the author’s level of education, or to make it appear that they were not native speakers of English. While this is possible, I strongly doubt it. First, because the rest of the letter evidences no such effort to deceive, at least as far as the author being a native speaker. Cherokee notes that the author is obviously a native speaker of American English. Second, I’ve known people with advanced degrees who misspell certain words.

    Finally, Cherokee makes some hay out of the fact that the closing is indented to the right, under the body of the letter. Again, this is simply how anyone, including John, would have been taught to write, and would be accustomed to writing, in the pre-internet age.

    These are some problems encountered in post #1. The linguistic portion of the analysis goes on for a total of 9 posts. I don’t think I have time to go through it post by post, so if I contribute another post I’ll try to synthesize some of my critques, as well as mention some things I agree with.

    Finally, I’m posting anonymously because I want the discussion, if any, to center on the “analysis” and my responses, not on who’s who, or who claims to be what.

    1. OK, "anonymous," feel free to remain so. I appreciate your contribution to this discussion and so far completely agree. Your point about the size of the ransom "stash" is well taken. And in this regard it's worth noting that Cherokee is really making two points in his linguistic analysis: first, that the note is clearly a fake, thus not written by a real kidnapper, and second, that it was written by Patsy. Since I completely agree the note is a fake, because clearly there was no intruder and no kidnapping, I don't see any need to look for signs of that in the note's content, but Cherokee does make some valid points in that respect. And your point also makes sense, as one would assume a real kidnapper would have a better idea of how small a package $100,000 in $100 bills would make.

      I appreciate very much your comments on the misspellings and other issues, such as the salutation at the end, as I simply don't have the patience to deal with every detail of Cherokee's analysis. Also, I don't see the need to evaluate every part of this very long tedious argument, as it should be clear there is no way to determine for sure, simply on the basis of linguistics, the author of an intentionally deceitful document.

      If some phrase or other suggests a woman, that could be because a woman wrote it -- or because a man wrote it with a particular model in mind that had nothing to do with gender.

      If certain phrases sound "just like Patsy" that could be because Patsy wrote it. But it could also be seen as evidence she did NOT write it, since the writer would not have wanted to include anything that could give him/her self away. I see no way out of this dilemma, and thus, despite the considerable ingenuity displayed in Cherokee's analysis, I find it unconvincing.

      In any case, please continue to post your insightful comments and analyses, I find them very helpful, so thanks.

    2. Hi, I'd just like to jump in and point out that there would be 10 straps of 100's (a bank strap is 100 bills of whatever the denomination), and 9 straps of 20's. Having worked at a bank, I can tell you that each stack of straps would be larger than 5" (I'd say closer to 10" each), especially if they were older/more used bills (most likely the condition of that amount in 20's) which would have creases that make them harder to flatten down.

    3. Thanks, Beth, for the reality check. Looks like John would have needed an "attache" after all.

    4. Thank you Beth. I had simply multiplied the thickness of a bill but I had not allowed for them being old, or airspace between them.

      Also it's been years since I looked into this, so I decided it's time to go over it again.

      I've assumed all bills are the same thickness. (Is that correct?)

      There would be 1000, $100 bills equaling $100,000. There would be 900 $20s equaling $18,000.

      If the bills were all new, a hypothetical stack of 1000 would be 4.3 inches. That's not allowing for air space. Obviously a stack of 900 would be just a bit smaller.

      As you point out, the bills come in straps, of 100 bills. Each strap would, by my calculations, be .43 inches. Again, not allowing for old bills or air space.

      So, even if we use your estimate of close to 10", we have two stacks, one of which is at most 10" tall, the other slightly smaller.

      According to this site, the average attache is 18" x 12" x 4.5" (apparently attaches are smaller than breifcases) and should hold approximately $1,000,000 in $100s.


    Post 4

    Cherokee says, and I’m paraphrasing, the author of the RL (I’ve taken to calling it the Ransom Letter because as Cherokee points out, it is a letter, not a note. A note would imply something short and to the point) wants the reader to know “who” wrote the note (a group of individuals representing a small foreign faction)and thus “Who” is responsible for the dead body.

    Cherokee claims that the author is writing “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How” as per standard journalistic practice. (Who could Cherokee have in mind?)

    To me the RL reads “who/why” - the kidnappers, who respect JR’s business but not the US. “What” - the kidnapping. “How”- the ‘motherly’ instructions. “When”-the call will come ‘tomorrow’ between 8 and 10 am. Some more “how” in the form of possible alterations to plans depending on how early the money is picked up. Threats galore, which I guess are can be considered “what”. There is no “where” – the precise place to drop off the ransom money will be indicated in the phone call.
    My point here is not that the WWWWWH of journalism must appear in a particular order, or that each element must be present, but rather that the RL simply is not very well organized. I don’t see evidence of journalistic training kicking in and giving as a tight, well organized letter.
    Cherokee claims the “where” is the bank, as in where to get the money, but I think it’s reasonably obvious that one gets money from a bank. To me the essential “where” question is where to drop the money, and of greatest importance, where to get JBR. Implicitly, this info will be revealed in the phone call.
    Cherokee’s treatment of the time for the call is interesting. He states (paraphrasing) that if the note were written prior to midnight, “tomorrow” is the 26th. If written after midnight “tomorrow” is the 27th. He goes on to suggest that if the note writing went on during the night, even though it went past midnight, the next morning light (the 26th) would be “tomorrow”. For those of us who have followed the case for years, we can see what is coming next. The headstone is marked Dec. 25th, and therefore the author knows the actual date of death. “Tomorrow” then, in the mind of the author, must be the 26th.
    It seems obvious to me that the way to determine “tomorrow” is to ask what the reader’s perspective would be. The author would know that the note would not be read until the morning of the 26th when someone got up and discovered it. From the reader’s perspective today is the 26th, therefore “tomorrow” is the 27th.
    I suppose there is room for different points of view on the “tomorrow” question, but it does rather negate the idea that the letter was written by someone with journalistic training, well educated, organized, and familiar with the mechanics of letter writing. After all, why should such a person be so vague about something as important as the “When” of the story?

    1. "I don’t see evidence of journalistic training kicking in and giving as a tight, well organized letter." Neither do I. But even if the letter were better organized, so what? The principal problem I have with so many who are so bent on Patsy is that their attempts to link her to the murder and the note are clearly biased. If the note were perfectly composed, it would reflect her journalistic training. However, if it were just tossed together with no organization at all, it would reflect her tendency to "lose it," as expressed in the "accidental" murder of her child over bedwetting. So no matter how you see the note, there is room for a Patsy dunnit argument to be made.

      So, yes, I fully agree regarding the significance of Patsy's journalism training. It has no significance. However, as far as the timing of the phone call is concerned, I see nothing vague in that and it amazes me that so many do. If "tomorrow" meant the morning of the 26th, then how could John possibly have made it to the bank, collected the ransom, and then taken some time to be "rested" prior to 8AM? What bank is open that early anyhow? "Tomorrow" could only have meant tomorrow, i.e., the 27th.

      The reason so many get the timing so wrong is simple: "we see what we expect to see." It's hard to imagine why a real kidnapper would want to wait an entire day, for no good reason, to arrange for collection of his ransom. So the police assumed "tomorrow" must mean "today." But it's not hard to imagine why someone staging a phoney kidnapping would need that extra day to complete his staging and get rid of the body.

    2. Yes, you're right about the bank.

  4. Post 4, continued.

    Cherokee suggests the French word “attaché” has a genteel quality. Why genteel? What is particularly genteel about the French word for what most us would call a briefcase? Well, of course “genteel” conjures images of Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With The Wind – e.g. an upper class southern woman. Why though, not a woman from Quebec, who would after all, be more likely to use a French word? Or, why not woman of “Cajun” roots, who again, would be more likely than most to be using a French word? This strikes me as a ham-fisted attempt to show the author is Patsy. I see no reason to think JR would be unlikely to use this “genteel” French word. JR, after all, has risen to great heights in the business world. He is no mid-level manager. He has graduated from brief case to a more expensive attaché.
    Cherokee also notes that the sentence from the RL -“If we monitor you getting the money early we might call you early to arrange an earlier delivery of the money and hence a earlier pick-up of your daughter” – is awkward. I completely agree and would note that it does not show evidence of being written by someone with professional training.

    1. The word “attaché" is interesting because of the French accent over the "e" -- as in JonBenét. I don't see it as "genteel," but it does seem to carry with it some association with Patsy, who is after all the one who came up with that name. As though she just couldn't resist including a French "touch" in her little masterpiece, whether child or ransom note.

      If this was just an ordinary letter and we were trying to figure out who wrote it, then that little touch might have some significance, yes. But we can never forget that this letter is deceptive -- intended to point away from the person who wrote it, so why would that person go out of her way to add such a personal touch?

      All such speculations about this note cut both ways: if we insist some detail gives the identity of the writer away, we have to ask why he or she would have been so foolish as to include it. Thus there is no way to tell whether any such association is the result of a mental lapse, giving Patsy away, or evidence of her innocence, since she would have had no reason to include something associated with herself.

      As far as the "awkward" sentence is concerned, I completely agree. He wants to have it both ways, doesn't he?

  5. Post 5.
    In the 4th paragraph from the bottom, and the two paragraphs following, Cherokee opines that the author of the RN provides the rationale for JBR being found dead. Not only found dead, but found dead in the home. The rationale, believe it or not, is that the warnings in the RN have been ignored and because of that the kidnappers followed through on their threats to execute the girl.
    The scenario that Cherokee is proposing is that the author intended all along that the warnings would be ignored, that the authorities would be contacted, and that this provides the rational for JBR’s execution.
    The problem with this theory should be obvious. Apparently it’s not obvious to Cherokee, and I know from participating in internet discussions of the case it’s not obvious to others. The Ramseys cannot “deviate” from the instructions in the RN before they find and read the RN. Therefore JBR cannot be killed, as a response to those deviations from instructions before the RN is found and read.
    The first known deviation from instructions is the 911 call at 5:52 am. The calling of friends and Reverend Holverstock occur very soon after the 911 call.
    When the body is found it becomes obvious she has been dead several hours. How can she have been killed as a reaction to the Ramseys not following instructions if she’s been dead since before the 911 call?
    It doesn’t make a lick of sense that the author of the note was setting up the reason for JBR being found dead –the reason being the warnings were not heeded- and yet also planning to have the body found in the home.
    Did the kidnappers possess a time machine? Did they monitor the Ramseys, and seeing that the police were called, jumped into the way back machine, set it for 1am that morning, and kill her in response? Even Deputy Barney Fife could figure out that a murder happening several hours prior to the 911 call could not have been in response to the Ramseys making the 911 call.
    In order for the plan to work, it did not necessarily have to be probable, but it did at least have to be possible. Executing JBR prior to the 911 call, in response to the 911 call is not possible.
    Cherokee is doing a linguistic analysis, not setting forth a theory of the case, so I’m not sure what he had in mind. Were the kidnappers going to return the body to the home? That seems a very unlikely scenario. Of course, that scenario is moot because once the police are called, the body will be found in the home, so there is no possibility that the police will believe the body was returned.
    Did the author think the police would go out chasing after phantom kidnappers leaving her to dispose of the body? The author of the RN had to know that calling the police was likely to result in finding the body.

    Is there any way to make sense of the apparent attempt by the author to set up a reason for JBR being killed in conjunction with the body being found? Yes, there is. It makes sense if the body is found outside the home. IOWs, it makes sense if the body had been dumped and found days or weeks later. In such a scenario, it could be claimed she was killed because the police were called.
    No one thinking objectively about the case could imagine the impossible scenario of finding the body in the house, yet expecting police to believe JBR was killed because the 911 call was made.

    1. I completely agree. Thank you so much for this close critical analysis of this totally implausible line of thought. To be specific, here's the gist of Cherokee's "theory":

      "By ignoring the ransom note writer’s instructions and warnings, the Ramseys brought about JonBenet’s “immediate execution,” and by extrapolation, the reason her body was found in the basement of their home."

      As you make very clear, this interpretation of "the Ramseys" actions makes no sense at all. Of course, whenever the absurdity of such a theory is exposed to light of day, the inevitable response is: "well this sounds absurd to you, but maybe it didn't seem so absurd to them."

      And I suppose there's no answer to that, because there's no way to prove "the Ramseys" were any more intelligent than the many Internet posters willing to accept such a lame idea. The problem for Patsy fans, however, is that Ramsey defenders can use the exact same fractured logic to bolster their intruder theory. After, all if no intruder theory makes any sense, then how can we be sure we're not dealing with a nonsensical intruder? By the same token, how can a teacher be absolutely sure the kid's dog didn't eat his homework after all?

      Bottom line: at some point we just have to use common sense. The theory presented by Cherokee makes no sense. And there is no reason to believe it would have made sense to "the Ramseys" either, because we have no reason to believe anyone staging such a crime would be so foolish as to assume the police would attribute the death of someone found inside the house to the actions of a "kidnapper" observing it from the outside. Such theories tell us much more about the mind-set of the person offering them than anything else.

  6. Post 6.

    A few things to consider in post 6.

    First, Cherokee correctly observes that the author keeps switching from plural to singular, and back. I agree that the author seems to lose track of whether he/she is one person, or a group. It seems to me this undercuts the theory that the author was trained in journalism. I’d think someone with that training would be more cognizant of using plural and singular consistently.

    In my comments on Cherokee’s post #5, we saw that Cherokee has asserted a completely illogical theory of the author’s intentions (namely that the plan was to fill the RN with dire warnings of JBR’s impending death should the instructions be violated in any way, along with the intention to violate those instructions, thus providing the “reason” for JBR’s death, despite finding the body in the house and therefore knowing she’s been dead since before the 911 call was made) In post 6 Cherokee now heaps on more illogic.

    Cherokee examines the portion of the RN where it speaks of denying the body for proper burial. Cherokee considers that the author threatens to withhold the body as a form of extra punishment, above and beyond the killing of JBR. A punishment the Ramseys will suffer as a result of not following the instructions set forth in the RN.

    But if the plan includes finding the body in the house then, manifestly, it is not denied them for proper burial.

    Cherokee seems to think the author is showing concern for the body, knowing the child is already dead. I think the concern is to explain the body’s disappearance.

    The denial of the body for proper burial makes no sense in the context of allowing the body to be found in the home. That’s obvious enough if one is not blinded by a preconception that Patsy must be the author of the RN.

    Cherokee seems to understand that the note is providing a reason for JB’s death, and a reason why the body is not available for burial, but seems unable to make the connection that the original plan must have been to dump the body. To recognize that the RN is consistent with a plan to dump the body (and inconsistent with a plan to find the body in the house) also requires the recognition that there is something wrong with calling 911 before the body is dumped. Yet Patsy does call 911. At this point there should be strong cognitive dissonance. Cherokee deals with the dissonance by ignoring the complete illogic of his interpretation of the author’s intentions. So strong is the preconception that Patsy wrote the note that he simply cannot let go of it.

  7. "At this point there should be strong cognitive dissonance."

    Exactly. And yet just about every book on the case and just about every forum post blithely ignores cognitive dissonance, paradox, contradictory evidence, etc. So many have theories that sound fine to them only because they are wearing blinders. Hardly anyone says something like, "wait a minute, we need to stop and think a bit, because there are things about this case that make no sense." It's only when you make the attempt to dig beneath the surface that you realize something is very wrong with the usual perception of this case, that there are things we think we know that can't be true.

    1. I believe many RDIs are, or have been, on the cusp of making a breakthrough in their thinking, and resolving the paradox. What seems to prevent them from making the breakthrough is the unshakable belief that Patsy is the author of the note. When faced with the paradox, most seem to prefer to believe in something logically impossible rather than change their opinion of authorship.

  8. Post 6 continued.
    Thus far I’ve been very critical of Cherokee’s linguistic analysis of the ransom letter. I have not made any personal attacks, but I have accused Cherokee of being illogical. I believe I have backed up that charge.
    I have to acknowledge that Cherokee has a couple valid points in post 6. First, he reminds us that the author uses the southern habit of using “bring” and “take” differently than people from other regions. This was a point Cherokee had also made earlier, in a prior post. Additionally, Cherokee points out that the author uses the term “gentlemen” rather than simply saying “men”. I think these are valid points, and they do seem to be consistent with Patsy’s writing. I would only note that by the time the ransom letter is penned (Sharpied?) John and Patsy have been married 16 years, and have spent some years in Atlanta. John, therefore, must have become acquainted with some southern speech habits.

    I disagree with Cherokee about the use of “watching over”. Cherokee suggests that the author reveals a knowledge that JB is already dead, and is being watched from above. While this strikes me as a reasonable interpretation, I believe “watch over” is a common way of saying “watching”. The entries at would seem to back me up on that – “baby sit”, “keep an eye on”, “look after”, “keep tabs on”, and in fairness to Cherokee “mother”.

    1. "I would only note that by the time the ransom letter is penned (Sharpied?) John and Patsy have been married 16 years, and have spent some years in Atlanta. John, therefore, must have become acquainted with some southern speech habits."

      Of course. To give credit where credit is due, Cherokee comes up with some genuine insights and this is one of them. Unfortunately for him, none of these insights is conclusive. Far from it. And for every "Patsyism" he finds, there is a "Johnism" he ignores.

      For example, John's language is full of percentage figures, they are all over the place, in his writings and interviews both. And percentages play an important role in the note. I've never seen a single instance where Patsy has ever used percentages anywhere.

      Also, I've accompanied many women to the movies in my day, and also sat beside them in front of the TV, and not one ever showed any interest in any of the movies referenced in the "ransom" note. That's all very much "guy" stuff. Yet the note writer is obviously on familiar terms with their language and their themes. That in itself speaks strongly against any notion this was written by a woman -- and certainly not Patsy. Everything we know about her tells us she was typically "feminine" in her interests and tastes.

  9. Post 7.

    Here Cherokee has some valid points and some a very serious errors. Let’s start with the errors and end with the valid points.

    Cherokee states that the ligature around JB’s neck was not very effective for strangulation. Given that the petechial hemorrhages and deep furrowing indicate that she did indeed die of asphyxiation, and given that the coroner had to cut the not, rather than simply loosen it, I’d say the ligature was a very effective strangulation device. What the ligature lacked was a way to modulate that tightness. It could be tightened by pulling, but not easily and quickly loosened.

    Cherokee suggests that it was the Ramseys who called 911. Cherokee also suggests it was “they” who contacted the bank to arrange the ransom money. What we know of course is that it was Patsy who made the 911 call, and John arranged the ransom money. While it’s possible (if one ignores certain logical absurdities) to believe John and Patsy were involved in a joint venture, all the facts reveal is that it was one –Patsy- who made the 911 call. I believe Cherokee has revealed to us that he already believes it was a joint effort, even though this is a linguistic analysis, not a theory of the case.
    Cherokee then slips into the same logical absurdity that we looked at in my response to his posts #5 and #6. Cherokee states (paraphrasing) that ignoring the warnings in the note provides the reason the body is found in the basement of the home. Again, Cherokee seems to have trouble with time, specifically, the inability to realize that if the girl has been dead several hours prior to the 911 call, her death cannot be explained by the failure to heed the warnings in the note, since all such failures to follow instructions happen at, or later than, 5:52am.
    I agree, and it’s hardly a contentious issue, that many lines in the RN were lifted, and modified only slightly, from the films; Dirty Harry, Speed, and Ransom.
    I also agree with Cherokee that no pedophile would leave a ransom letter, and no one intent on revenge would leave a ransom letter; they’d leave a revenge letter.

    Finally, Cherokee says that a computer program that can help determine whether a writing was authored by a male or female indicates the letter was likely written by a female. I think this is a good bit of analysis, even though I believe the logic of the case dictates that Patsy didn’t write the note. Computers can be wrong, but I have no argument with the basic approach Cherokee has taken, as far as the computer analysis is concerned.

    1. As far as the computer program is concerned, there are many such programs out there, and if you cherry pick hard enough you can probably find one to verify any theory you might come up with on just about any topic, I suppose. What's important is not the existence of the program, but the reliability of the research behind it, and whether or not the results produced have ever been scientifically tested -- and if so with what degree of reliability.

      If such a body of research existed, and a computer program was based on it, I'd imagine every forensic doc professional in the world would be using it -- but I see no evidence of that, do you?

    2. More on this computer program. I see nothing about this program designed to correct for deception. So even if a program of this sort could be meaningfully devised, and even if it produced reasonably reliable results under normal conditions, there would be nothing in it to correct for situations where the writer is trying to fool or mislead us. Nor is it likely it would be able to correct for the use of irony or parody, or the use of quotations from other sources.

    3. No, I see no evidence that the program has been vetted or that it's widely used. I'm just being charitable. Cherokee has found something which backs his theory of a woman writer. So ok, I'll give him the point.

      But I think you're right, it probably hasn't been subjected to scientific analysis. The results probably wouldn't be allowed in court.

  10. Post 8 (part I)

    I’m working backwards through post 8, primarily because it’s a way of relieving the tedium of the linguistic analysis.

    Cherokee is absolutely right to point out that Patsy makes liberal use of exclamation points in her writing, and that the RN contains exclamation points as well. No matter what one’s theory, it has to be admitted this is a similarity.
    Cherokee also notes that the author uses periods between letters in an acronym, such as F.B.I., or S.B.T.C. And certainly this is a feature of Patsy’s writing as well. Cherokee goes on to note that this method of using periods has largely fallen out of favor. It’s not clear whether or not John uses periods in this manner because we have so few examples of his writing publicly available. (Just one, that I know of) I would note that John is 13 years older than Patsy, so if Patsy had been taught to use periods in acronyms, John must have been trained to do so as well. Of the two, who would be most likely to use an old-fashioned manner of writing? Would it be the older person who is not trained in journalism and therefore perhaps unaware that periods are no longer thought necessary in this context? Or the younger person, trained in journalism, and therefore presumably more aware of changing conventions?

    1. As I see it, what makes Cherokee's analysis particularly unconvincing is the continual assumption that we are dealing with a straight one-to-one comparison of the simplest possible sort. I have no doubt most questioned document investigations are more or less like that. A will is found and someone contests it, claiming it wasn't written by the deceased. So a handwriting professional is hired to compare the handwriting on the will to known exemplars by the deceased. In such cases methods such as Cherokee's would be perfectly valid. However, the Ramsey note (or letter, if you prefer) is NOT that sort of document. And, as now seems clear, there are NO generally accepted methods for determining authorship where the writer has deliberately altered his normal mode of writing.

      If the writer never used exclamation points, then he might have decided to include them in the note deliberately in order to deceive. Same with periods in acronyms. Or the use of acronyms at all. So just because the note happens to contain some elements of the sort we find at times in Patsy's writing, this very literally means NOTHING.

      We know Patsy could not have written the note, or been involved in the crime and/or coverup, because we know she called 911 with the body still in the house, and thus made sure the note was going to be examined by the authorities -- and that it was going to be seen as extremely suspicious, because there had been no kidnapping. That in itself tells us just about everything we need to know about Patsy and the note. All that remains is to consider the possibility that an innocent John told her to make the call. Which we know couldn't have happened, because thanks to his blatant lies about the broken window, we know John isn't innocent.

      So again the whole issue of handwriting analysis is moot. Doesn't matter. Beside the point.

    2. While I agree with your theory of the case, and therefore agree with what you've just said, I guess what we're concerned with here is linguistic analysis rather than handwriting per se. I take it the theory is that we reveal something about yourselves through word choices, or use of regional speech patterns, etc. There's no denying that Patsy uses exclamation points, and periods. I think the similarity has to be admitted, and the linguistic analysis should proceed objectively - so we can't say Patsy did or didn't write it until all the factors are accounted for. So it's fair enough for Cherokee to point it out. As you point out, it may well be that the author used those features because they are actually different than his own writing. The RN is meant to deceive, maybe in more ways than one.

      In the end, I doubt much can be said for linguistic analysis. There is the tendency for cherry picking, as you have made clear in your comments on handwriting. There is also the tendency to read into the words meanings that simply are not there - "motherly" ? Really?

      When I've finished with Cherokee's analysis I will provide my own - only fair I should make my own available for similar criticism. My analysis is much much shorter, than Cherokee's.

  11. While I disagree that Patsy -a 40-year-old woman with a degree in journalism- would be unable to think of words/phrases such as 'foreign faction', 'countermeasures', etc. I must admit that the scenario of John writing the RN for Patsy's benefit (i.e. to frighten her in hopes that she won't call the police) is the most convincing theory I've heard. Reading the RN again, it seems obvious it wasn't intended for police to see. The amount of money was insignificant in comparison with John's wealth, and the 'exhausting' drop of the money would be, as you've suggested, the perfect opportunity to drop the body.
    What keeps tripping me up and pointing me back to Patsy is Steve Thomas' book, where it's stated that the chronic vaginal abuse was 1) digital, and
    2) not for the gratification of the violator but more likely a form of punishment.
    And to me that screams Patsy.
    Granted, I've never heard the abuse described that way (not for gratification)outside of his book.

    1. Yes, the note was written for Patsy's benefit, as you say. I'm glad you see that. But it was also intended for the police as well. At least the content was -- which is why I think John would have made a copy before handing it over to "the kidnappers." It provides the rationale for him doing all the things he would need to have done, and also for not contacting the police right away.

      Steve Thomas's book, like Cherokee's analysis, was written by someone already convinced from the start that Patsy killed her daughter and wrote the ransom note. Both Thomas and Cherokee felt that since John had been "ruled out" they had no other choice but Patsy -- and so they concocted all sorts of reasons why she "must" have done this or that.

      Thomas then went to the FBI for confirmation and they obligingly gave it to him -- in the form of a truly absurd scenario in which a brutal sexual assault is performed on a dead or dying daughter by her own mother as part of an effort to stage a pedophile attack to cover for what could easily have been reported as an accident. Patsy is often described as "off-the-wall" but to me this scenario is off-the-wall. And sorry but I've never heard of any mother sexually assaulting her daughter as a form of punishment. Unless the mother was truly psychotic, which Patsy clearly was not.

      How does such behavior "scream Patsy"? -- outside the fairy tale realm of the Internet forums that is. You're thinking of Snow White's stepmother, not a real life human being.

  12. Post 8 (part II)
    Let’s wrap up post 8. Cherokee states the author shifts tone and highlights the personal relationship with John. “Do not try to grow a brain” “fat cat” and “Don’t underestimate us” “use that good southern common sense” and “It’s all up to you now John” are all interpreted as Patsy warning John that he’d better play along.
    “…so don’t think that killing will be difficult” is interpreted by Cherokee as Patsy’s way of saying she’ll destroy John’s reputation, wealth, business and family. This is Patsy threatening John, in Cherokee’s view.

    What Cherokee seems to be saying is that Patsy (the pretense of doing an analysis to see who the writer is has been dropped completely) knows John will figure it out, and he’d better not rat on her or let her twist in the wind or he’ll suffer the same fate.
    In order to see it this way, it must be presumed that PR did the killing, and that John wasn’t in on it otherwise there’d be no need for threats. If John is a co-conspirator his cooperation is already assured.
    So, as Cherokee would have it, Patsy is warning John not to mess up her plan. Let’s review the plan, so far as we can ascertain the plan from Cherokee’s analysis. The plan is, having killed Jonbenet, Patsy writes a RN in her own hand, which Cherokee thinks is easily determined by the combination of linguistic analysis, handwriting analysis and exemplar comparison. The ransom note supplies the “reasons” that Jonbenet was killed, non-compliance with the provisions of the RN. Then the 911 call will be made, allowing the body to be found in the home, and allow police to take the ransom note which was “obviously” written in Patsy’s hand.
    If this was the plan (and it couldn’t be) then Patsy’s best hope would be that someone would mess it up.
    First, and we’ve covered this before, if the plan was to have the RN provide the rationale for why Jonbenet was killed (deviation from the instructions) then the plan could not also include finding the body in the home, as that provides the proof that Jonbenet was killed long before the first deviation from the instructions. It’s simply a logical impossibility. This idea that the RN provides the “reason” for Jonbenet’s death is consistent with finding the body outside the home –e.g. days or weeks after it’s been dumped.
    Second, if Patsy wrote the note, and didn’t try very convincingly to hide her handwriting, or her writing style as “revealed” through linguistic analysis, then why would she allow the police to get their hands on the RN?
    In my opinion the threats in paragraph 3 are just that- threats. They are not threats that John is supposed to get by reading between the lines. They are threats meant to reinforce the idea that the authorities should not be called in and all provisions of the note should be complied with.

    We don’t need to go through post 9, as that is simply a re-hash of all the “work” already done.
    All in all Cherokee’s linguistic “analysis” strikes me as a conclusion gone off in search of some support. It does not strike me as an objective work.
    The small things like finding a “motherly” concern, or use of a “genteel” word show us Cherokee has already formed a conclusion and is seeing things through the prism of “Patsy wrote the note”. But the more serious problem is that Cherokee actually touts a logically impossible theory that the note provides the rationale for finding Jonbenet’s dead body, in the house.

    1. Good thinking, good wrap-up. I can't think of many theories more ridiculous than the one where the note becomes a "secret message" which John then decodes and which leads him to figure out 1. that Patsy killed their daughter and 2. it is now "up to him" to cover for her. I'm wondering if that nutty idea originated with Cherokee -- or Steve Thomas.

      How is it most people can't see through this crap and reject it out of hand from day one? What are they teaching our kids in the schools these days? Certainly not critical thinking skills.

  13. My own analysis is shorter, and focuses on what the writer seems to be trying to convey to a reader –any reader.

    The Ransom Letter is in 3 paragraphs. Paragraph one tells us who the actor is – though only vaguely, that JB has been taken (implicitly then she is being held off the premises) and the first threat is made – “…if you want her to see 1997 you must follow our instructions to the letter.”

    The purpose of paragraph one is to convince the reader that JB has been taken, and that she may be harmed or killed if the instructions are not followed.

    It seems reasonable that the author felt the threat was sufficient motive to continue reading. After all, John and Patsy do want JB to see 1997, and therefore they’d have an interest in reading the instructions.

    Paragraph two is the instructions. The amount of ransom (the amount could not wait for the phone call, which clearly is to come on the 27th, otherwise the kidnapper would have to wait for John to go to the bank on the 27th and the note is clear that John is to have the money when the call comes)

    The denominations, $100s and $20s, is a common demand. (That is to say, specifying the denominations is common, not that kidnappers always demand 100s and 20s)

    The author seems concerned that the attaché be adequate in size, yet demands the money be transferred to a brown paper bag. I take it that the author means something like a lunch bag, not a grocery bag. So, obviously, if the money fits in a lunch bag it will fit in anything sold as an attaché case. I cannot offer any sensible reason to show a concern about the size of the attaché. I believe there is a reason for the demand to transfer the money to a brown paper bag.

    John would attract attention going into the bank with a paper bag, or carrying the money in his pockets. An attaché would make sense as a vessel for the money, one which would attract no attention in the bank, or in the vicinity of the bank. When the drop is made, an attaché might look out of place. The drop might, for example, be in a public park, where one does not expect to see a man carrying an attaché, (Not in Boulder) hence the instruction to transfer the contents of the attaché to a brown paper bag so as not to attract attention.

    Of course we know that there are no kidnappers, and no real drop, though John will of necessity have to go through the motions. The bag, I believe, makes it easier for John to move surreptitiously with $118K in cash. Even if John destroys the money at home, he has a reason to go off on this mission w/o his attaché.

    There is mention of the time that the drop instructions will come, 8-10am on the 27th, and mention of the Ramseys being monitored. There is also the nonsensical instruction to be “well rested” because the deliver will be exhausting. I take this to be the author’s attempt to explain why John will be gone for hours on this mission – after all, he’s going to have to dump the body, and destroy the money. It could take hours to find the right spot.

    Finally paragraph two explains that the call might come earlier than stated if the kidnappers “monitor” John getting the money. Thus, the author has given John more leeway in the amount of time available to carry out the plan.

    The purpose of paragraph two is to provide the instructions normally associated with a RN and to provide John with the time needed to dump the body and destroy the ransom money.

    Paragraph 3 is simply a laundry list of threats. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s intended to emphasize how dangerous it would be to disregard any of the instructions. There are hints that the writer might know John personally – “fat cat” “southern common sense” but the tone is still threatening.

    The purpose of paragraph 3 is to reiterate the threats in the hopes that repetition will make the reader take the threats seriously.

    1. So far so good. Makes sense to me.

    2. That's it for my analysis, just in case you were expecting more. I don't see the sense of puzzling over the word "hence" or comparing the use of periods in acronyms, etc. etc.

    3. Ok, good. And thanks for contributing so much of value to this discussion.

      As for "and hence," what's often forgotten is the fact that Patsy and John collaborated on that Xmas message. So it's just as likely the "and hence" came from him as from her. Another good example of how so many want so badly to see Patsy in the note. Actually Patsy's style is chatty and colloquial -- John's style tends to be more formal, so as I see it, the "and hence" is more likely his style than hers.

  14. Is it possible that both the Ramseys were involved in the construction of the ransom note? Maybe they came up with it together? One of them wrote it while the other dictated what to say? That could be why it shows aspects of both masculine & feminine and why it's hard to pin it to one person.

    1. As I see it, Craig, because of the element of deception, it's not really possible to determine, solely from either content or handwriting analysis, either who wrote the note or whether or not it was written by one person or two. For me the logic of the case as a whole trumps all the many attempts at analysis of either the note or the mindset of the principals. And since such analyses have consistently been at cross purposes, with one "expert" seeing it one way and another "expert" seeing it another way, I see no alternative but to stick with the known and undisputed facts, and logical inferences based on those facts.

      On that score there can, imo, be no question: both John and Patsy could not have collaborated on either the crime or the coverup. For my reasons, see e.g., the following:

  15. I'm going to check out some of the other pages on your site, yes. As a lawyer, I like to see people engaging in reasoning & critical thinking like you are trying to do on your site. Most of the evidence has always pointed to the Ramsey family and an inside job within the home, rather than an intruder or mysterious unknown murderer.

    I gather from reading some of the other pages that you believe John Ramsey committed the crime and wrote the note, without the involvement of Patsy. Your theory is that John Ramsey planned to get rid of the body and the ransom note was meant as a way of giving him cover to get out of the house and that Patsy blew his cover prematurely by calling 911. That is possible, but I have a couple of questions about your theory that I may ask you about later. I think there could be a couple of problems with it, although it remains an interesting one.

  16. Be my guest. I look forward to reading about any problems you might find, but I warn you: if John is NOT the sole perpetrator then nothing makes sense and we might as well all just forget about the whole thing.