But before I continue, please forgive me but I feel the need to hold forth a bit on a topic that is very dear to me -- the vital difference between taking evidence at face value, and analyzing evidence critically, from the standpoint of both logic and common sense. In the Ramsey case especially we see many examples of people reacting almost viscerally to certain pieces of evidence as though they were self-explanatory and required no further analysis. And since Patsy Ramsey has become the focus of the case for so many, much of this evidence has often been cited as "proof-positive" of her guilt. The note was written on "her pad," using "her pen" -- wow, what does THAT tell you? The "garotte" was constructed from her paintbrush. Her fingerprints were found on the bowl of pineapple -- telling us she must have lied when she denied any knowledge of that. She wore the same outfit the next day, meaning she must have been up all night. Etc. , etc., endlessly.
If it were that simple she'd have been tried and convicted years ago. Anyone in the house that night could have used that notepad, that pen and that paintbrush. Why would Patsy go out of her way to use her own things to point away from her involvement in the murder of her daughter? And for that matter, if she'd been up all night why would Patsy not want to change her clothes before greeting the police that morning? Why would Patsy's fingerprints not be on a bowl from her own kitchen, an item she'd probably washed, dried and put away prior to the night of the crime? And so on. We can't just look superficially at evidence, we need to understand why that evidence is there and think logically about what it might mean.
Now, on to the question at hand. According to the first interviewee, Mr. Walker, senior editor of the National Enquirer,
Well, for a long time investigators have known that the note was probably written by somebody who's ambidextrous.Sounds reasonable. Some words or letters in the note are back slanted and others right slanted, so I've often thought that the writer sometimes used his right hand and sometimes his left, as part of an effort to disguise his hand.
But police have never been able to absolutely independently confirm that Patsy Ramsey was ambidextrous, so we decided because this case is so old and we're trying constantly to uncover new evidence, we went to witnesses everywhere, in Boulder, in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and we talked to... people from her school days, teachers, etc, and we found a witness, a high school teacher who taught Patsy in the 1970's, who said very simply and matter-of-factly she is ambidextrous. She was as a child. She is now. We went to Linda Hoffmann-Pugh, the housekeeper, and when we asked her this she said, oh yeah, she said, Patsy told me she was ambidextrous. I've seen her brush her hair with her left hand. I've seen her paint with her left hand. I once saw her work on a science project with Burke, JonBenet's brother, where she wrote numbers and letters with her left hand. She is absolutely ambidextrous.
N.B. The question of whether John Ramsey might be ambidextrous never arises. I'll have more to say on that presently.
Next we hear from the other intervieweee, handwriting "expert" Ted Widmer:
Handwriting actually is a misnomer because if you lose a hand, for example, and have to write with the pen, for example, held in your mouth or between your cheek and your shoulder, your handwriting basically stays the same. You really should call this brain-writing rather than handwriting. There have been many occasions where people have lost a hand, like say their dominant hand was their right hand and they then had to learn how to write with their left hand, and basically the handwriting looks virtually the same.Now, according to the anonymous commenter I referred to above, Mr. Walker's report constitutes proof positive that Patsy was indeed ambidextrous. On the other hand, when we examine the left-hand sample Patsy provided to law enforcement,
it looks as though she is really struggling to write with her "off" hand, and the result is very messy -- which is one reason the Enquirer saw it as an "exact match," since the ransom note is also messy. (For my take on this comparison, see my blog post entitled Patsy's Left-Hand Sample Revisited. As I've been able to demonstrate, her left hand sample is actually very different from the note, though on first glance it can look quite similar.)
So we are left with a vexing question. If Patsy was in fact ambidextrous and therefore capable, as Mr. Widmer opined, of writing as clearly with her left hand as with her right, why would the sample she provided to law enforcement look so messy? According to the anonymous commenter, it looks that way because she was trying to disguise the fact that she was ambidextrous. But why would she want to disguise that fact by deliberately writing a note so messy that some (including the editors of the Enquirer) see it as "an exact match" to the ransom note???? Was she really that dense? Moreover, if she were truly ambidextrous how could she possibly have hoped to disguise that fact? Wouldn't she have been concerned that examples of her left-hand writing would turn up either in her historic exemplars or in something offered to the police by a friend?
I'm sorry, but it simply defies both logic and simple common sense to assume that Patsy would have wanted to disguise the fact that she was ambidextrous, at least in the sense implied by Widmer. If in fact her "brain-writing," as Widmer calls it, made it possible for her to write more or less the same with either hand, why wouldn't she have used that capability to demonstrate that her left hand script was just as different from the ransom note as her right hand script?
Something is definitely wrong with the picture painted by the National Enquirer editor. And given the track record of the National Enquirer, that's not surprising. An old teacher could have gotten Patsy confused with some other ex-student. Maybe the NE reporter wasn't worried about that possibility, but simply reported what his editor wanted to hear. Would not have been the first time a tabloid got things wrong. As for what Linda reported, there is a big difference between brushing your hair with your left hand, or even painting with your left hand and using that hand to write fluently. As for writing some numbers, well even I can write numbers with my left hand, and I'm certainly not ambidextrous. I'm not saying there is no way Patsy could be ambidextrous. I'm just saying I see no incontrovertible evidence of it. If she had that ability I see no reason why she would have wanted to hide it -- or take the huge risk of being found out if she had tried to hide it.
But I'm not yet done with this right-handed, left-handed issue. Because we have not yet considered John Ramsey, the teflon suspect, who always seems to pass unnoticed whenever evidence of guilt is being considered. What I find so very interesting in the interview from which I've been quoting is the total absence of any consideration of the exemplars John provided and what they might look like. We don't even know whether or not John provided a left-handed sample, do we? Has anyone ever expressed an interest in that? And if he did, what might THAT have looked like? And why have ALL the exemplars John provided been so carefully hidden from the public for all these many years?
Here once again is the one example of John's printing that's been made public, a document that was probably never submitted at all to the authorities:
And lo and behold! We see a distinct back-slant. Now back-slant does not always mean left hand. But very often it does. And here's John's signature:
Very clearly back-slanted. Now John has always claimed he was right-handed -- and has denied he was ambidextrous. Which might be the case. But he certainly has a tendency to write with a back slant. And it's the presence of certain letters and words in the ransom note written with back slant that convinced the authorities the writer must be ambidextrous. So, gee. It would be very interesting to take a peek at the exemplars he provided. Maybe someone at the National Enquirer would be willing to track them down for us???? I wonder . . .