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Unknown man in Ramsey case missing
Question of the Day
DENVER | It's one thing to exonerate her parents, but it's another thing to find the killer of JonBenet Ramsey.
Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy shifted the focus of the investigation from the Ramseys to the "intruder" theory Wednesday when she cleared family members of any involvement in the 1996 crime.
But the intruder, the adult male whose DNA was found on two items of JonBenet's clothing, remains as elusive as ever.
Boulder authorities have had a usable DNA sample, taken from JonBenet's underwear, for at least nine years, but have yet to find a match. The district attorney's office recently found a second sample, which matches the first, on the girl's leggings by using newly developed "touch DNA" technology.
When and if the killer strikes again, his DNA would presumably come up as a match on the national DNA data base, known as CODIS. Ordinarily, say experts, this wouldn't take long, since child sexual predators are known for their serial behavior.
"I can't imagine this was the first time," said Leigh Baker, director of the Trauma Treatment Center of Colorado. "It's a repetitive act. It's not done just once."
That's what's so baffling about the case, and one reason that suspicion stayed focused on the Ramsey family for so long. That someone could commit a crime as horrific as the JonBenet murder, and then fail to strike again for nearly 12 years, defies all that's known about the behavior of child sexual predators.
The killer's radical departure from the norm has led some experts to conclude he may be dead.
"The options are, number one, the perpetrator is dead; number two, the perpetrator has deviated from his usual M.O. The usual M.O. in these crimes is to strike and strike again," said Denver attorney Scott Robinson, an expert on the case.
"The third option is that the individual has struck again, but has neither been apprehended or left behind any usable DNA," he said. "He's been either too smart or too lucky to be caught."
James Cohen, law professor at Fordham University, broached another possibility: The perpetrator may have been incarcerated, but for a crime that doesn't resemble the Ramsey murder.
"Why didn't this person surface before, and if by some happenstance this was the first time, why hasn't it happened since?" Mr. Cohen said. "It's possible this person was in prison, but not for the same offense."
Sherryll Kraizer, a Denver-based author on child abuse, said child molesters on average will commit 225 to 300 assaults, although those figures are based on male pedophiles who prey on boys.
Another possibility is that the killer has left the country. "It's a mystery. I don't know if we'll ever know," Mr. Cohen said.
Meanwhile, some longtime followers of the case took issue with Mrs. Lacy's decision to clear the Ramsey family.
"I would be very skeptical from a scientific point of view. This doesn't make sense to exonerate anybody," said Dr. Michael Baden, a leading forensic scientist and host of the HBO documentary series "Autopsy," in an interview on KHOW-AM in Denver.
He said the DNA samples could have come from the clothing manufacturing process and could have been spread from one item to another. The DNA could have also come from medical or morgue personnel who were never tested.
Others accused Mrs. Lacy of trying to salvage her reputation after the John Mark Karr debacle. Two years ago, she flew in Mr. Karr from Thailand after he confessed to killing the 6-year-old girl. It was quickly determined he was not in Colorado at the time of the December 1996 murder.
"It's hard to have any confidence in Mary Lacy, especially after what happened with John Mark Karr," said co-host Craig Silverman, a former Denver prosecutor.
About the Author
Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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