…Some attorneys appear to believe
that procedural niceties need not be
observed if they are on the side of
angels; much prosecutorial excess
seems rooted in such self-
Deborah L. Rhode
In the Interests of Justice
I graduated from Aurora Central High School in 1970, and after spending the summer publishing a local newspaper of my own with a group of friends from high school, I got a job working as the “Youth Editor” at the Aurora Advocate. I wanted to write the news and the editorials, and I wanted to write about people, about what they did, about what happened to them and why. I wanted to learn their secrets and keep their confidences. Off and on through college I worked as a reporter for the school newspaper, weekly local newspapers like the Brighton Blade and the Broomfield Star, a stint as a copyboy at the Denver Post, and, for a while, I worked at a madcap publication called the Aggressive Investor, out of Denver and Salt Lake City. I’d write a news or feature story, learned to take photographs, sold advertisements or pasted up the pages before they went to the press. I learned to edit copy and I loved working with the people who made these newspapers come to life. One day, while working at the Denver Post, I stood in a catwalk of the printing press, watching that paper and ink move at 48,000 copies an hour and inhaling that smell of news coming to life until a pressman pulled me out.
“Are you trying to get yourself killed?” he asked.
While studying journalism and history as an undergraduate, I also took enough of an interest in teaching to obtain a secondary education certificate in Colorado, but in the Viet Nam era with so many baby boomers wanting to be anything but soldiers, there were plenty of teachers, and I couldn’t get the printer’s ink out of my blood. Journalism never paid well, but it was a convenient and natural way for me to make a living. I found work as a paste-up artist at the Toast of the Coast Herald in Texas and at the Littleton Independent in Colorado, as the Editor-in-Chief of Journal Publications in Casper, Wyoming, that included the Casper Journal, the Business Journal and the Midwest-Edgerton News, and as the overworked editor, sports editor, reporter and paste up artist for the Eagle Valley Enterprise outside of Vail, Colorado. Those were years of wanderlust and bliss.
I came to think that writing would someday be my career of choice if I could just disentangle myself from newspapers. In 1982, still thinking I might like to work less than 60 or so hours a week and teach someday, I enrolled in the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College in Vermont for a master’s degree. It was a graduate program for teachers and required a commitment of at least four summers. During the academic year, I studied classical languages and published some of my work. I then found a job editing investigative reports for Pinkerton’s, Inc., the oldest private investigations firm in the world. Soon afterwards, I hung my own shingle and began working as a private investigator.
I put all my training as a reporter and an interviewer to good use. I knew how to ask questions and had a built in shock proof crap detector for when someone lied to me. I loved finding secrets, and I loved being paid to write reports. I had been willing to take the heat when the public didn’t like the news or the editorial opinions I printed, but I never enjoyed the public’s occasional anger. Private investigations allowed me to dig up the dirt and have my client pay me and thank me, reserving their criticism for the targets of my investigations.
Twelve years later, I owned a thriving private investigations business, Investigative Reporting Services, Inc. and had also established myself as a court qualified expert witness in questioned documents and handwriting analysis. I had diplomas and certificates from the Sampson Institute of Graphology, the International School of Handwriting Sciences, the American Handwriting Association and other such classes to share wall space with my college diplomas. I was married with two young boys, and, finally, in 1992 after three grueling years of night school, I had a Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver and obtained a license to practice law.
I had worried about details and accuracy as a journalist, a private investigator and a handwriting expert, but the repercussions for making an error in print or a client’s report were nothing compared to those attending a lawyer’s failure to pay close attention. Given my obligation to my clients and the demands of a lawyer under the supervision of the Colorado Supreme Court, I realized that I could not be both a meticulous, good lawyer and continue to manage and supervise Investigative Reporting Services, Inc. I sold the private investigations business in December, 1995.
In the winter and spring of 1996, my pockets bulged, my criminal defense practice thrived, and my future looked as bright as my shiny green Mustang. Then, on April 26, 1996, I came home from a business trip in Washington DC to find that my wife had changed the locks on the doors to our home. Only a few weeks earlier I had asked her to go to marriage counseling with me to get our marriage back on track, and we had seen a counselor. He told us to separate as our fighting would, and did, affect our two young children. I knew that I was miserable, and that my wife must also be miserable, but I had grown up in a divorced family. I did not want to accept the same for my children. My wife did not want to accept my obstinacy. We entered into a vicious divorce, she from a very wealthy Denver family, and me finding that it’s not love, law and hard work that prevails in a divorce involving children, but money. A month later, May 24, 1996, I had a heart attack. I was 45 years old.
By March, 1997, when “JonBenet Ramsey” had become a household word, the scandalde jour featured on Geraldo Rivera et al., and a public embarrassment to the City of Boulder, my law practice had virtually disintegrated. I paid little attention to the case, shunning the lawyerly talking heads opining about the case on television. I saw them as stars in a constellation I had fallen from. Judges and lawyers live by enduring stress, but at the least hint of stress, my heart would suddenly ache. At a non-contested civil hearing one afternoon, I had to ask the magistrate for a recess so I could catch my breath and dull the angina with nitro glycerin. Then, I struggled to the end of the hearing with the wicked headache that comes with the rush of oxygenation caused by the medication. Although my client won the case, by the time it came to collect his damages, I was too ill with a clinical depression to continue with the collection proceedings.
In the spring of 1997 when the news, and especially the tabloid news, was full of scandal and headlines about a six-year-old beauty princess’s sexual abuse and murder, her father’s wealth and her mother’s status as a former beauty queen, I wasn’t much interested. My mother had died, my dog had died and I was smoking cigarettes with suicidal devotion. I had let my hair grow down to my shoulders. I wore a scraggly salt and pepper beard, blue jeans, cowboy boots and a fringed black leather jacket. This is how I wanted to appear to myself and others when I got the first phone call from a reporter named Craig Lewis.
What follows is the story of my personal journey after agreeing to represent Craig Lewis, a Globe editor, through the hell of John and Patsy’s retaliatory response to investigative efforts of any validity. The retaliation came through their lawyers and those who did their lawyers’ bidding, Dave Thomas, the District Attorney of Jefferson County, his prosecutors, investigators and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The smear campaign was not aimed solely against me, as a handwriting expert and a lawyer retained by The Globe, but at any person who participated in the dissemination of any information in the case that might reflect badly upon the parents of JonBenet, savagely beaten, sexually assaulted and killed.
Meet The Press
Craig Lewis called me in late March, 1997, less than four months after JonBenet’s murder, and a few months after I had “retired” from the active practice of law. He wanted to find out where he could obtain a copy of the ransom note found at the Ramsey residence on December 26,1996. As yet the note had been neither released nor its content published, and it had become a subject of immense speculation. I wondered aloud, “Why me?” He said he found my phone number in the World Association of Detectives (WAD) membership book.
“That’s funny,” I said. “I sold that phone number and the private investigations business that goes with it in December of 1995.”
“Yeah,” Lewis said, “I talked to them and they gave me your new office number.”
I had enjoyed the cases that came from my membership in WAD before I sold the business, but I told Lewis that I could no longer work as an investigator. I had sold the business, and I had signed a non-compete clause, assuring the new owner that I would not work as a private investigator, nor take business from him, within 100 miles of Denver.
“So, you’re practicing law now?”
“I’m retired,” I said. “I’m not taking any new cases.”
“Could I come by and talk to you?”
“I’m not sure I can help you, Mr. Lewis,” I said.
“Craig,” he said. “Well, you never know. I’ve talked to some other private investigators.”
He didn’t name John Thomasson, who had bought my company, but he did name Dale Wunderlich, another member of WAD, for whom I had a great deal of respect and several other private eyes I knew. My seven month old Weimaraner puppy, Strate, suddenly appeared at my side with a touch of his cold, wet nose on my wrist. He looked at me wide eyed with his little stumpy tale wagging; I knew I’d better let him outside, and I’d better do that in a hurry.
“When do you want to meet, Mr. Lewis?”
“How about this afternoon?” and he added, “Call me Craig.”
“Three o’clock,” I confirmed.
I didn’t have anything left to lose, I thought. I missed the days when I had been important, when I had people asking me for my opinions, asking for my work. I let the puppy out.
Lewis showed up in a white and green plaid shirt tucked into casual white slacks and red tennis shoes. I liked him right away. He told me he grew up in Texarkana in northeast Texas, an area my father’s family had traveled through on their way to settle near Waco. We met in my mother’s former bedroom, now, since she was gone, my home office. The ambiance was hardly formal. Neither of my boys’ cats, Tigger and Fuzzball, nor my puppy, Strate, would leave Lewis or me alone.
I had a way of lowering my voice and making silly comments in the persona of my puppy. Lewis picked up on the way I spoke from Strate’s point of view, and mimicked it right away. This willingness to accept a puppy’s lick and to talk to my dog playfully compelled me to like him. The isolation and loneliness of my convalescence made my guest’s sense of humor a break in the monotony of my sense of uselessness.
My puppy took to anyone who took to him, and I’m pretty much the same way. Lewis and I talked about journalism and criminal defense law while Strate looked up to him, waiting for him to talk to him again. I told Lewis about my work as a handwriting expert. He talked about the obvious guilt of John and Patsy and the buffoonery of both the Boulder Police Department and the Boulder District Attorney’s Office. We amused each other. Realizing that I had worked as a criminal defense lawyer, Lewis told some doughnut and cop jokes. The cats walked across my desk and dropped into his lap or my lap every now and then.
In Strate’s voice Lewis said, “Can I have a doughnut. I’m a good dog, I’m a good dog.”
“He’s not a cop,” I said, “He doesn’t need a doughnut.”
Lewis replied for Strate, “Yes I do. I really need a doughnut.”
After a couple of hours I agreed to let Lewis hire me as a consultant in handwriting and law. From then on, at $150 per hour, I listened as he talked at length about the Ramsey case from his “tabloid” point of view. Lewis wanted specific and titillating information. And, by “titillating” he meant the kind of information that would spark the imagination of a fairly dull readership: anything to do with the erotic, with the privileges of wealth, child exploitation, sex, violence and hidden, behind the scenes maneuvering. He did not want false information. He wanted fantastic information, but true information, and he had a wish list.
At the top of his wish list was the ransom note, the crown jewel of the JonBenet Ramsey spectacle. So much had already been leaked: the practice note, the “small foreign faction,” the unbelievable length of the thing. Lewis and most of the rest of the free world did not believe the note was written and left at the scene by a kidnapper, but by someone who wanted the killing to appear as if perpetrated by some terrorist outsider of the “SBTC.” He saw the police as stupidly working on the same team as the Ramseys’ lawyers by keeping the note a secret from the public. If the note had been remotely genuine, the police would have been right to keep it a secret in the interest of preserving information known only to the kidnapper. But, it wasn’t remotely genuine. The note didn’t contain “secret” information. It portrayed instead a distinct personality, and Lewis was sure of it.
The police had failed to keep the note a secret from the prime suspects, John and Patsy, their lawyers, their investigators and their experts and who knows who else. Lewis not only wanted the note for its content, but in order for me, and perhaps others, to perform a handwriting analysis and comparison of the text, and its possible reflection, although probably “disguised” writing, of Patsy’s own hand. Lewis had uncannily come to the right place. He was not there for any wrong reason, I thought. He was not aiming to “smear” the innocent, but to locate and reveal evidence hidden from public scrutiny and expert evaluation.
I knew nothing about tabloids beyond their invaluable news content in the movie, “Men in Black,” when aliens were about to destroy the earth. I found it interesting that the least respected readership in the world – working class men and women – wanted not only what the tabloids provided, but also what was at the highest level and at the heart of the investigation of JonBenet’s death. Lewis wanted what really counted, not speculation about how the police should or shouldn’t proceed. Who wrote the note? Who killed the girl? Which came first the bludgeon or the rope? Was John sexually molesting his daughter? Was Patsy reliving her past through JonBenet’s beauty pageants? What evidence detailed JonBenet’s suffering at the crime scene? Lewis wanted every single vulgar and TRUE fact, regardless of law enforcement’s blackout, the interests of justice or John and Patsy Ramsey’s expensive desire to maintain an appearance of innocence despite the presence of evidence and circumstances that pointed directly and reasonably to them as perpetrators and obfuscators of the crimes against their daughter. Lewis was in touch with the common sense world interested in the true facts of the case. His audience was no more interested than he was in “smearing” John and Patsy. They wanted, as surely as if the victim had been their own neighbor’s daughter, access to the facts of this case.
I knew who the handwriting experts were in Denver. I told Lewis that I would analyze the ransom note as a handwriting expert, should the note surface. In addition, as a handwriting expert in search of a source, to precipitate my work, I would try to help locate a copy of the note. I was the only handwriting expert in Colorado who had been qualified in courtrooms both as a “questioned documents” expert, and as a “graphologist.” The distinction is that qualified examiners of questioned documents are not trained in graphology. Their training is usually limited to the nuts and bolts of examining documents for forgery and fraud, or determining the author of an “anonymous” letter such as the ransom note. Ransom notes are not often handwritten, nor do they cover three pages – ever, for obvious reasons. A graphologist can identify personality characteristics through handwriting much the same way a psychologist can analyze a person through psychological testing.
I called Andrew Bradley, a handwriting expert with whom I had crossed paths on many occasions during our work as court-qualified expert witnesses. He had retired from the crime lab in Arapahoe County. I told him that I had a client who was interested in the ransom note in the Ramsey case. Both of us wished out loud to have a crack at analyzing that document. We agreed it was the smoking gun of the case, and we both guessed that if anybody had it locally, it was probably Donald Vacca, an expert who had retired from the Denver Police Department. Since neither of us had done work for Haddon, Morgan & Foreman, and there were few other than Vacca as highly qualified as we, we concluded that Vacca likely had been hired by the law firm. The Boulder Police Department, Hunter’s office and the CBI certainly had the note; possibly the FBI did as well. And, unbelievable as it was without charges having been filed, the Ramseys, their lawyers, their staffs and quite likely some friends like the Whites, the Fernies and the Stines, who had seen the note as early as the day it was discovered, had copies of it. If an expert outside Colorado had the note, Bradley and I guessed it was more likely on the east than on the west coast.
“Vacca’s got it if anyone in Colorado has it,” I told Lewis.
Friends In Need
In only a few days, Lewis had become not only my best paying client, but my “friend.” He stopped by with biscuits and coffee in the morning, sent a thank you note to Strate and me for our time and had my pockets jingling again, at a time when the house I was living in was nearing foreclosure. We went out to lunch and I explained the private investigations business in Colorado. I gave him the phone numbers of information brokers with whom I had worked for years. I warned him to avoid an information broker named James Rapp. He provided me the funds to hire Investigative Reporting Services, Inc., the agency I had sold, to do a background investigation on Donald Vacca.
Lewis explained that he liked to find sources who needed money, or were in poor health or were in some way vulnerable. I fit his description and was grateful. He has penetrating blue-green eyes that mesmerize anyone he locks onto. He often lowered his head like a bull about to paw the ground and stared up to a “source” until the whites of his eyes below the irises showed. I challenged him and said I was a perfect fit for his description of the ideal source. He didn’t blink. Like a fool, I insisted on working for him and The Globe at an hourly rate, instead of taking the money by the fistful the way most of his sources tried to do.
Lewis had uses for the information I turned up for him about Vacca and the ransom note. He told me that Brian Williams, a lower level editor at The Globe, used my hunch about Vacca and told one of his private investigators in Los Angeles to call the Vacca home and “confirm” that he had the ransom note. There may have been two calls. That was not the use of the information Lewis had in mind. Vacca would later testify to a suspicious telephone call from someone who claimed to be a lawyer in California who said he “knew” that Vacca had the ransom note. Vacca gave that testimony to both the grand jury in Jefferson County for my indictment on a Commercial Briberycharge and again at my trial several years later. For the purposes of my prosecution, this testimony provided a foundation to believe that I knew Vacca had possession of the coveted ransom note.
In fact, I did not know that Vacca had the note. I still don’t know if it was an employee of The Globe, a private investigator or Lewis himself who made that call to the Vacca residence. I had only figured out who might have the ransom note. In fact, the competition among journalists to locate that ransom note was so intense that it could have been any one of a hundred editors, reporters, private investigators or lawyers coming to the same conclusions I had arrived at with Bradley.
Since our first meeting, Lewis began pressing me with his deadlines. Unlike me, Vacca and his wife, Karen, did not fit the profiles for a tabloid source. They owned a little real estate and he had a pension from his career as a police officer. Investigative Reporting Services, Inc. found no debts, no illnesses, no skeletons to be kept in a closet. Vacca had a good reputation as a questioned documents expert.
Because of the smearing of the press in general and the tabloids in particular by the Ramseys, Lewis knew that Vacca would slam the door in his face if he approached him as a reporter from The Globe. To make an introduction, Lewis asked me to locate someone, anyone who had worked with Vacca who could accompany him, for $1000, to the Vacca’s home and office west of Denver in the scenic mountain suburb community of Evergreen. Once there, Lewis would interview Vacca and determine if he had the ransom note. If he did, he intended to ask to see it, or a copy of it. If it wasn’t for sale, he would ask him to prove he had it and to show it to him. He’d ask Vacca to talk about his work as a handwriting expert both in general and with regard to the note. None of Lewis’ planned inquiries was illegal in any way. If Vacca did have the note, and he didn’t want to admit it, he was free to deny it, and free to deny any other requests of Lewis. That is how, and it has always been how, news is gathered.
I used up a favor with a private investigator I knew who also had worked as a cop. He gave me the name of a retired fingerprint expert who had worked in the forensics laboratory for years with Vacca. In the last eight days since meeting Lewis, I had found work again, but more work than I could handle. His next deadline, in which he planned on publishing the ransom note, required that I locate, meet and hire Vacca’s lab partner long before the next week’s edition. Lewis had instructed me to keep the retired cop I had found in the dark about whom I wanted him to introduce my unnamed client. Since I couldn’t tell him what all the cloak and dagger was about; he politely refused both the work and the check I offered him for his time thus far. I had never thought that the plan would work and I had told Lewis the same. It didn’t slow the editor down for an instant.
Lewis offered me $50,000, if I would obtain the ransom note for him from Vacca. He had seen me pull several rabbits out of my hat already by identifying Vacca, by locating a former lab partner and by giving him the name of one information broker in particular who was providing him with all the private information he could buy about the Ramseys, Tom Cruise or Leonardo DiCaprio. Since he didn’t have to call a private investigator who then called an information broker, that source alone had placed Lewis two steps ahead of every other reporter in the country. I’m not sure if he thought I knew a burglar or a safecracker who would steal the note from Vacca, or if he thought I’d do it myself, but, I told him I couldn’t help him.
We sat in an upscale little restaurant in Denver playing five-card poker. “I can’t do that for you, Craig,” I said. “It’s an ethics thing – a lawyer thing. I’m just an hourly kind of guy.” I explained that to offer money to a public official for information constituted bribery and that he’d better not try that route with either the Boulder police or Hunter’s office. On the other hand, a private individual may or may not be able to sell him a copy of the ransom note. “It depends on how he got the note,” I explained. If the Ramseys’ lawyers gave the note to Vacca it was protected. If the Ramseys gave the note to Vacca, it wasn’t protected. In either case, I couldn’t ask for the note. I had a license to practice law and to ask another lawyer’s expert for his employer’s work stepped over the ethical line. “A journalist,” I said, “has Freedom of the Press and the Constitution. You can ask anybody anything you want. So, what do you need me for?”
I should have been able to answer that question for myself. A sick, broke and clinically depressed lawyer is just the kind of lawyer a tabloid reporter wants. “My editors want you to go with me.”
“I don’t want to do that,” I said.
“Why not? I’ll do all the talking.”
“You don’t even know if he has it.”
“He’s got it. All I want you to do is to introduce me. He knows you as another handwriting guy, and I need you there because you’re a handwriting guy.”
“Help me out. My editors want you. I’ll pay you.”
“Let me think about it,” I said.
Lewis wanted me to talk to the other lawyer that The Globe had hired for him in Denver, Dan Recht. I had spoken to him about Lewis’ plan to meet with Vacca with the retired cop I had located. Now, I spoke with him about me going with Lewis. Recht has a quiet, even gentle demeanor that calmed my concerns. Neither of us saw a problem with Lewis doing his job as a journalist. I didn’t like the idea that he planned to take $30,000 with him to offer Vacca if the ransom note was for sale, but The Globe had wired the money into Recht’s trust account and I respected Recht’s reputation. He was, at that time, the President of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar.
I knew that I was about to do something stupid, something that might bring a grievance against my license to practice law. My home was also headed for foreclosure and I wouldn’t be able to have my children over for weekend visits if I was homeless. Given a choice between a complaint about the way I was practicing law, which I couldn’t do anyhow, and not seeing my children, I picked up the phone and called Vacca’s business line. Karen Vacca answered. I explained that I was a lawyer in Denver and that I had a client who wanted to discuss a handwriting case with Mr. Vacca. I asked to make an appointment to meet him in person. She offered to fax to me her husband’s curriculum vitae, his resume and some advertising materials. I accepted gladly.
Reading Between The Lines
Vacca was trained as a policeman and learned the science of questioned document analysis for the most part at the U.S. Postal Inspection School and at the FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. Those schools are reserved for law enforcement, and the vast majority of questioned documents experts in the marketplace is composed of former police officers. The FBI’s manual has been published. It contains nothing exotic or rare that isn’t available to the civilian student, and less than many other texts. It is written with a law enforcement slant, from within a context that assumes criminal involvement and wrongdoing. While that is often true, interpreting a handwriting with blinders on reduces rather than enhances a full exploration of the questioned document. For instance, Vacca and many others of his ilk call graphology a “junk” science. That merely reflects narrow-minded thinking. The FBI trained Vacca to put people in prison in cooperation with the police officer who made the arrest. From that point of view, a document would likely not be questioned if it wasn’t evidence of guilt. Vacca and I had competed for work as handwriting experts in Colorado for years. On most occasions we came to the same conclusions. Nevertheless, my work often appealed to lawyers because of the diversity of my training in both document examination and graphology, as well as an open mind and my training in law.
Good lawyering begins in questioning the assumption of guilt. John and Patsy deflected accusations in large part due to the success of raising minute evidence of an intruder, by outlandishly accusing dozens of friends and acquaintances and by claiming a “rush to judgment” by the police and their failure to investigate other suspects. My experience had brought many clients seeking a second opinion when they felt railroaded through the criminal justice system.
Careful investigators should be slow to point the finger of guilt. Nevertheless, very often both the prosecution and the defense find they are pointing in the same direction. Whenever anything handwritten comes into evidence in a case of forgery, fraud or kidnap for ransom, the document examiner may assume that a guilty party has wielded a pen. In the case of the ransom note in the Ramsey investigation, criminal defense lawyers were forced to undermine anyone pointing toward the involvement of either parent, their own experts included. Although Vacca fingered me for wanting to see the ransom note, he has never publicly offered his professional and expert opinion as to whose handwriting appears in the note.
Playing The Fool
On April Fool’s Day, 1997, I tied my dark hair back into a pony tail and trimmed the gray whiskers of my beard, then put on a money green suit from the days when I wore good suits. Lewis and I had set an appointment at the home office of Vacca in Evergreen for 3:00 p.m. Lewis, who changed rental cars every few days, showed up in a new SUV. He looked as relaxed as ever in a sport shirt and his red tennis shoes. We talked for a while about Vacca and how the background investigation l had ordered on him didn’t turn up any debt, illness or other signs of vulnerability. He’d made a good career out of being a cop, and would more than likely carry those tendencies of integrity with him into retirement.
“I don’t think he’ll give up the note,” I said.
“It’s not a matter of if I get the note from him,” he said, “it’s a matter of whom I get it from – and when.”
Lewis reminded me not to introduce him by his name and not to say anything more than that he represented a “major corporation.” If I was pressed for a name, I was to use “John,” and if pressed for a last name, it was “Doe.” Under no circumstances could l mention The Globe. I could say that my client was a writer, if pressed. On the drive into the foothills west of Denver, l realized the distance Lewis was placing between his real persona and the identity of my client. I grew quiet and felt a little of the old adrenaline rush from the days when I worked as a private investigator. With it came a fear of angina.
Lewis and The Globe had pulled me out of a financial tailspin. Once I got a copy of the ransom note, I’d solve the biggest front page mystery in the United States, or so my vanity told me. And, thus, I followed Lewis’ lead. For all of the risks and the pressure, and even the angina, I felt as though things were finally going in the right direction for me. I could make a living as a handwriting expert, The Globe’s handwriting guy, for millions of readers. I could keep my house and support my children. I didn’t need to take any nitro, at least not this afternoon, not until after our visit to Vacca.
Karen Vacca introduced herself at the front door when we arrived. Vacca approached from a hallway and I introduced myself by name. “And, this is my client,” I said, indicating Lewis. We all shook hands and Vacca led us downstairs to his office, where he took a seat behind his desk. Lewis and I sat in chairs across from him. I began by reminding Vacca of some of the cases where we had worked on the same side, chatted with him about some of his equipment and explained that my client represented a major corporation. I then turned it over to Lewis.
The interview didn’t last long. Lewis asked Vacca if he had any documents in the Ramsey case. Vacca glared at him, then at me, and began to fidget from behind his desk. With the grace of a buffalo performing a ballet, Lewis said, “Let’s cut to the chase. I’ve got $30,000 in this envelope for a copy of the note.”
“I examine documents.” Vacca said. “I don’t sell them.”
Lewis stared back with his head down. Vacca’s grand jury testimony stated that I looked “surprised” at that point. Surprise hardly describes the shock I tried to stifle into a straight face at Lewis’ “gang bang” style of journalism.
“I wouldn’t sell you those documents for $3 million,” Vacca roared.
Vacca turned to me and said that my client and I were in a lot of trouble, and, that as a lawyer, I knew that a crime had been committed. I replied that I didn’t think any crime had been committed. He called Karen down to his office and told her that Lewis and I had just offered him $30,000 for the ransom note in the Ramsey case and he wanted her as a witness to that. I stood up then and announced that I thought it was time for my client and me to be leaving. We did, through the back door, as directed by Karen. Vacca had no poker face and had given up the answer of whether he had the ransom note. Lewis hadn’t obtained a copy of the note yet, but he knew where to find one.
Vacca testified twice, once to the Jefferson County Grand Jury and a second time at my trial, that Lewis reached inside his coat and pulled out a manila envelope filled with $30,000. He swore under oath that it concerned him when Lewis reached inside his coat, telling the grand jury that it made his heart go “pit-a-pat,” and at my trial that his police training made him believe Lewis was going to pull a gun. It isn’t Lewis’ style to pull a gun. I do know that he wasn’t wearing a gun, nor carrying a manila envelope with $30,000 inside his coat, because he wasn’t wearing a coat. The money was in a 10″ by 12″ manila envelope that he carried openly in his hands with his notebook. Dan Recht’s bank ran out of hundred dollar bills, so he carried the money mostly in fifties and twenties.
A lot of what Vacca says about that April Fool’s Day afternoon just didn’t happen, or it became the truth for him and his wife based upon a constantly repeated and refabricated memory. He claimed that we came to his front door for the meeting when we had been specifically instructed to come to the office door at the back. Both Vaccas regarded that as suspicious. Nope. We didn’t know of the back entrance until we were shown it on the way out. I introduced Lewis as “my client.” Vacca may have heard, “Mike Lient,” but he testified that I introduced Lewis to him as Mark or Mike, and gave no last name. Vacca, a trained police officer, detective and forensic scientist, trained by the fabled FBI itself, found long after our visit that our every word and gesture had been suspicious. His suspicion suggested that Lewis and I suffered from a sense of guilt that we had come there to commit the crime of commercial bribery. Nope.
Lewis surprised me in the way that he mishandled this opportunity to interview Vacca. I had worked for years as a journalist and as a private investigator. I had found more success obtaining information with tact and guile, focusing on the person being interviewed for his verbal and non-verbal communication to find out information. I did not understand the style of Lewis and the tabloids. It came across to both Vacca and me as vulgar.
Not Even For Money
Lewis howled with laughter as we rolled down the mountain from Vacca’s house. “Did you see the look on his face?” he chuckled.
We had set out to locate a copy of the ransom note that wasn’t in the hands of a government agency and Vacca had confirmed all Lewis needed. He insisted that he would still get Vacca’s copy of the ransom note, or find another copy and get it ahead of anyone else in the press. I had my doubts that Vacca would be much help – not even for money.
Lewis offered to take me to dinner as we drove back into Denver and we stopped at the Wynkoop Brewing Company in downtown Denver. At that time Lewis was not drinking. He ordered iced tea with his dinner and I had beer with mine. Remembering Vacca’s angry claim to Lewis that “I examine documents, I don’t sell them,” left me feeling cheap and morose. Still, I kept a game face, laughed at the jokes, flirted with the women, ate and drank a couple of more beers. It seemed a long evening, even for the $150 an hour I was earning as I sat there.
My stock was high with Lewis and The Globe. I had found the note, and I had set up an opportunity for Lewis to interview one of the Ramseys’ handwriting experts. Thereafter, I met with Lewis to discuss all manner of investigations. He wanted to know about bugging and tapping the law office of Haddon, Morgan & Foreman. “Seriously illegal,” I explained to him, “though you can go through their garbage if you don’t commit a trespass.” The police have been doing that for years and a good private investigator does, too. He wanted background investigations on every employee in the building to identify the vulnerable ones and I gave him the names of private investigators who could do the work promptly and at a fair price. He rejected most of them, having already interviewed them a month before meeting me.
One idea that Lewis and his editors thought was brilliant was to place an investigator undercover in the office of the Ramseys’ private investigator, Ellis Armstead. I made a couple of phone calls on that, but withdrew from the idea quickly when one investigator, Catherine Lolk, a great investigator who had worked for me at Investigative Reporting Services and whom I had trained, said, “I don’t want to do this if it’s at Armstead’s office.” Again, I felt both cheap and ashamed. I realized that for $150 an hour I was not only selling myself out, but drawing in friends I liked and who respected me from the private investigations and law industries. The money was good, so good that I had lost track of my own values. I had been no angel as a private investigator, nor had I been hired to be an angel buying and selling information to pay for my education in law. Now though, I was in a position to compromise the integrity of friends who had helped me through a heart attack, a broken marriage and the disintegration of my finances.
Several days after our interview with Vacca, Lewis called to ask me to accompany him to the Vacca house again to make a second offer, in person, for the ransom note. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I told him.
“Why not? All he can do is say no again.”
I had had some time to reflect on the first interview and had also spoken several times with Dan Recht, concerned about Vacca’s claim that Lewis and I had committed a crime. Recht agreed that no crime had been committed. Still, I had hired lawyers to represent my employees when I owned Investigative Reporting Services, Inc. for trespass actions, and saw a real threat to Lewis should he return. “As your lawyer, Craig, I’m advising you to stay away from Vacca’s house. You’re taking a chance of being charged with a crime if you go up there again.”
“Trespass, maybe. Who knows? He’s a cop. He could make something up and you’d be stuck defending against it.”
“My editors want you to go with me.”
“I’ll have to disappoint them this time,” I said.
Lewis understood. Still, he couldn’t take my advice and leave well enough alone. He told me that he was going back to offer Vacca more money. He reminded me that if Vacca wanted to file charges against him he’d have to deal with The Globe’s fire-breathing lawyers. A couple of days later he called me up, laughing at how angry Vacca had been this time. He called Vacca a “moron” for refusing the money that somebody else was gladly going to take once Lewis found someone else who had a copy of the ransom note.
At the end of April, Dave Burkhalter, a former Denver police officer who now worked as an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office in Jefferson County, called. He wanted to schedule an interview with me to discuss my visit to Vacca’s home, and he wanted to know the identity of my client. He assured me that I was not a target of the investigation, but that his inquiries had turned up evidence of commercial bribery on the part of my client. I declined to help him, explaining the legal ethic that would require my client’s permission before I could discuss any details of that day. He agreed to call me later and I called Lewis immediately to instruct him to fax to me a statement denying me permission to reveal his name to Burkhalter.
After a little time to think about things and a few phone calls to his editor, Lewis called me back to schedule an interview with Burkhalter. He still wanted me to keep his identity confidential, but he wanted me to probe Burkhalter for any information he may have gleaned about the ransom note or the Ramsey investigation. I contacted a lawyer who had mentored me as I started my criminal defense practice out of law school, Chuck Leidner, to represent me during the interview. He advised me to not give a statement. “I’m not the target,” I reminded him. We reviewed the commercial bribery statute, discussed my involvement and recognized that I had committed no crime. Despite our confidence in my innocence of any criminal wrongdoing, Leidner warned me not to give a statement. I wanted the $150 per hour.
On May 15, 1997, I gave a statement to Burkhalter at Leidner’s office in downtown Denver. I had become the principle witness in a non-crime. Neither of the Vaccas could identify Lewis from his California driver’s license. Under the rules governing lawyers in Colorado, I was prohibited from identifying Lewis as the person who had accompanied me to the home office on April Fool’s Day. Although Burkhalter had used the license plate number the Vaccas provided him to identify Lewis as the person who rented the SUV we drove that day, the Vaccas’ failing powers of observation and memory prevented the “culprits” arrest.
For my part, I asked Burkhalter, a pleasant, tall and cherub-faced man, about the Ramsey case. I asked him point blank why the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office was protecting the Ramseys, and he claimed ignorance of the matter. I felt free to ask because I believed that our interview had demonstrated to him that the issue of commercial bribery had been resolved, and that his shoddy attempt to create a crime by Lewis was merely nuisance police work. I had been honest with the investigator. He knew I had committed no crime.
Following the April Fool’s Day stunt, I reduced my active role on The Globe’s payroll. I was available for consultation regarding law, handwriting or private investigations at $150 per hour, but I wasn’t available for work in the field with the tabloid’s bad boy editor, Craig Lewis. He often had a question regarding law that I’m sure Dan Recht could have answered, but he still came to me. I had answers regarding private investigations and knowledgeable opinions about what John and Patsy’s team of experts might be up to. I knew the ins and outs of politics and law in Denver, Colorado, where I had lived for most of my life. I knew the people and the places; I had a fertile imagination and knowledge of where the land mines lay for Lewis. I couldn’t help but recognize the arrogance, the shear recklessness, of Lewis with his fistfuls of money. I would have stayed in the circle of fire of the Ramsey murder investigation if not for the frailty of my health. What surprised me was that Lewis and I liked each other enough to stay in touch once I was no longer of much material use to him.
Lewis had been divorced for years. His daughter was in law school and his mother lived in Texas. Living alone in an apartment in Superior, a bedroom community of Boulder, he looked for romance and hungered for friendship. We continued to go out to lunch often, playing poker without chips and talking about women. I was learning about dating again after ten years of marriage. We bragged in the locker room, chauvinistic way in which men often talk about women when women aren’t around. He claimed a conquest of a 19 year-old girl with stars in her eyes because he was the “tabloid” man. In the same conversation he complained bitterly of his failures with women, his inability to establish a relationship based on anything more than sex. Charming, funny, good looking and blessed with a seemingly bottomless expense account, Lewis wanted and got a lot of sex. His standards were high. Middle-aged and successful, he wanted a trophy wife, a “breeder,” but one who was emotionally mature enough that he didn’t have to parent her.
Between appraisals of waitresses or women walking by, he kept me informed of his ongoing Ramsey investigation. His primary source inside the Boulder District Attorney’s Office was Hunter himself. Lewis liked Hunter, after all, friendly conversation didn’t cost any money and Hunter was shameless in his willingness to spill secrets. Lewis recognized that as a political animal, Hunter was beginning to feel cornered by the failure of his office to handle the case with anything more than bluff and hope rather than authority and determination.
Over and over Hunter would tell Lewis, “We need a break in this case.” While Hunter meant a sudden revelation, confession or “smoking gun” piece of evidence, Lewis and I both understood that Hunter needed a vacation from the investigation that kept him, his office and the Boulder police looking like small town fools in the international press. Lewis knew that Hunter meant a confession when he said a “break.” Short of that, the obvious break in the case was the ransom note that Patsy had written. Meanwhile, the handwritten evidence of Patsy’s suspected complicity was preposterously being held secret by the police and had been given to the chief suspects’ attorneys. Its value as evidence had been compromised from the moment of its release to the defense lawyers. John and Patsy would have copies. I explained to Lewis that Patsy could very well be using that ransom note to retrain her handwriting style.
The Ramseys’ investigators had copies. The Ramsey family had copies. The cops had copies. Hunter and his staff had copies. Radio talk show host, Peter Boyles, in Denver, who waged a full throttled propaganda assault on the bungling of the case, had been offered a peek at the note. Handwriting aside, any sensible person reading the ransom note in light of the discovery of JonBenet’s body would be startled by its lack of connection to any plausible kidnapping plot.
Finally, in late July, 1997, John and Patsy arranged to publish cryptic portions of the ransom note including several samples of the letter “M” in a newspaper advertisement. It seemed not only odd, but vaguely dishonest. Out of a 376 word, two and one half page “note,” the lawyers allowed the public to see only a few individual characters. John Douglas claims that he recommended the note’s full publication as early as January, 1997. Instead, the advertisement carried a capital “M” as it appeared in four instances, one capital “D,” and one capital “W,” along with the lower case letters of “k,” “w,” “u,” “r” and “f.” The advertisement asked the public to try to identify the writer by recognizing a few isolated letters out of context. The samples contained no whole sentence, phrase or even a single word, and gave the Ramsey tip line phone number. Lewis called me immediately and asked if I could do a handwriting comparison of the letters in the advertisement.
“I can try,” I said. “But, I’ll need a lot of Patsy’s handwriting from before the time of the murder.”
Within 24 hours Lewis had provided me with both printed and cursive exemplars of her handwriting, including a photograph of JonBenet dressed for a costume party and wearing a handwritten button that read “Marilyn Monroe.” The Globe sent me photographs of Patsy’s printed handwriting covering a period of years from before the murder. With the quality of these exemplars, my analysis proceeded far more easily than I had thought it would.
In 1994, I had broken a metacarpal in my right hand when I tripped and fell at the 14,000 foot summit of Mount Torres in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The break required a cast and for several weeks I was forced to use my left hand to sign checks, take notes or communicate in writing. I learned by personal experience the nuances that occur in a disguised handwriting when a usually right-handed person writes with the left hand, or vice versa. I had not yet learned that Patsy was ambidextrous, but I was aware of her training in calligraphy. No wonder the lawyers for the Ramseys had wanted a copy of the ransom note, and they had wanted to keep it a secret from professional handwriting experts who weren’t on their payroll.
The publication of a few fragments of the ransom note was a sham, and a poorly executed sham. Handwriting experts do not use only the shape of letters to determine who wrote an anonymous letter such as the ransom note. The size of the handwriting, the connecting strokes and distances between letters and words, as well as their arrangement on the page and the relationship of the letters to the baseline are other critical elements of a handwriting comparison. Whoever prepared that advertisement either didn’t know the elements of a handwriting comparison, or that person prepared the advertisement to obfuscate the facts.
Fortunately, The Globe had given me “nothing but the best” in terms of handwriting specimens with which to compare Patsy’s handwriting to the cryptic letters their lawyers had released. I had enormous confidence in my initial findings, and so did The Globe. On August 3, 1997, only days after the Ramseys’ advertisement appeared, Lewis published an article on the front page of The Globe using the photograph of JonBenet’s Marilyn Monroe button in which he cited my work and conviction that Patsy wrote the ransom note.
The Ramsey case fascinated radio talk show audiences. Hosts interviewed numbers of handwriting experts, including me. Most of them agreed with my analysis, even when they did not have the quality and diversity of the handwriting specimens with whichThe Globe provided me. I explained this when asked on the air one day about the disagreement among the experts. Lewis asked me to appear with him on the Peter Boyles’ show. I prepared an experiment for Boyles to help him realize through his own handwriting experience how Patsy used her left hand in writing the ransom note. At the top of a sheet of paper I asked the talk show host to make a check mark. Boyles is left-handed, so I advised him to use his left, or normal hand. Next, I asked him to hold the pen in his other hand and to make a check mark next to the first one. The “tails” of the check marks travel in opposite directions as the pen moves from hand to hand. Through this simple exercise, Boyles saw that the humps in the “M”s of the ransom note travel in opposite direction from the normal “M”s of Patsy’s handwriting. This mirror-like distortion occurs as naturally as breathing and is one of the very last areas where a person would know how to disguise their writing. Boyles was delighted with the discovery and all the more convinced that Patsy authored the ransom note. Lewis and Boyles suggested that I apply for John and Patsy’s reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction in JonBenet’s death by sending them my report on Patsy’s handwriting. It was a moment of shallow humor. I had practiced law and I had watched the O.J. Simpson trial. Justice, I knew was for sale, and John and Patsy had the money to buy it.
I had no reason to want Patsy to be guilty of writing the ransom note. I had wanted to be taken in by the tears she shed during her television interview on January 1, 1997. Susan Smith, too, had cried on national television, claiming her two boys had been kidnapped by a black man. She had taken in the sympathy and outrage of most of the nation when she herself had actually drowned her two boys, ages three and five. Patsy oddly mentioned the Susan Smith case during her New Year’s Day CNN interview.
Fame And Misfortune
In late August of 1997, Vanity Fair published a piece by Ann Louise Bardach, including the full text of the ransom note. Louis obtained a copy before even the editors had seen it. No one knows how Bardach obtained her copy of the ransom note. Several days later, Newsweek published the note in facsimile, providing not only the incredible content, but the handwriting of the presumed kidnapper. Using the examples The Globe had provided me, I again prepared a detailed report, first for The Globe, and next for the New York Post. I did not have the original documents to work from as they remained in police custody, but I could determine that here was the unmistakable handwriting of Patsy Ramsey. On a radio talk show aired from New York City in October of 1997, I was asked if I was afraid that the Ramseys would sue me for my report. “No,” I said. My analysis was honest, professional and protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. I had, I thought, nothing to fear in telling the truth. I was wrong.
In September, 1997, after The Globe and the New York Post reported my findings, Darnay Hoffman, victim’s rights attorney in New York City, who had represented the subway vigilante gunman, Bernard Goetz, contacted me. He advised me that he intended to file a legal action to demand that Hunter file charges against John and Patsy for the murder of their daughter. In order to establish a basis for his legal argument, he would use the ransom letter left at the home and he would file affidavits of several handwriting experts with his pleading. He asked to retain me to identify specifics in my earlier work and to prepare an affidavit stating my reasons now for concluding that Patsy had undoubtedly written the ransom note. I recognized that by preparing an affidavit under oath to be filed by Hoffman, the personal threat of being slapped with a lawsuit by John and Patsy would be thwarted. Witnesses have an affirmative defense and a protection from libel and slander actions in lawsuits for statements made under oath.
Before the discovery of my heart disease, I had filed the paperwork necessary to open a corporation called the American School of Investigative Sciences. I had intended to train investigators through seminars and classes on various aspects of forensic sciences. One of my primary areas of focus would be Questioned Documents Examination. After my heart attack, I hoped to work as a handwriting expert until I could recover. Hoffman’s case against John and Patsy, and the inclusion of my testimony in it, presented an opportunity to accomplish that goal, as well as to shelter me from the threat of a Ramsey libel and slander law suit. I accepted Hoffman’s retainer and prepared the affidavit he requested.
I saw writing of a different sort on my own walls. I was sinking into foreclosure and bankruptcy. In a very little while, John and Patsy could sue me to their hearts’ content, and I would have nothing left for them to take. The money from The Globe, while always good, was drying up. Lewis no longer needed training in investigations and my consulting was limited to a little law and occasional questions regarding handwriting.
Friends In Need
Lewis and I had become “friends.” I had given him a lot more than he expected from our first meeting in March, 1997, and I hadn’t tried to stick my hands into his pockets without providing a straightforward accounting of how I spent my time. One day, not long after our visit to Vacca, Lewis showed up at my home driving a new, white convertible. “Nice car,” I said.
“I’ll give you the car for a copy of the ransom note?”
“I need money.”
“Then I’ll toss in $50,000 with the car.”
I just laughed. Lewis always had me laughing. I had a good stable of friends and I knew that Lewis didn’t have many close friends after his reassignment from Los Angeles to Boulder, nor by the nature of his work was he likely to keep close friends. I invited him to join a group of my friends for poker parties, raucous get togethers of testosterone, obscenity and alcohol. That he found acceptance there meant as much to him as a scoop on a story. I did not judge him for his work as a tabloid reporter. I had worked as a lawyer and as a mainstream journalist. I saw tabloid reporters as professionals who knew their faults and the faults of others as well or better than others.
I gave up years of sleep while attending law school at night, managing a business and upholding my responsibilities as a father and husband. In no small part, over-achieving by over-extending myself led to my heart attack. My body’s demand for sleep now that part of my heart muscle was dead, and my mounting depression, walked hand in hand. I had slept through court dates, forgotten appointments and met clients in a bathrobe. Unopened mail stacked up on the floor below the mail slot. I began to close down my law practice, not with sadness at the surrender of my newly earned profession, but with resignation. I told myself that, no matter what the future might hold, I would be better off letting go the anger and disgust with which I had come to view my profession. I knew that I could not competently provide for the needs of my clients. I reminded myself that I loved writing poetry and fiction, and I enjoyed teaching these subjects. Now, I would be free to pursue those pleasures.
River Of Lethe
The battery of medications I took for heart disease was, in October, 1997, compounded by new drugs; Paxil to treat depression and a powerful anti-anxiety medication, chemically similar to Valium, marketed as Klonopin. I called these the “Drugs of Lethe,” the mythological river of forgetfulness surrounding Hades. I found myself sleepy and working from inside a mental fog. I believe that I needed the sleep. I didn’t need the fog.
Shortly before my divorce came to final orders, Judge Jack Smith ordered the arbitrator, the lawyers for my former wife and me, and even the court appointed lawyer for my children, to his chambers. While I waited in the hallway, Judge Smith reminded them that they had all played around for three long years churning billable hours. It was finally time to either reach a settlement, or to have a hearing. Soon afterwards, I learned that my lawyer, Mike DiManna, had suffered triple bypass heart surgery. At first I was stunned, but then I began to laugh. The lawyer who had relayed the news to me was silent. He had known DiManna as a respected colleague, not as the helpless client revealed to me by Judge Smith. I realized that I had offended DiManna’s colleague. “I’m sorry,” I said, catching my breath, “I didn’t think that DiManna had a heart.”
By December, 1997, I accepted the inevitable. My home would be foreclosed upon and I would be homeless within a few months. I charged my last credit card to the limit to buy Christmas presents for my boys. They had been my sustenance through the hardest year of my life. Their unconditional love, whether I was sick or well, rich or poor, kept me alive when I might have committed suicide.
Lewis probably knew the kinds of problems I faced. Before having spent thousands of dollars on me around the time of the Vacca April Fool’s Day fiasco, he probably had an investigator check me out. Still, he came around for the poker games and was always willing to take me to lunch and crack a few jokes while we ogled the waitresses. Every now and then he’d ask me about the law or one of the players in the JonBenet saga. As it turned out, he brought me to the most important meeting in my life.
We were at lunch where I had been hitting on a red-headed waitress. The conversation turned inevitably to the women we wanted. He asked me if I had gotten in touch with a woman he had told me about some time earlier. The Drugs of Lethe had blocked out even a memory of that conversation and I bluffed, “Nah, I’m not interested in a blind date.”
Lewis reached for his wallet and thumbed through a stack of business cards, then handed me one for Judith Phillips Photography with a photograph of a gorgeous blond on it.
“Is this Judith?” I asked.
“Give her a call,” Craig said. “She likes dogs, you like dogs. You guys were made for each other.” The red-headed waitress was uninterested, as usual, in my advances that day and I put Judith’s card in my pocket.
“Why don’t you want to date her?” I asked.
“She’s not my type.”
“She’s too nice.”
Lewis has a quirky sense of values. He laughs at the human suffering of people whose lives he can turn upside down with a headline. He sees right through the pomposity and disingenuous nature of politicians, bureaucrats and “spokesmen” and preys on their egos for better, more lurid stories. Most of his professional rivals in the news media he considered “morons.” He can spot the greed in a source and turn them over for ten cents on the dollar while making them think he’s doing them a favor. He shakes his head in self-disgust at the way he preys on women.
Judith Phillips had helped the Boulder Police Department, and especially Detective Steve Thomas, in the Ramsey investigation. She had known the Ramseys for eight years in Atlanta before she preceded them in moving to Boulder. When John and Patsy arrived, Judith helped them to shop for a home and they resumed their friendship. Because of her friendship with the Ramseys, the police and journalists sought interviews with her and they wanted to see the photographs she had taken of the family. Lewis wanted to buy her work. Since the murder, Judith had begun a divorce and confided in Lewis that she found herself put off by the “dating game.”
I called Judith a few days after Christmas and we made a date for January 2, 1998. She came to my home in Denver wearing a full length dark green coat that hid her figure. We ate lunch at a Greek restaurant. She talked about her upbringing in Chicago, her father, a music professor, and about art, especially about her work as a photographer. I avoided talking much about what I did. I had decided to close down my practice in law, not entirely certain of what I could do, but certain that in my state of physical and mental health I was going to bungle a case and damage an unsuspecting client’s life.
After lunch, we went to the Denver Art Museum. She noticed details that I had never considered in art, the angle of the light, the mood of the painting and the mood of the artist painting it, even the society that created the artist. All her intellectual and artistic awareness made the experience of visiting the art museum more than a customary social event. We would look at a portrait and make up stories about the person depicted.
When we stepped off the elevator we met a tall, attractive blond in the lobby, whom I knew, and who raised an eyebrow.
“Michele and I are separated,” I said.
“That’s probably for the best,” she said with a smile and stepped past us onto the elevator.
“Who was that?” Judith asked.
“Debbie Golitz,” I said. “She was one of our marriage counselors.”
Until that day, I had never looked at the dissolution of my marriage as “for the best.” Besides Judith’s mane of blond hair, blue eyes and full lips, she made me laugh, and that was good medicine for me. I wondered what was under the big green coat she wore that day; if her body could be as beautiful as her face, as pleasant as her personality? We did not kiss that day, though I wanted to kiss her. As I said good-bye to her at her car, she cocked her head and smiled the smile on her business card. From that day on, I have never gotten that picture out of my mind.
A week later, after several long telephone conversations, I drove to Boulder for a second lunch date. We met at the Boulderado Hotel. She wore blue jeans, a white blouse and a gray business blazer. I saw what she had been hiding under the green coat a week before and I liked what I saw. We ordered white wine and salads. Under the small talk, I could sense that something troubled her.
“It’s JonBenet,” she said. “I get so sad remembering her, and wondering when she’ll ever receive justice.”
“What kind of justice are you looking for?”
“Why haven’t the police at least made an arrest?”
“John and Patsy Ramsey will never be arrested in their daughter’s case,” I said.
“How do you know?”
“Their lawyers are too good.”
Judith told me about her former friendship with the Ramseys and how their behavior had led her to change her initial belief in their innocence to a suspicion of guilt. Still, she didn’t want them to be guilty. I felt awkward and cruel telling her a truth I had been certain of for months: that, yes, Patsy had written the ransom note, and, no, she would never be charged. The death of JonBenet had been a media event for most people, a professional curiosity for me. But, for Judith, the child’s death was personal. She recalled how JonBenet had followed her through the Ramsey house during a photo shoot, hiding behind doors and furniture, playing peek-a-boo and calling for Judith’s attention by saying, “I see you” in her little girl’s voice. As tears began to roll down her cheeks, I took her hand.
Pieta Sans Lacrimae
Judith had known John and Patsy since their days in Atlanta, Georgia, before the births of Burke and JonBenet, before the big money at Access Graphics. When the Ramseys moved to Boulder, Judith had come to know and love JonBenet. At the time of the murder, Judith and her family were in Chicago, spending the Christmas holidays with her twin sister. When she saw the news of the murder on Chicago television she sat stunned, then pulled her children close and began to cry. The family cut short their holiday in order to return to Boulder, but, by the time they returned, John and Patsy Ramsey had gone into seclusion. The Ramseys traveled to Atlanta for the funeral and, though Judith wanted to console them, she also wanted to give them the time they needed to grieve.
Over the years of their friendship in Boulder, Judith had taken hundreds of pictures of Patsy, Burke and JonBenet, but never John Ramsey. After she opened her photography business, Patsy became one of her frequent clients. In December, 1994, the Colorado Women’s News published the story of Patsy’s survival from stage IV ovarian cancer. Five of Judith’s photographs illustrated the article. The press coverage and the photographs of her heroic, life and death struggle delighted Patsy. After that, Judith made it onto Patsy’s “A” list for parties. Patsy would introduce her as her “dear friend and photographic artist.”
Patsy’s coverage in Colorado Women’s News gave her not only personal pleasure and a sense of public honor, but a sense of importance in Judith’s career as a photographer. Patsy began to invite Judith to photograph ever more social events in Patsy’s life. Patsy was a “star,” volunteering her time and John’s money, and she expected Judith to volunteer her work as well, despite a substantial difference in their financial circumstances. Judith’s work in support of Patsy’s interests grew from an often granted favor to a matter of social obligation. At one point, Judith balked at being compensated with only “publicity” offered by association with Patsy and said she would prefer to be paid. That occasioned Patsy to chill their relationship, while Judith concentrated on paying customers.
In April, 1996, with Patsy’s cancer in full remission, she hired Judith again for a family portrait of herself and her children. John Ramsey was, as usual, too busy with work to attend the photo shoot. By this time, Judith’s artistic reputation had soared, and she had placed numerous photographic exhibitions in Denver, Pueblo, Colorado Springs and especially in Boulder, Colorado. Judith included a portrait of Patsy, Burke and JonBenet Ramsey in an exhibition entitled “Motherhood.” Eight months later, at the time of the murder, that photograph from Patsy’s studio sitting was hanging with other portraits of mothers and children in an exhibition in the maternity ward at Lutheran General Hospital in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
As soon as she returned to Colorado in late December, 1996, Judith sent the first of two sympathy cards to the Ramseys. The card offered her condolences and went unanswered. Under the circumstances, Judith understood the silence of the family. Judith had decided to remove the portrait of Patsy, Burke and JonBenet from the hospital after the Ramseys’ New Year’s Day CNN interview. She was concerned that the exhibition portrait could be stolen, and she had received several offers for its purchase. The second card, given the public’s extraordinary interest in the portrait hanging in the maternity ward exhibition, Judith asked Patsy what she would like done with the photographs she had taken of the family.
On January 10, 1997, Judith received a hand delivered letter from a Ramsey lawyer forbidding further use of her Ramsey photographs. She still had had no communication with any of the Ramseys and the letter left her shocked and hurt. The lawyer, William R. Gray, claimed that Judith had made “an implicit threat to make commercial use of JonBenet’s photographs.” He included an “Acknowledgment,” as he called it, for Judith to sign, prohibiting her use of the photographs. Judith declined to surrender her property to the Ramseys with the stroke of a pen, despite the threat of a law suit contained in Gray’s letter. Judith still has in her possession the four releases signed by Patsy, and as the Former Miss West Virginia knows, those releases are an industry standard that assign all rights in the photographs to the photographic artist.
A week later, Judith happened to open her front door to find Priscilla White on her porch, placing a sealed envelope in the screen door. “What’s this?” Judith asked.
“It’s just a note for you,” Priscilla answered, then hurried off to her car.
When she opened the envelope, Judith found a handwritten letter addressed to her denying her use of the photographs she had taken of Fleet and Priscilla White’s family.
During the media investigation of the tragic death of JonBenet, the December, 1994 issue of Colorado Women’s News re-surfaced with its startlingly vivid, soul wrenching and riveting pictures of both JonBenet and her mother. One shows JonBenet kissing her mother’s bald head after chemotherapy. Another depicts Patsy with a cross clenched between her teeth. Now that Patsy was the media’s chief suspect in the tragedy, reporters and editors clogged Judith’s answering machine and camped on her doorstep. She declined the media’s offers to buy her portraits of the Ramseys. Instead, she placed the photographs and negatives in her husband’s safety deposit box.
Robert Phillips, a lawyer, had been preparing estate documents for John Ramsey at the time of the murder. For several months afterwards, he tried to reach his client, but not until March were his calls returned. Phillips described his long delayed telephone conversation with John Ramsey as, “Odd … as if nothing had changed.” There would be no depths of consolation between the father of the dead child and his friend and estate planner. Ramsey suggested that the two couples go out to dinner.
“How?” Phillips asked, knowing of the intense media pressure on John and Patsy. John called the press stupid and said that they would “ditch” them. He told Phillips that they were staying at Glen and Susan Stine’s home on 10th Street in Boulder, only a few blocks from the Phillips’ home. He invited them to drop by any time for a visit.
The Phillips’ daughter, Lindsey, had suffered from nightmares since the death of her friend, JonBenet. She wanted to see Burke. Judith picked Lindsey up from school and took her to the Stine’s home to see Burke, and to convey her condolences to Patsy. On this day in late March, 1997, Judith saw Patsy for the last time.
Judith describes the meeting as eerie, even surreal. When she knocked on the door of the Stine home, a pair of eyes peeked out from between the shades of the window next to the door. Judith called out through the still closed door. A moment later a young Asian man, the Stine’s nanny, opened the door and invited them inside. The house was dark, all the shades were drawn and newspapers had been taped over many windows that faced the street. Nedra Paugh, Patsy’s mother, greeted the guests in the foyer. Neither of the Stines was at home, nor was John Ramsey there.
The young man who had opened the door showed Lindsey through the kitchen to the back of the house where Burke and Susan Stine’s son, Doug, were playing a video game with two other children in a great room. Don Paugh, Patsy’s father, appeared briefly to greet Judith before Nedra led her to the living room. There Nedra introduced Judith to the mother of the two children playing video games with Doug and Burke. She was a family friend of the Ramseys from Atlanta who had come to visit. Judith had never met her before.
Patsy entered a moment later and sat next to Judith on a loveseat. The two friends shared a hug. Patsy conveyed none of her familiar high energy. Judith told Patsy that John had invited her and Robert to visit. Patsy only nodded, half listening. She appeared well groomed as Judith had always known her to be, and pleasant, yet she sat without expression, as if shell shocked and heavily sedated. When Judith expressed her sympathies, Patsy again nodded slowly, looking to her guest, and then away. She put her hands to cover her face as if to hide a tear, but there were no tears.
The friend from Atlanta remained quiet. Judith had tried to engage her in polite conversation about Atlanta, but she replied in monosyllables inviting no further talk. She did not smile, speak much, nor laugh, nor cry. With only the three of them in the room, the Atlanta woman seemed not to be a friend so much as a nurse, a caretaker or a guard. Patsy repeated mantra-like, “Why did they take my little girl? Why did they kill my baby?” She looked down and shook her head slowly, avoiding anyone’s eyes. She still didn’t cry. Patsy’s reiterations allowed Judith no opportunity to say anything meaningful to her friend concerning her loss or her well-being. Judith wanted to comfort Patsy, to talk about JonBenet’s life, her beauty and spirit. She wanted to share fond memories as sincerely condoling friends do. The monotonous grief of Patsy, however, imposed a specter of non-communication so resolute that Judith felt even to ask how Burke was getting along seemed curiously pointless. She wanted to help, to hug her friend, to find some memory or moment of conversation that would lift Patsy’s spirits or lessen her grief.
“What can I do for you?” Judith asked.
Again, Patsy had no answer at first, shaking her head and reiterating, “Why did they take my little girl? Why didn’t I wake up?” Slowly, Patsy awoke from her mantra to ask Judith to go to Boulder Mayor, Leslie Durgin.
“Ask your friend, the mayor, why the police aren’t providing any protection for our family?”
Judith sat, a little stunned and wondering why Patsy felt she now needed protection. Nevertheless, she promised to call the mayor.
At one point during her visit, Judith asked Patsy about the letter from William R. Gray. Patsy held up her hand, still slowly shaking her head, and without words indicated that she did not want to talk about it. Judith did not press the issue.
At about that time Susan Stine returned home. She greeted Judith with, “What are you doing here?” Her hostility was palpable, and Judith immediately excused herself to fetch Lindsey and leave. In the room where she found the children, she reached out to hug Burke good-bye.
“Get away! Don’t touch me!” the boy shouted.
“I promise I won’t touch you,” Judith reassured him and raised her arms.
Neither Patsy nor Nedra apologized for Burke’s inexplicable outburst. Lindsey felt the sudden chill that had arrived with Susan Stine and the house now grew sullen. Judith hugged Patsy, Don and Nedra. Susan held back. For an instant as they said their good-byes, Judith caught a glimpse of Patsy’s former self as she smiled.
As they drove home, Judith asked Lindsey how her visit with Burke had gone. “Okay, I guess,” she said. “Burke was pretty quiet.” “I wish we hadn’t gone there,” Judith said.
Lindsey wished she hadn’t gone there either. Burke had barely acknowledged her presence and had spent the entire time playing video games.
When Judith contacted the mayor, she said “You tell Patsy that the police ARE protecting her.” Durgin was curt and confident in her answer. She did not want to discuss the matter. Her response to Patsy’s message was official and clear. Any claim that the police had failed to protect the Ramseys was false and inflammatory. Judith then telephoned to tell Patsy that she had talked to the Mayor. Susan Stine answered the call and refused to allow Judith to talk to her house guest.
“We all know that you were drunk when you came here yesterday,” Susan said. “We’re all witnesses.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what I mean.”
“That’s preposterous,” Judith said.
“They’ll come after you,” Susan said.
“What are you … “
“You know what I mean,” Susan said.
“No, I don’t,” Judith said, and said good-bye.
Judith realized that she had been relegated to Patsy’s deep freeze. She also knew that she could no longer believe in John and Patsy’s innocence. She would not participate in a conspiracy of silence with regard to the police, the media and the community that the Ramseys had made obligatory among their friends. She began to reconsider the value of her work and what her portraits of Patsy with her children might have to say.
By April, 1997, editors for the grocery store tabloids had made offers to Judith for her photographs. Network reporters, newspapers, magazines and marketing agencies were calling. Meanwhile, her divorce from her husband had become a quagmire. Her husband feared repercussions from John should Judith sell her work to anyone. Though aware that Judith wanted a divorce, he would not leave the home, nor was he paying the bills. As the financial ties of the marriage broke down, the tabloid offers of money became less complimentary and more a necessity for her impending divorce.
Since John and Patsy were clients of his, Phillips wanted to keep his wife’s artwork out of the hands of the press. When she decided to sell her photographs to the National Enquirer, Phillips refused to release her work from his safety deposit box. Judith then had to hire an attorney to retrieve the property from her husband’s control. In August, 1997, Robert Phillips moved out of the family home.
John and Patsy could not finger Judith for the murder of their daughter as they had their housekeeper, Fleet White, Jay Elowsky and any number of other innocent citizens because Judith had a solid alibi by having been in Chicago visiting her twin sister. But, the Ramseys began their usual denials. They labeled Judith as another “tabloid tongue” and thus attacked her credibility. Judith and her daughter became outcasts from the Ramsey social circle. A neighbor refused to allow her two daughters to cross the street to visit Lindsey. Both the neighbor and Judith played on the “Moms Gone Bad” softball team that Patsy sponsored through Access Graphics. Friends throughout Boulder and Atlanta were forced to choose sides.
Judith had taken photographs of Patsy’s handwriting specimens at the request of the Boulder Police Department. Detective Thomas often consulted with her for insights into the odd behavior of John and Patsy in his attempt to piece together the crime. All of the tabloids, networks and local, regional, national and international newspapers asked her for help, all of them hoping her knowledge of the family for so many years would help solve the crime. Many had asked her to go on camera, or to be quoted in stories. In December, 1997, the first anniversary of JonBenet’s murder, Judith organized a vigil in memory of the child. She had begun to lose her own identity as a person or as an artist to the demands of the overwhelming media event and her own overwhelming sadness at JonBenet’s senseless death.
Old Boy Justice
On the afternoon of January 9, 1998, at the Boulderado Hotel over lunch with Judith I came to realize the enormous disappointment and frustration that the legal system was creating for many, many people. Again and again, she would say, “I don’t understand” as I explained the limitations of law to justice for JonBenet when money and politics control the prosecution.
One thing that Judith didn’t understand, and few people could, was the power of the law firm of Haddon, Morgan & Foreman. She could not imagine that any law firm or lawyer could wield so much power that Hunter, Boulder’s most powerful law enforcement official, would do nothing but wring his hands and make breakable promises. With JonBenet’s pretty little face in every newspaper, her pageant performances on every television and her parent’s behavior incomprehensibly odd, millions of Americans had come to feel a personal connection to JonBenet and openly questioned the legal process that left the chief suspects on the loose.
Judith had voted for Hunter. She now felt betrayed by him and the legal system he represented. I explained to her as it was explained to me; guilty and not guilty do not necessarily translate into who did it or who didn’t do it. The O.J. Simpson case had proven that our current society and criminal justice system is now more influenced by money than evidence or moral obligation. Virtually anyone with enough money can buy an acquittal, force a prosecution, or avoid charges altogether.
I explained to Judith that the old boy network in which Hunter and Jefferson county District Attorney Thomas played was beholden to men like Hal Haddon. Thomas had been influenced by Haddon in seeking charges against Lewis for commercial bribery and for discovering the location of the ransom note that reportedly had been written by Patsy. As to the handwriting, John and Patsy could easily buy experts to disagree with any analysis because Patsy, with her copy of her ransom note, could retrain and alter her handwriting. The Ramseys had brought in their private investigators, Ellis Armstead and David Williams, who had befuddled the efforts of the Boulder Police Department. They’d hired John Douglas to “profile” an intruder. They’d bought the services of many handwriting experts. John and Patsy had even managed to pray and sway Smit from his position as an investigator working for Hunter. Despite a clear lack of physical evidence that nobody other than family members had been in the house on Christmas Night, Smit relied on the intruder theory, confident that, given his glory days in El Paso County, his exculpatory theory, complete with imagined and invisible evidence, would spread like a virus.
I also saw that, unlike most Americans who could turn off their television sets and leave the death of JonBenet to the next day’s headlines, Judith could not, nor could anyone else in its web. Judith needed to break away from the case and I told her so. After our long talk, Judith and I drove to her home on the Hill west of the University of Colorado, and less than a mile from where JonBenet had died. Under mistletoe still hanging from the Christmas holidays, between the kitchen and the dining room, I first kissed her.
“What a kiss,” I said.
“That’s nothing,” she said.
Good Ole Boys
Throughout 1998, Lewis remained hot on the trail of John and Patsy. He had followed them to Spain with a team of photographers in January, 1998. A few months later, Don Gentile of the National Enquirer scooped Lewis on the 911 tape recording that proved Burke was awake on the morning of the murder. Lewis was livid. He swore that THAT would never happen again. He wanted to know which of his sources had tipped his competition and worked every angle and every thread of the JonBenet story with a renewed vengeance. He often flew out of town to manage reporting teams covering other breaking stories, directing photographers and writers, culling sources, then buying information to blow a story wide open. Through me, Lewis had access to information brokers who were once known exclusively to private investigators. He could uncover and reveal almost any secret anyone wished to hide both faster and cheaper than any of his competition, including his bosses at The Globe.
When he would return to Boulder, he’d invite Judith and me to lunch or dinner and tell us about Tom Cruise trying to outrun The Globe’s reporters in his sports car. Lewis reported the gossip with the facts: Who was gay in Hollywood and who was addicted to heroin. We often had cooking contests. Both Lewis and I love to cook, and that competitive nature of the tabloid reporter would surface. He once prepared a superb leg of lamb, one of Judith’s favorites. I countered with a down home meat loaf made with pork, buffalo and a fresh tomato sauce. Meanwhile, Judith photographed Lewis with his daughter and his mother. From time to time, he would buy one of Judith’s art prints.
I had quit working for Lewis in any capacity some months earlier. I explained that I enjoyed being his friend too much to be his employee. I never had liked the deadline pressure he worked under; his stress manifested itself into my angina. Lewis had come to quite a few of the poker parties I had organized at my home before I moved to Boulder. We played with chips for nickels, dimes and quarters, but the competition flowed on a river of testosterone. Lewis would make up “drinking rules,” requiring, for instance, that the first person to draw a full house would have to down a shot of whiskey. I realized that the pressure from the Ramsey case had driven him from iced tea to hard liquor, and plenty of it. Something about this case reached into the private lives of everyone, like a metastasizing cancer, from heart, to bone, to brain and skin.
Several of my friends and I went to a poker party at Lewis’ townhouse in Superior where he not only served dinner, but served half a dozen desserts that he insisted we consume. When he wasn’t working as a tabloid reporter, Lewis was just a good ole Texas boy who loved women, whiskey and a good time. He had the foulest mouth and the funniest sense of humor of anyone I have ever met in my life. I believe he could even make John Ramsey laugh.
In March, 1999, during a routine treadmill test, my cardiologist observed an irregularity in my heartbeat. Within days, I was hospitalized for an angiogram. In that procedure, the surgeon inserts a tube through the leg and runs a tiny camera lens up into the heart to take a look around. Judith drove me to the hospital. When I came out of surgery, she and Lewis were there. She was beaming, and Lewis was cracking jokes about how I’d have to work harder at my cigarette smoking if I wanted a successful suicide. “You’ll never make a headline in The Globe with just an angiogram,” he said. The doctor found no further blockages in my heart’s arteries and his prognosis was that I was on the mend.
Lewis and I had spent countless hours playing poker, chumming around with Judith and me and many of our friends. We talked over our families who had both come from Texas. Lewis claimed that when I wear a beard, I look like his brother who died of lung cancer, and like his father, who is also deceased, when I was clean-shaven.
“Well, I ain’t dead yet,” I’d say.
Judith and Lewis played tennis. Though equally matched, he would lose his temper, throw his tennis racket and lose a game to her when his competitive nature overcame his concentration. I taught him a little about firearm safety and we went to a shooting range together after he bought a handgun. I saw from the beginning his self-confidence and raw guts. Still, the Ramsey case had become so big and threats so great, that I believe he felt he needed a firearm to protect himself.
A few months before the non-decision of the Boulder County Grand Jury regarding John and Patsy Ramsey, Lewis renegotiated his contract with The Globe. He had earned a raise and a promotion through his dogged reporting of this case and now, many others. In Los Angeles, he had covered the O.J. Simpson case, scooping the competition and selling more papers than ever. He did the same in Boulder. Judith and I were sad to learn that as a result of his promotion he was moving to Boca Raton, Florida. The three of us had separated ourselves from the Ramsey case and had many wonderful times together as friends.
Good Cop, Bad Cop, Damn Cop
During the first years of my private investigations business I worked out of my apartment, and also worked as a substitute teacher in Jefferson County in order to make ends meet. I had enjoyed teaching so much that, after my business began to succeed, I continued to teach English part-time at a local community college. I taught an eight-week evening course each quarter until I entered law school and I returned to teach after graduation. I kept that weekly appointment even after my heart attack, up until some months after I had moved to Boulder, when my energy couldn’t rise to the long commute. Judith’s father had been a teacher, she had taught second graders for eight years in Chicago, her sister was a career teacher and we were both delighted with the idea of me going back to work as a teacher. I applied to teach at a private school in Boulder. I could see myself happily teaching science and math to middle school children. I was more excited about this potential and a full time teaching position, than any work I had ever done before, save my avocation of writing. By teaching, I could make a living and perhaps I could find time to write. I interviewed for the job on a Friday, July 30, 1999.
Two weeks later, on Friday, August 13th, just as I was about to prepare dinner, the doorbell rang. A thick-necked man wearing a military haircut and glasses, a tie and a blue blazer stood there. I had spent enough time in the investigations business to recognize his line of work. He could have had “I’m a cop” tattooed on his forehead. He introduced himself as Patrick Maroney, by flashing his badge from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. He had brought with him an “invitation,” not a subpoena, for me to testify before the grand jury in Jefferson County regarding Lewis and our appointment with Vacca two-and-a-half years earlier. I called Lewis in Florida and then my lawyer.
Judith and I had avoided the Ramsey murder investigation for over a year. Occasionally a network producer or a reporter would want to wine and dine us; and Judith would have nothing new to say and none of them took much interest in my analysis of Patsy’s handwriting. Facsimiles of the ransom note had long been available to the public. Most people had accepted the Ramsey spin that the note could not be proven to be from Patsy’s hand.
When the CBI showed up on my doorstep, I immediately assumed the behind the scenes work of John and Patsy’s lawyers. The report of my findings for Darnay Hoffman had been published on the internet and my own statements on several radio talk shows had cast doubt on the innocence of the Ramseys regarding the staging of their daughter’s kidnap/killing. I believed I possessed a right to free speech and air my viewpoint of the Ramseys and their lawyers on the radio. I thought I would be safe from a “sue the bastard” lawsuit John and Patsy because my affidavit in the Boulder District Court for Darnay Hoffman provided me an affirmative defense. Although my official position on the authorship of the note was protected, I soon began to realize that the Ramseys had the money and the will to buy the political influence necessary for an indictment against me on utterly fabricated grounds.
John and Patsy were going to shut me up and they were going to shut Lewis up, along with The Globe. Lewis was not a “tabloid” reporter to me, and never just a former client. He introduced me to the woman who became my wife. He showed up at the hospital to crack jokes and drive me home after heart surgery. He displayed more concern for my recovery from both my heart disease and clinical depression than my own brothers. I was not going to descend to the level of hell prosecutors insist upon for anyone who has knowledge of a crime or of no crime, and role over on my friend.Lewis had instructed me as his lawyer not to reveal his identity. Under the rules of professional conduct, I was forbidden from violating his confidence. I had a law license every bit as valid as a prosecutor like Alex Hunter or a defense lawyer like Hal Haddon, and I wouldn’t violate my ethics. Dennis Hall, the Jefferson County prosecutor assigned to the grand jury, knows the absolute rule of attorney/client privilege. Yet, I would learn, to my horror, no one in Jefferson County was playing by the rules.
Lewis once wrote a letter to Haddon asking him for an interview. Haddon tossed the letter into a file with a quickly scribbled message on it: “Screw him.” To my misfortune, I was first in line for screwing in order for Haddon to have his way. I was indicted in Jefferson County on a charge of commercial bribery. I was not served a summons, but was given the full experience of arrest, fingerprinting, handcuffs and jail for refusing to testify against Lewis. John and Patsy wanted me in prison for having correctly guessed who had the ransom note, and for having identified Patsy as its author. The cops, the good cops, the bad cops, the dumb cops and the damned cops marched in goosestep to the orders of those with the money to buy suppression of the truth, criminal prosecution of the innocent and political perversion of the judicial system. I never heard from the school where I had applied to teach once news of my indictment hit newspapers in Boulder and around the world.