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Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, March 20, 2000

Parents of JonBenet
plead their innocence

WHENEVER we go to our favorite supermarket, there she is on the cover of some tabloid: pretty, precocious, golden-haired JonBenet Ramsey, may she rest in peace.

Ever since she was murdered three years ago in her Boulder, Colo., home, the weekly newspapers and news magazines have done their best to keep her in the public's consciousness.

Publishers know the photogenic power of her angelic face, combined with morbid curiousity about the hellish way she died, can sell copies and conspiracy theories on a grand scale.

Now her parents have joined in. Last Friday night, John and Patsy Ramsey kicked off a slew of TV appearances -- gratuitously timed to coincide with the release of their new book, "The Death of Innocence" -- by being interviewed by Barbara Walters on ABC's "20/20 Friday."

Walters started off with the obligatory accusations. "Did either of you have anything to do with the death of your daughter?" she asked sternly, as the camera zoomed in for close-ups.

Both parents looked so sincere in their denials that they must be truly innocent, are actors deserving of Oscars or have blocked this most dastardly of deeds from their memories in order to live with themselves.

It was easy to feel sorry for John Ramsey, who has now lost two children to violent deaths -- his oldest daughter from a previous marriage in a fatal car crash, his youngest daughter in the most notorious unsolved crime of the 1990s.

Patsy Ramsey also cut a sympathetic figure. She is someone who has overcome ovarian cancer but who now faces a stronger nemesis -- the perception that the former Miss West Virginia had coerced JonBenet to doll herself up and enter kiddie beauty pageants, only for mom to "lose it" one night and strangle her baby girl.

It wasn't them, they both reiterated. It was some unknown male pedophile, who snuck into the house while they were at a Christmas party.

He waited hours for the family's return, learning the lay of the maze-like mansion and writing a long, rambling ransom note to pass the time.

Then, when the Ramseys came home and went to bed, he molested and killed JonBenet, or killed and molested her, before leaving her body in the basement for her father to find.

John ran upstairs with the lifeless child and laid her, of all places, in front of the Christmas tree.

In front of the Christmas tree? Did John put this gruesome discovery next to the cheery holiday symbol in an attempt to counteract the evil with goodness?

Or was it some kind of eerie symbolism? Patsy recalled how she bent over the corpse, became hysterical and asked God to raise JonBenet, as the Christmas tree sparkled behind them.

NOW, whenever we go to our favorite bookstore, they'll be there on the cover of their tell-all: the parents of pretty, precocious, golden-haired JonBenet Ramsey, may she rest in peace.

Should we get it to learn their side of the story, or shun it for fear of enriching two murderers and liars?

And if we do purchase a copy, is it just as bad as buying those supermarket tabloids and glossy magazines that keep a little girl alive while a criminal remains free and unindicted?

If he gets caught, think he's going to write a book, too?

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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