Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder of JonBenet Ramsey

The Intruder Theory

In mid-March, retired detective Lou Smit outlined previously undisclosed evidence that led him to believe that John and Patsy Ramsey were not responsible for their daughter's death. "I believe there's evidence of an intruder, and I believe people should still be looking for him," Smit said. "There's a dangerous guy out there."

According to Smit, that evidence included:

  • A metal baseball bat found outside the Ramseys' Boulder home. Fibers on the bat matched a carpet found in the basement near the storage room, where JonBenet's body was found. The bat was found, "in a place where kids normally wouldn't play," Smit said, declining to elaborate.
  • DNA evidence that indicates JonBenet's attacker was a male, but the DNA does not match John Ramsey.
  • Peanut-shaped foam packing material and leaves found in the basement that Smit thinks might have been tracked inside by someone entering through a broken basement window. "It would have been something that would not have been blown in there," Smit said.

Smit is not only an experienced detective. He has been credited for having solved one of Colorado's most baffling crimes, the murder of 13-year-old Heather Dawn Church in her Black Forest home in 1991. Smit was asked to come out of retirement to take over the case. Heather Church had vanished from home one evening while her mother and two brothers attended a Scout meeting. Two years later, her skeletal remains were found miles away, in a ravine west of Colorado Springs. With the trail truly cold, but still prominent in the public's mind, newly elected El Paso County Sheriff John Anderson asked Smit to head the investigation in 1995. Smit agreed and examined all of the evidence, focusing his attention on a set of unidentified fingerprints found in the Church home. He directed his detectives to begin sending the prints to every state and local law enforcement office in the country.

After contacting 92 different jurisdictions, a Louisiana police department matched the prints to Robert Charles Browne, a paroled thief who had moved to Colorado and was still living a half mile from the Church home three years after the killing. Browne later confessed that he had killed Heather with a blow to the head when she discovered him burglarizing the home.

Sheriff Anderson, having been trained in homicide investigation under Smit before becoming sheriff, has great respect for Smit's abilities. "He always had a sound method that started with the evidence and let it guide him toward the truth, rather than starting with a theory and forcing the evidence to fit it," Anderson said.

In the same article, Newsweek also reported that it had asked Arapahoe County Coroner Dr. Michael Doberson to review evidence from Smit that a stun gun was used on JonBenet. According to the magazine, Doberson was provided with pictures that the police had never shown him. Doberson was quoted as saying that the "stun gun theory" was compelling. "It just looked to me, superficially, that it fits," Doberson said.

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