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Suspect a Wash, But Social Redemption in Ramsey Case Found!

08.29.2006 06:52 | DISPATCHES

JonBenet Ramsey may have been the prototype for all those missing or murdered privileged white girls that the media mainstream loves. In light of Iraq, where any number of violent deaths could be Law & Order episodes in their own right, how can we justify our obsession with the case?

Let's see, there's got to be a way. . . . Got it!

Though it's not an essential American story like the case of Gary Gilmore, the Ramsey case has spawned some good books, such as one by Lawrence Schiller, who, in fact helped Norman Mailer with research on his famous book about the Gilmore case (The Executioner's Song, Vintage International, 1979). His book, Perfect Murder, Perfect Town (Harper Torch, 1998), is a detailed account of the case. But it's hampered not only by the inevitable lack of a conclusion, but by the author's discreet refusal to put his money on a candidate for killer.

Another author had no such compunctions. In fact, in his little-known book, A Mother Gone Bad (Village House Publishers, 1998), Dr. Andrew Hodges made no bones about pointing a finger at John and Patsy Ramsey, viable suspects again, now that John Mark Karr has been dismissed.

While the famous crime-scene ransom note didn't match the handwriting of either, there are those who suspect that whoever wrote it attempted to disguise her or her handwriting. With handwriting analysis thus rendered as superfluous as the fingerprint analysis of a perpetrator who wears rubber gloves, Dr. Hodges turned to his field of expertise.

Using the science of neurolinguistics, he attempted to determine what the author's subconscious not only revealed but broadcast by focusing on key words in the note. Dissecting it word by word, comparing it to other notes Patsy Ramsey wrote, and familiarizing himself with the family's background, he had no problems naming her as author of the note and accusing the couple of killing their own child.

Without going into details, it's a familiar story. Father abuses daughter; mother blames child for supplanting her in husband's affections.

An Internet "Statement Analysis" by one Mark McClish, though less detailed than Dr. Hodges's book, uses the same approach, as well as pokes holes in Karr's statements. Alas, it looks like the bond JohnMark forged with JonBenet's memory is torn asunder forever.

Oh yeah, the socially redeeming part. Too bad that, according to Amazon's ranking system, Dr. Hodges's book hasn't benefited from renewed attention to the case and experienced a bounce in sales. (He wrote a second book on the case as well.) If anything comes out of the spotlight shown on this case -- besides casting a pall over child beauty pageants -- it should be that neurolinguistics merits wider use in crime detection.

It may not be a deterrent, but what is? If, however, the inner workings of a suspect's mind are decoded through his writings and utterances, he might then cave in to that need to be heard, which, neurolinguistics maintains, continually tests the limits of our subconscious. Next step -- a confession.



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