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The JonBenet Ramsey Case

Michelle Dresbold:
Another Ramsey Case Sideshow

In December 2006 The Free Press published Sex, Lies, and Handwriting: A Top Expert Reveals the Secrets Hidden in Your Handwriting by a Pittsburgh graphologist named Michelle Dresbold.  The book was written with James Kwalwasser. Generally these pseudoscientific books are harmless, but this one claims to have been written by one of the top experts in the nation in the fields of handwriting identification, personality profiling, and threat analysis. One can only wonder what the real experts in these fields would think of this claim. The author who makes this outrageous assertion on her web site has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and fine arts. She has no education, training or experience in forensic science, law enforcement, law, or criminology. This is as absurd as Elvis Presley walking around with a DEA badge.

A starburst emblem on the book’s dust jacket reads: “with explosive details about the JonBenet Ramsey ransom note.” In the chapter of the book about the Ramsey case, illustrated with handwriting exhibits, Michelle Dresbold concludes that Patsy Ramsey wrote the ransom note found in the house by Mrs. Ramsey. This is a claim made possible by Patsy Ramsey’s recent death. If she were alive it’s doubtful this unfounded claim would have been published. Had it been, the author and the publisher would have been sued by Ramsey attorney Lin Wood. Dead people are safe targets for writers like this.

David Feige, author of Indefensible: One Lawyer’s Journey into the Inferno of American Justice, reviewed Dresbold’s book for The Washington Post. Feige blasted the book for what it is—fluff passed off as something serious and substantive by a true expert. Feige writes:

….Ted Bundy, we learn, writes big (outgoing) and Ted Kaczynski [Unabomber] small (hermit). Picasso, whose writing sample includes a radiant sun and some flowers, is happy, while Vincent van Gogh, whose writing “travels downhill,” is sad. This simplistic analysis isn’t helped by Dresbold’s prose. Exclamation points abound (there is a triple on the very first page); between the “bonus questions,” the sunny sidebars and the giddy aphorisms (“If you can change your handwriting, you can change your life!”), the book often reads more like a junior high cheerleading manual that a serious investigation of a subject that has life-and-death ramifications when introduced in a court of law.

Perhaps the most profound line of David Feige’s review is this: “The book, ironically, makes a strong case for grouping handwriting profilers [graphologists] (though not forensic document analysts) with the rest of today’s charismatic charlatans.” Amen.

Cina L. Wong:
Graphologist v. Graphologist

Cina Wong is one of the graphologist/handwriting identification analysts brought into the Ramsey case by New York attorney Darnay Hoffman. Hoffman believed that Patsy Ramsey had murdered JonBenet. In Hoffman’s libel suit against the Ramseys who in their book named Hoffman’s client Christain Wolf as a possible suspect missed by the Ramsey case investigators, the lawyer used the Norfolk, Virginia handwriting analyst as one of his expert witnesses to establish Patsy Ramsey’s guilt. The civil suit was dismissed by federal judge Carnes who made it clear she didn’t think Wong was a qualified forensic document examiner. (Wong had requested to testify for the prosecution before the Ramsey grand jury but the prosecutor in charge of the grand jury process rejected her offer on the same grounds.)

Shortly after the publication of Michelle Dresbold’s book, Cina Wong came across Sex, Lies and Handwriting in a Newport News bookstore and began flipping through it. In the chapter dealing with the Ramsey case, Wong saw photographs of her own Ramsey case handwriting exhibits along with, almost word-for-word, her analysis of the handwriting in the ransom note, handwriting Wong had identified as Patsy Ramsey’s.  Wong decided to file suit in federal court charging the author and publisher of copyright infringement.

In the copyright suit filed in March 2007, Wong submitted hundreds of pages of her Ramsey handwriting analysis, arguing that it was nearly identical to what Dresbold had published in her book. Wong’s attorney said, “All Miss Wong wants is to get credit for her own work and not to have someone else profit from it.” Dresbold, according to Wong, had appeared on a number of television news and talk shows promoting her book, claiming that the Ramsey handwriting analysis was her own.

In October 2007, Wong received a cash settlement from Simon & Schuster along with the promise that future editions of the book (good heavens) will not include Wong’s handwriting report. Moreover, the starburst dust jacket emblem promising “explosive details about the JonBenet Ramsey note” will be removed. According to a publisher’s spokesperson, “we continue to believe that the lawsuit has no merit. But in the interest of moving on, we opted for a settlement without any admission of liability or wrongdoing.” If there is any wrongdoing in this embarrassing Ramsey case sideshow, it’s that major publishers continue to bring out ridiculous books like this one.

John Mark Karr
The D-List Celebrity

On June 6, 2007 John Mark Karr, the man who confessed to being with JonBenet Ramsey when she died, was arrested, then released when the DNA evidence failed to incriminate him, appeared on Greta Van Susteren’s TV show “On the Record.” Why he was on the show is unclear. In response to a question as to what he made of the unusual amount of the ransom demanded in the note--$118,000—Karr said, “I think it was just a random number….I don’t think it had an correlation with any bonus [John Ramsey’s Christmas bonus that year from his computer company.] Van Susteren asked if Karr wrote the ransom note. “I can’t comment on that,” he replied.

Van Susteren: Well, the handwriting analysis probably doesn’t put you as the writer, because they [the police] wouldn’t [have] let you out.

Karr: Well, it’s definitely been analyzed. My handwriting has definitely been analyzed by certain experts.

Van Susteren: Can you say, from the bottom of your heart, “I didn’t do it?”

Karr: No.

A month later, the police arrested Karr in Sandy Springs, Georgia near Atlanta in connection with a domestic disturbance at his father’s house. Karr was charged with battery and obstruction of a 911 call and placed in the Fulton County Jail. Karr made a $3,000 signature bond and was released. The alleged fight had been between Karr and his father Wexford who was not injured. “I’m too tough for a little whippersnapper kid to hurt me,” said the eighty-six-year-old. Karr, forty-two, was in the house with his twenty-two-year-old girlfriend, Brooke Simmons. Simmons told the police that she and the younger Karr were having a small argument. When the senior Mr. Karr picked up the telephone to call 911 to shut them up, he and his son struggled briefly. “When the police came,” she said, “I kept asking, ‘why is he being arrested?’”  Simmons told reporters that Karr was arrested because of his connection to the Ramsey case. She said that wherever they went out in public people recognized her boyfriend and often gave him dirty looks or cussed at him. “He’s not a pedophile,” she said. “He’s not out there lurking for children. He’s not a creep. He’s a mild-mannered, nurturing, intelligent man.” Simmons also said her family had disowned her over her association with Karr. Her friends had abandoned her as well.

On July 13, a Fulton County magistrate dropped the charges against Karr who promised to get six months of “domestic violence intervention” counseling. “I do not admit anything physical happened,” Karr said following the hearing. “I love my dad.”

Karr was back on television a few weeks after the charges were dropped. This time he was interviewed by Jennifer Mayerle, a correspondent with the local Atlanta CBS affiliate. After complaining that strangers on the street and in restaurants called him a “killer” and “murderer,” Karr said, “I’m not a registered sex offender. I was treated like that and it hurts me. I know there is a threat there that somebody could act upon their hate, because that’s hate and hate is a powerful emotion and it drives violence.” When the reporter asked Karr if he had killed JonBenet, he said, “I answered that question last year and I’m not taking it back.” The interview continued:

Mayerle: When you answered that question [a year ago after his arrest in Bangkok] you were truthful?

Karr: I was truthful. I do not lie and I did not lie then.

Mayerle: You told me over the phone that JonBenet wasn’t afraid, that she did not suffer.

Karr: Yeah.

Mayerle: How do you know that?

Karr: Because it is true.

Mayerle: She didn’t suffer?

Karr: No.

In August 2007 Karr was interviewed by Christian Boone of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Karr told Boone that he stood by his 2006 confession then two hours after the interview, on the advice of his attorney, called the reporter and pleaded with him not to quote him as saying, in reference to that confession, “I do not rescind it.” Karr denied he had an unnatural attraction to young girls. His neighbors, however, were not convinced. His fiancée, Brooke Simmons, the mother of a three-year-old girl, told the reporter that Karr is misunderstood.

In the newspaper interview, Karr said he has every reason to believe the day will come when he’ll be back in the classroom. “I think I’ll work with children somewhere. When people look at my record in teaching, they’ll give me another chance.”

On November 1 and 2, 2007, the television show “Inside Edition” featured a two-part interview of Karr and his fiancée, Brooke Simmons. Simmons said she would not speculate on whether or not Karr had been involved with JonBenet Ramsey’s death. “I’m not saying he’s innocent. I’m not saying he’s guilty. We are all sinners, but that’s between us and God.” When asked if he planned to go ahead with his sex change, Karr said he didn’t have any plans to pursue that in the near future.

This page was last updated on: Wednesday, January 16, 2008

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A. James Fisher
Dept. of Political Science & Criminal Justice, 146 Hendricks Hall
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Edinboro, PA 16444
e-mail: jfisher@edinboro.edu blog: http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com