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The "Sam and Joe" Theory of Who Killed JonBenet Ramsey

Two men were involved in the murder/kidnapping of JonBenet Ramsey.

The first man, in his mid- to late thirties at the time is a sexual deviant, likely a pedophile and a sadist. Highly intelligent, he is most pleased when he is controlling people. This is 'Sick Sam'.

The second man is more "average". Perhaps a petty thief, maybe has a thing for young girls, but works at low wage jobs (when he is working at all) and is looking for the quick score. This is 'Average Joe'.

As in past cases (Leopold/Loeb, Smith/Hickock) fate brings these two together and there develops a mutually supportive - symbiotic - relationship. What they wouldn't contemplate doing alone, they can contemplate when together. At first they enjoy breaking into homes and hanging out in them for fun. Sometimes, Joe will take something, but mostly its the thrill of hanging out in a rich persons house, eating the food, sitting on leather chairs. For Sam, there is something sexual about being in someone's home, especially when the family is upstairs sleeping. But soon, they become bored by this and they wish to up the ante. Joe wants to make some money and Sam wants real sexual gratification, and this comes together in the late fall and early winter of 1996.

They've been in the Ramsey's house once before and Sam knows that a little girl lives there, and Joe knows they have lots of money. Their target is chosen. They enter the house maybe two more times, sometimes when the family is sleeping, sometimes when they are away. They gather just enough information about the family, the home, its contents and its layout to plan "the perfect kidnapping". Although they plan it together, Joe is doing it for the money, Sam is doing it for sex.

The plan is both simple and brilliant (devised by Sam). As far as they know, such an audacious crime had never been attempted before. It is truly a plan of beauty.

The plan is this: kidnap a kid in a large house, hide the kid within the house and set up a reasonable sum of cash for ransom where access to the money can be gained quickly (speed is of the essence - get the money before the child is found). Part of the plan's genius is that it attempts to contain the crime scene to a single locale, and using mostly implements from within the house, reduces the possibilities of evidence being trailed-back toward a suspect. Also, in this plan, one doesn't have to take possession of the child, and hence eliminates one of the heaviest "costs" of the business of kidnapping).

The plan appears foolproof. Most of what they need is available in the home's den, kitchen and basement (pen, paper, flashlight, garrote stick,). They only have to bring with them duct tape, and rope. During one of the earlier break-ins they also take some paper from a pad in the den to write a ransom note, but unhappy with the note they write, they discard paper and are resigned to write a new version when they get to the home. Sick Sam, the note's writer, has practiced it in his head over and over again and knows what he wants to write.

It is a mistake to dismiss the note as a "fake kidnap" note by trying to compare the note to other kidnap notes written by semi-literate mafia-type thugs looking to score $3 million dollars on a kidnapping cliche. Sam is bright and has an ego to match. It is his belief that "the perfect ransom note" will pursuade John Ramsey to do two things 1) not call the police and, 2) act quickly. The much maligned ransom note (often described as 'rambling') is anything but rambling. It is actually a well constructed, rather persuasive executive memo that delinates quite clearly what is expected of John Ramsey. Think of what kind of kidnapping letter a Ted Bundy or Leopold/Loeb type character would write, or the kidnap letter that any narcissistic, but intelligent serial killer might compose. It would hardly be the cut-out magazine-letter-type exclaiming only "Will call for ransom!" The letter is the work of someone who believes they have the power to control someone else's actions by the power of their superior persuasion. It may be the case that the inclusion of the "foreign faction" canard was Joe's "great idea" as it seems to be the only sour note in the tone of the entire ransom letter.

The note asks for $118,000 because they believe John R. has ready access to that amount because it is similar to an amount on the paystubs they found which referred to a slightly higher amount John R. received in deferred compensation. They believe that referring to John's "Southern common sense" was clever as well, being under the impression that he was southern since they could tell by what they found in the house that the family was from Atlanta. Besides "southern" and "$118,000" there is nothing personal about the letter, and even the two "personal" items were easily gleaned by just rummaging around the house.

The kidnapping goes largely according to plan: break-in through the basement, wait for the Ramseys to return, when the family is asleep write the ransom note, prepare the basement room, the garrote, etc. Sam, alone, takes JonBenet from her room and into the kitchen. Perhaps fulfills a sexual fantasy by ritualistically and sensually feeding JonBenet fruit as her last meal. And then brings her down into the basement. This is where she is supposed to be tied up and her mouth duct taped. Joe doesn't know it, but Sam has something else in mind. The garrote and the rope play into one of Sam's strongest fantasies and Sam is getting off on it. When JonBenet lashes out in the the death throes of the garroting, Sam slams her head viciously against a hard object, cracking her skull.

At this point, Sam knows she's dead, and Joe thinks that things may have just gotten out of hand. They leave through the basement window to wait until morning. In the morning, before 8:00am, Sam and Joe drive by the house to see what is going on and if there is any activity. The can see that their plan is a bust. The cops were called. Sam assumed that his full powers of control and written pursuasion would sway John R. to remain silent, but Sam never counted on the fact that John R. would not even complete reading his masterpiece of a ransom note before telling Patsy to call the cops.

In conclusion, I would simply say that one of the mistakes the Boulder police made was in dismissing the ransom note because it was "different" than the one's they had seen on TV. By the time other "experts" got the note, they read it within the context of "this is a fake note, who would write a fake note?" and analyzed within a context of mistaken assumptions. Yes, the foreign faction part is clearly made up, but the desire for money was real (although likely secondary to Sam's sexual deviance).