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The ransom note in the JonBenet Ramsey slaying case is a treasure trove of potential clues, or pitfalls, for investigators, prosecutors, analysts, pundits and armchair sleuths. Some of the highlights: The note is 67 lines long, 372 handwritten words, including the salutation, "Mr. Ramsey" and the closing, "Victory! S.B.T.C." It was apparently written in felt pen on lined notepaper taken from a pad inside the Ramsey house. The letter opens, "Listen carefully! We are a group of individuals that represent a small foreign faction." Years before extremist groups began issuing Internet videos of themselves decapitating their hostages, the writer warns that alerting authorities "will result in your daughter being beheaded." The writer says "I will call you between 8 and 10 a.m. tomorrow to instruct you on delivery." The Ramseys received no calls from a suspect during that time on Dec. 26, 1996, and JonBenet's body was found a few hours later. Handwriting analysts Larry Zeigler and Gideon Epstein both wrote in 2001 the note must have been written by JonBenet Ramsey's mother, Patsy. Epstein wrote he had "no doubt." Both agreed the author tried to alter his or her handwriting. Another analyst, Curt Baggett, told the Rocky Mountain News he was "99.9 percent certain" suspect John Mark Karr wrote the letter. Passages in the letter advising the Ramseys, "If I catch you talking to a stray dog, she dies. If you alert bank authorities, she dies" and "Don't try to grow a brain" appear to be references from the movies "Dirty Harry" and "Speed," according to a variety of Internet sites and newspapers. Some experts suggested that using the present tense "she dies" meant that the writer knew JonBenet was already dead. Most writers would write "She will die." The writer also warns: "Don't underestimate us, John. Use that good, southern common sense of yours." Ramsey is from the South.
Based on a phrase Karr wrote in a 1982 high school yearbook, theories now speculate the cryptic "S.B.T.C." closing may stand for a similar phrase Karr penned, "I Shall Be The Conqueror." Or, it could be "Saved by the Cross," a reference common among some Protestants. An Atlanta beauty pageant that JonBenet participated in also had the initials S.B.T.C. It was the Sun Burst Talent Competition.
Author Mark McClish on his Web site, www.statementanalysis.com, says the note demands $118,000, and then, "the writer tells the Ramseys to 'bring an adequate size attache to the bank.' Most kidnappers are not going to remind you to bring an adequate size case to hold the money."
The ransom note asks for $118,000, an unusually specific amount. Some observers say anyone with time to poke around the home could have learned from financial records that the $118,000 amounted to a recent company bonus awarded to John Ramsey.The ransom note begins by proclaiming the kidnapping is the work of a group and refers to "we" several times. Later, the writer falls into using "I" several times.
Several words in the ranson note appear similar to the style of writing of John Karr, although other words are completely different. National Association of Document Examiners vice president Linda James told The Denver Post that she has compared the 1982 yearbook message with the ransom note and while there are some similarities, "there's too many major red flags."
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A sample of John Karr's handwriting from a 1982 yearbook is on the left. The same words from the 1996 ransom note are on the right.