Ramsey Detective Lawsuit To Begin

Civil Trial Scheduled For First Detective At Ramsey Crime Scene

A civil trial is set to begin Tuesday for a former Boulder police detective who claims her bosses unfairly made her a scapegoat for mistakes in the JonBenet Ramsey investigation.

Linda Arndt

Jurors will have to decide whether the police department's effort to shield its ongoing investigation from the public outweighed Linda Arndt's (pictured, left) First Amendment rights to speak in her own defense.

Among those listed as potential witnesses are JonBenet's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, although they had not been subpoenaed as of late Friday, according to their attorney, Lin Wood.

After settlement talks in the lawsuit collapsed last week, U.S. District Judge William F. Downes scheduled jury selection to begin Tuesday for the seven-day trial.

Arndt, 40, the first detective on the scene at the Ramsey home, has alleged that two police chiefs violated her rights by prohibiting her from challenging media reports that implied she bungled the investigation. Neither chief disputed the false reports, she claimed. She is seeking unspecified damages.

"The police department refused to support Ms. Arndt," said her attorney, A. Bruce Jones. "They let lies circulate freely about her, they scapegoated her and they gagged her. They let her twist in the wind and be the fall person in the Ramsey investigation."

Former Chief Tom Koby, current Chief Mark Beckner and the city, all defendants, contended the highly publicized Ramsey investigation would have been compromised if police spoke publicly in the defense of Arndt or any other officer.

"It's a very unusual case," said attorney Ted Halaby, who represents the defendants. "Police officers normally don't maintain they have a First Amendment right to speak about an ongoing criminal investigation in defense of their conduct."

The suit revolves around the Dec. 26, 1996, slaying of the 6-year-old JonBenet, who was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her family's home.

Police have said JonBenet's parents remain under an umbrella of suspicion. The Ramseys, who since have moved to suburban Atlanta, have denied the allegations. A grand jury disbanded without filing charges.

Arndt was responding to Patsy Ramsey's 911 call when she arrived at the family's upscale home. For nearly three hours, she was the only detective there, watching the parents, their pastor, four friends and two victim's advocates.

John Ramsey, searching the house at Arndt's request, found his daughter's body in the basement several hours later.

Arndt was removed from the case five months later and resigned from the department in 1999.

She was criticized for allowing John Ramsey to search the home without an accompanying police officer and for placing a blanket over his daughter's body, possibly contaminating evidence. She also was partially blamed for not taking statements immediately from the Ramseys.

D.P. Van Blaricom, a former Bellevue, Wash., police chief who filed a court report on Arndt's behalf, said the detective's actions met a reasonable standard of professional care.

At the home, Arndt was told other officers had searched the premises, but they missed the wine cellar, where JonBenet's body was found, Van Blaricom wrote.

Arndt asked John Ramsey and two friends to stay out of JonBenet's bedroom but to look for anything they thought might have been taken, he wrote. John Ramsey appeared a short time later carrying JonBenet's body.

Arndt claims police did nothing to refute false media reports that she noticed a hammer and flashlight but failed to collect it as evidence, that she allowed John Ramsey to leave the house, that she refused to let the FBI enter and that she may have hacked into police computer files.

"It appears that plaintiff was essentially set up, as a scapegoat, to take the fall for a sensational homicide that the BPD could demonstrably not clear," Van Blaricom wrote.

The court file includes an affidavit in which Arndt said that evidence suggests John Ramsey may have killed his daughter. Arndt also said that Koby told her he thought Patsy Ramsey was responsible.

A judge delayed discovery and depositions in the case until late 1999 to protect a 13-month grand-jury investigation into JonBenet's death. The probe ended Oct. 13, 1999, without any charges being filed.

Previous Stories:

Additional Resources:

Print this article Back to Top