Ramseys Sue Former Boulder Detective For Libel

Lawsuit Stems From Allegations Contained In Detective's Book

John and Patsey Ramsey are suing former Boulder police detective Steve Thomas for statements in his book in which he accuses the couple of having a role in their daughter's death.

John and Patsy Ramsey

The Ramseys (pictured, left) filed the libel and defamation lawsuit Thursday against Thomas and unidentified officers at the Boulder Police Department.

The 51-page complaint filed in Atlanta U.S. District Court alleges that Thomas made false accusations about the couple in a book he co-authored and in television interviews promoting the book, titled "JonBenet: Inside the Ramsey Murder Investigation."

The suit accuses Thomas of securing a six-figure book contract with the promise he would say Patsy Ramsey killed 6-year-old JonBenet, and John Ramsey covered up the crime.

Thomas did not return messages left for him at his residence.

The Ramseys are seeking $65 million from Thomas, publisher St. Martin's Press, and several other defendants, including unnamed Boulder police officials whom the Ramseys allege supplied Thomas with material for his work.

The suit says the officers will be named after evidence is assembled in the trial's discovery phase.

They allege Thomas libeled them; intentionally inflicted emotional harm with his accusations; and violated their constitutional rights by releasing information from an open investigation.

The Ramseys' attorney, Lin Wood, said the suit will provide Thomas with an opportunity to depose the Ramseys and compel disclosure of other facts "that will directly address whether they were involved in the death of their daughter."

"These people are not afraid of facing their accuser in a courtroom," Wood said of the Ramseys. "Let's put the jury in the box and determine who's right and who's wrong, who's telling the truth and who's lying."

JonBenet was found beaten and strangled in her family's home Dec. 26, 1996. Police have said her parents remain under an umbrella of suspicion, but no one has been charged in her death.

To prove libel, a plaintiff must show the statements are false or made with a reckless disregard for the truth. If the plaintiffs are public figures, as John and Patsy Ramsey could be considered, they must prove the statements were made with actual malice.

Thomas' work is especially damaging because of his position in the case, Wood said.

He said that when a grand jury declined to indict either parent in 1999, a fed-up Thomas pursued "his version of vigilante justice."

"He knows they will never be charged, so he'll just write a book convicting them of the crime by bootstrapping his credibility as a former detective," Wood said.

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