Boulder News - 08-28-1998 - Ramsey 'cybersleuths' to gather in Boulder
Ramsey 'cybersleuths' to gather in Boulder
By Matt Sebastian
Camera Staff Writer
Come September, Boulder County's grand jury won't be the only body holding secret meetings to delve into the JonBenét Ramsey homicide.
But the 30 or so self-proclaimed cybersleuths who will disconnect from the Internet next month for a face-to-face meeting in Boulder aren't convening behind closed doors because of state-mandated secrecy.
They're just a little concerned about what this city's residents will think of them.
"We're not a bunch of crazies," insisted Chris Wheeler, a 33-year-old Lansing, Mich., woman who moderates an online Ramsey chatroom and has created a World Wide Web site honoring Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner.
Martha Knapp, a Kansas City, Kan., woman in her 40s who spends the summers in Boulder County, helped organize the Sept. 18-20 event and has similar reservations.
"I don't know if they think we're a bunch of weirdoes or not, but we're not," Knapp said. "We're just regular folks that are concerned.
"This is a crisis that extends beyond Boulder," she added. "It affects all of us in all of our communities across the country."
For the members of the online Ramsey community flocking to Boulder from across the country - and from as far away as Australia - the main attraction of the three-day event will be a Sept. 18 dinner that will allow the online friends to communicate off-line.
But just where that gathering will occur remains a closely guarded secret. And the event isn't open to the public.
As for guests, Denver attorney Craig Silverman, noted for his television commentary on the Ramsey case, is expected to attend, Knapp said.
There "may also be other people in the community related to the Ramsey case," Knapp added, without elaborating.
Web pages and online discussion of the unsolved Dec. 26, 1996, beating and strangulation of 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey sprang up almost immediately as worldwide press attention focused on Boulder in the days and weeks following the slaying.
Even today, typing the words "JonBenét Ramsey" into an Internet search engine yields more than 2,000 hits.
One of the most popular destinations on the Web for Ramsey news junkies is an eponymous page of the day's headlines maintained by a Philadelphia woman known only as Mrs. Brady.
For Mrs. Brady, who last week visited JonBenét's grave in Marietta, Ga., next month's trip to Boulder will be like a journey to Mecca.
"I feel like I know Boulder like the back of my hand," she said. "I've been threatening my friends that I'm going to rent a puppy, light up a cigarette and drink a Coors on the Pearl Street Mall and see if I can get arrested."
The purpose of the meeting, though, is a simple one.
"This idea of 'Justice for JonBenét' is foremost in our minds, because we don't want what's happening in Boulder happening in our communities," Knapp said.
"When we come to Boulder, we want to be able to give something to the community, even if it's nothing more than awareness of who we are. We're just regular citizens concerned about our own community and the safety of our children."
For Wheeler, one of the confab's goals "is just to provide moral support to the people of Boulder, to say, 'You know, it's okay to be mad about this. We'd be mad if it were happening in our community.' "
Mrs. Brady said she'll be bringing her renewed enthusiasm, rejuvenated by last week's trip to the Atlanta area.
"This had begun to feel like a job to me," she said of her Web page, which is updated daily and gets about 750 hits on a busy day.
"I felt like I really needed to get back to my roots; to get inspired to muck on."
At JonBenét's grave, she said, she told her husband, "I'd like you to meet my boss. This is the person I'm working for right here."
August 28, 1998