Thursday, September 14, 2006

Who Killed Jon-Benet?

by Meryl Neiman

Okay. I admit it. I'm a little obsessed with the Jon-Benet case. Not obsessed as in I have my own web site or I've read the actual autopsy reports. But obsessed as in, if someone told me I could find out who killed Jon-Benet or whether there's life in outer space, I'd have to go with who killed Jon-Benet.

When they dragged that crazy guy back from Singapore, my curiosity rekindled. On the one hand, certain clues point to one of her family members. Who else would know the exact sum of her father's bonus? Why would a "kidnapper" not bring paper on which to write a note with him to the scene? How would a stranger know to take Jon-Benet to that isolated basement room? But, on the other hand, the child's body was brutalized in a way that seems inconsistent with a parent gone out of control and there was unidentified DNA under her fingernails.

This is a story without an ending.

I think her case fascinates me, and lots of others, for several reasons in addition to the complicated crime scene. First, the little girl's heartbreaking beauty. Second, the strange world of child pageants. Third, the parents' decision to lawyer up right away.

But, most of all, I'm fascinated by evil. I find people endlessly interesting. And, of all people, I find those that are most on the fringe of societal norms the most fascinating. As a law student, I loved criminal law, that unique combination of legal principle and human drama. Unfortunately, there wasn't a career path in criminal law that suited me. I didn't want to be a prosecutor, committed to a political system that often offers an attorney little discretion. Neither did I want to be a defense attorney, working to free defendants who might go on to commit other horrific offenses.

So I became a litigator. I defended class action securities cases, toxic tort cases, and employment discrimination cases. I litigated on behalf of large corporate clients as they sought to hold their historic insurance companies responsible for environmental remediation costs. The work was intellectually challenging, if not emotionally engaging. But when I reduced my schedule to part-time to raise my young children, things changed. I couldn't manage complex litigation cases on a part-time schedule. The resulting piece meal work became boring.

So here I am, a recovering lawyer. Agented, but as yet unpublished. Striving to carve out a career in criminal law. Not as a prosecutor. Or as a defense attorney. But as a writer. In this profession, I can indulge my fascination with evil. I can explore the darker side of human nature and the justice system without commiting myself to an unbending stance. My stories have endings. I know who committed the murders in my books and I know why.

I only wish I knew who killed Jon-Benet. If any of you out there know who did, please let me know.


Joyce said...

I'm also fascinated with the Jon-Benet case. In discussions we've had at work, everyone thinks the father did it. I still think he did, regardless of what they found under her fingernails. The way the police botched the initial investigation, that evidence is unreliable (according to one of our detectives). I also read something--I don't remember who wrote it (might have been Cyril Wecht)--that the ransom note had been written by the mother, and that the autopsy showed she had been sexually abused for a long time.

I don't think we'll ever know the truth.

Kristine said...

When I first heard the news about the most recent suspect, I was suspicious. It's an interesting case, though, and so sad. I'll be interested to see how it all turns out.

Tory Butterworth said...

>I defended class action securities cases, >toxic tort cases, and employment >discrimination cases.

"Toxic tort" cases sound like, "The case of the poisoned tart," but I'm sure they're not!
What are they? What are action securities cases?

I LOVE professional lingo. Sounds so cool!

merylneiman said...


Toxic tort cases are where one or more people claim they have been injured by toxic contamination caused by another party. Class action securities cases are casees in which a few people sue on behalf of a group of similarly situated people for damages allegedly arising out of their purchase of securities.

Does that help?

Rebecca Drake said...

I always thought it was someone within the family, but it is a strange, strange case.

Adding to the strangeness is the arrest of this loon. Granted, this is all very sad, but Karr is such a nutcase and the coverage of his return flight (i.e. "what did he have to eat on the plane") was so ridiculous that you just have to laugh.

Tory Butterworth said...

Thanks, Meryl, for explaining. Now I know!

debralee said...

From the beginning I thought Jon-Benet's brother did the horrific deed. The parents covered it up. I can't remember, is he a half/step brother? Was he ruled out as a suspect?

pat said...

I don't think the father did it,but I think he "lent" JonBenet to a fellow pediphile in exchange for access to another little girl. Kind of like a wife swapping thing. The mother "knew" about it, obliquely, but didn't want to risk her lifestyle by confronting her husband.

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