Made for Each Other

The Karr fiasco is over, but Michael Tracey's quest for unlikely suspects in the Ramsey case goes on and on.

"Michael Tracey can find an arrest report, and he can't find the rest of the paperwork that goes with it?" he asks. "The people pointing the finger at me and saying I'm a bad, scary guy were both aware that I'd moved. One of them called me to tell me that Helgoth had killed himself."

Gigax says he's never taken a martial arts class in his life. He likes to dress in black, but that's because he's a Harley man. And the sources accusing him, he adds, knew Michael Helgoth much better than he did.

How, then, did Gigax become the prime suspect in Tracey's world? "You have a series of prime suspects that you go through one at a time," Mills says. "At the time we were making that documentary, he was the prime suspect the investigators were interested in."

Collaborators: Professor Michael Tracey, with John Mark Karr inset
image: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images. Photo illustration
Collaborators: Professor Michael Tracey, with John Mark Karr inset


See also:
Special John Mark Karr/Michael Tracey archive
With creepy documents and weird phone calls
Hear the former JonBenet Ramsey suspect for yourself
All at Denver Westword

San Agustin, though, says it was the producers' call to target Gigax: "We never said he's on the top of our list. We just said, 'There's a group of people tied to Helgoth who need to be looked into.'"

Gigax's principal accuser in the documentary is John Kenady, a mechanic and tow-truck driver who introduced Gigax to Helgoth. Kenady is convinced that Helgoth's death was murder rather than suicide. The Boulder police disagree with him.

Like Gigax, Kenady has an ancient conviction for sexual assault on a child, which he says involved a consensual relationship with a teenager; in effect, the producers used one convicted sex offender to point the finger at another. Kenady was also arrested in 2000 for breaking into Helgoth's house and pleaded guilty to trespassing. He says he merely wanted to preserve evidence.

Court records indicate that Kenady suffered a head injury in an auto accident six years ago and was required to undergo a mental evaluation as part of the plea bargain in the break-in. He denies any mental problems. "The DA's office wanted to portray me as crazy," he says. "I couldn't get anyone in the press to talk to me about Mike's death. They're scared to death."

Gigax's alibi in the Ramsey case doesn't impress Kenady. The possibility that Helgoth's death, which occurred on Valentine's Day, might have been a suicide related to girlfriend problems also doesn't dissuade him. "I think there were three people involved in this, possibly four," he says. "Mike would say, 'Maybe I should just shoot myself now and get it over with.' I got a pretty good idea he was into something he shouldn't have been."

Mills says he and Tracey paid no one for interviews in their first two documentaries. But they made an exception in the third film, paying Kenady and another Gigax accuser sums of $200 or less for the "inconvenience" of having to take time off from work. While admitting that he was paid, Kenady says he only agreed to appear in the documentary because Lou Smit vowed he would track down the man who killed Helgoth and JonBenet.

"They went a little far on some of this stuff," he says. "Michael Tracey told me, 'I want to be famous, I want to solve this case.' But they hung me out to dry. Lou said he was going to go find the guy, and nothing happens. Lou, Ollie and I made a pact that we're going to work this until we die. I've put way over a hundred thousand of my own money into this. I sold my Harley, my Corvette. I emptied all my bank accounts. It's ruined everything I had planned because I want to know the truth."

Among the flaws of The Prime Suspect, it's clear that no one made a serious effort to contact the prime suspect before including so many serious allegations about him. San Agustin says that was the producers' job, not his. Gigax hasn't heard a whisper of apology from Mills or Tracey. Every time he reads about Professor Presumption blasting the sleazy tabloid press for violating the most elementary ethical tenets of journalism, he wants to scream.

"Sometimes I think the only way to get any justice would be to go to Colorado and pound the hell out of him," he says. "He's teaching the next crop of journalists damaging and biased techniques. Are we going to have a country of little Michael Traceys running around, trying to crucify people?"

Every five years, CU's tenured professors undergo a post-tenure review of their work. Tracey had his most recent review just a few weeks ago, in the midst of the Karr uproar. Because his scholarly output has taken a back seat to Ramsey sleuthing in recent years -- he hasn't published a book since 1998 -- the last two documentaries were a significant part of the portfolio of professional "publication" that he presented for consideration.

Dean Voakes says he's aware that the documentaries are controversial. Asked about specific issues arising from the third documentary -- misrepresentations, paid sources, a prime suspect who says he was unjustly accused -- he expresses bewilderment.

"Now we're in an area I can't comment on," he says. "I'm not aware of any of that."

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