This article originally appeared in New Times Broward-Palm Beach.
While the case against John Mark Karr disintegrates by the minute, New Times has learned that this isn't the first time Colorado University Professor Michael Tracey has caused a stir by fingering a "prime suspect" in the JonBenet Ramsey murder caseonly to be proved wrong.
In 2004, Tracey, a British expatriate journalism professor and documentarian, produced a film about the Ramsey murder that aired on British television but not in the United States. By then, however, Tracey was already considered a notorious developer of false leads by a large group of Internet sleuths who congregated at Forums for Justice, a website started by a radio disc jockey named Tricia Griffith.
"If you know the case and you watch Tracey's documentaries, they're filled with blatant lies. It's so easily proven," Griffith says from Park City, Utah, where she does radio and voiceover work. In Tracey's 2004 documentary, Who Killed the Pageant Queen?, the professor claimed to have stunning new evidence that was leading police to a previously unidentified "prime suspect." The documentary claimed that police were trying unsuccessfully to track down the man because he had gone "underground." Tracey's film didn't name the man, but a document was shown onscreen that purported to be a police record of the suspect, with the suspect's name and address blacked out.
Griffith says an alert viewer in Scotland recorded the show and was able to do a screen capture of the police report. The image included a document number, enough information for Griffith to track down her own copy of the document.
Tracey's "prime suspect" turned out to be John Steven Gigax, who was, in fact, an acquaintance of Michael Helgoth's, who, in "intruder" theories about the murder of JonBenet, was long considered a possible suspect.
However, contrary to Tracey's claim that Gigax was underground and untraceable, Griffith found him in ten minutes with a simple Google search. "He was selling jewelry on the Internet," Griffith says.
Griffith says Gigax immediately contacted Boulder police to see if they were really looking for him.
"I talked to [Boulder District Attorney Investigator] Tom Bennett myself, and he said Gigax was never a suspect. Gigax can prove he was in Indiana on the day of the murder."
That sounds familiar. Two years later, Tracey has electrified the world with his fingering of another suspect who, it's looking likely, will turn out to have been in another state when JonBenet Ramsey was killed in the early hours of December 26, 1996. New Times tried to contact Tracey but was unable to do so.
After debunking Tracey's documentary, Griffith put out a news release (you can still find it at forumsforjustice.org), but she says she got no media interest from it.
In fact, when New Times phoned her this morning to ask about the Tracey documentary, she said she was getting no other inquiries from reporters.
As the rest of the media feed on the inconsistencies of John Mark Karr's confessions, they may soon turn their attention to the Colorado professor who has apparently yelled "Fire!" in this case before.
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