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The Ransom Note Probability
The key to understanding the
JonBenét Ramsey murder case

 

Who Murdered JonBenét Ramsey?
To answer that question, perhaps it's best to listen to John and Patsy Ramsey, the parents of the victim:
 

LARRY KING: "So you agree that whoever authored the ransom note probably killed the child?"
JOHN RAMSEY: "I agree."
PATSY RAMSEY: "I would agree with that."
(Source: the Larry King Live show - May 31, 2000 - CNN cable channel)

Who Wrote The Ransom Note?
You are about to figure that out on your own.

About This Web Page
What you are about to read, is a different type of ransom note analysis than has previously appeared on the Internet.  To our knowledge this type of analysis has never been performed by any amateur or expert.  Until now, all previous analysis of the random note has been by handwriting experts who can only offer their professional "opinion" as an end product. This web page was not written to offer any "opinion".  It is not a "handwriting analysis".  Nor does the author claim to have the lest bit of background or interest in "handwriting analysis".  This web page presents only solid visual evidence and calculations that can be easily witnessed and verified by the reader.  If you have the concentration to read through this entire web page, and the intelligence to comprehend it, by the time you are finished reading there should be no doubt in your mind who wrote the famous Ramsey ransom note.
 


Weighing The Competition
To date, there have probably been a dozen or more experts in the field of handwriting analysis who have examined the ransom note and compared it to the handwriting of Patsy Ramsey, the mother of JonBenét.  The conclusions of those experts has been split between Patsy Ramsey definitely being the author of the note, and Patsy not having a thing to do with it.  However, no handwriting analysis expert, including those hired by the Ramsey team of lawyers, has been unable to completely rule out Patsy as the author.

Here is a typical statement by one of the experts who reviewed the ransom note and compared it to the handwritten exemplars of Patsy Ramsey:
 

Leonard Speckin, (private forensic document analyst): "When I compare the handwriting habits of Patsy Ramsey with those in the note, there exists agreement to the extent that some of her individual letter formations and letter combinations do appear in  the ransom note.  When this agreement is weighed against the number, type and consistency of the differences present, I am unable to identify Patsy Ramsey as the author of the note with any degree of certainty.  I am, however, unable to eliminate her as the author."

Note the underlined areas in the quote above.  Mr. Speckin notes that everybody sees some characteristic match between Patsy's handwriting and the ransom note, but it is not enough to positively identify Patsy as the author.  Mr. Speckin, like all the other experts in his field of handwriting analysis, has a keen eye for spotting very specific traits in personal writing styles.  Even Lin Wood, the Ramsey's lawyer, knows there are consistencies between the ransom note and Patsy Ramsey's handwriting.  Here is Wood's attempt to brush off those consistencies with the same type of rhetoric Leonard Speckin used:
 

"It is very difficult for one to be eliminated as the author of an individual writing because we all tend to learn how to write in similar ways.  But the dissimilarities are so great that I believe any legitimate examiner would conclude that there's little or no chance that Patsy Ramsey wrote the note". 
(NBC Today Show - Katie Couric interview - 12/27/01)

The problem Speckin and his peers have, is the note was written by someone trying to disguise their writing.  Simply put, both Wood and Speckin know that an agreement exists that some of Patsy Ramsey's letter formations do match the ransom note, but no "legitimate examiner" in the field of handwriting analysis knows what to do with that information--so they discard it in favor of the bigger picture.  However, if Speckin and his peers had stronger backgrounds in statistical mathematics, they wouldn't be so quick to wave off a common consensus which on the surface appears to be only a minor detail.  As you are about to see, the key to unlocking the mystery of the ransom note doesn't lie in any expert's opinion of handwriting analysis, it begins and ends with mathematics.
 


Heads or Tails?
Not very many people are familiar with statistical mathematics, or the mathematical ratio of odds.  You can witness this any day of the year by the hundreds of thousands of people who throw money away in Las Vegas, making bets on game tables where the odds virtually guarantee you will lose  The following is a simple lesson which will give you the basics you need to know.

Every coin has two sides.  The odds that a coin toss will land on "heads" is a simple ratio of 1 in 2 possibilities, which is normally represented as 2:1 odds.  The odds of two consecutive tosses resulting in heads is 2:1 x 2:1 = 4:1.  The odds of three consecutive tosses resulting in heads is 2:1 x 2:1 x 2:1 = 8:1.  And...If you're foolish to bet that heads will come up five times in a row, the odds are:

2:1 x 2:1 x 2:1 x 2:1 x 2:1 = 32:1.






Powerball Anyone?
In the midwestern United States, several states have joined together to run a multi-state "Powerball" lottery with huge jackpots.  Since so many people can play, they need a game with large odds against winning.  In the Powerball lottery game, the winner has to pick the correct five numbers from a set of 50 numbered balls, and they have to pick the correct "Powerball" number from a separate set of 36 balls.  The Powerball multiplies the odds of the regular 50-ball lottery by the number of "power balls"--in this case 36.  If we were to apply a Powerball lottery to our five coin toss example above the resulting odds would be:

36:1 x (2:1 x 2:1 x 2:1 x 2:1 x 2:1) = 1152:1

Obviously, the smart person who wouldn't bet on five coin tosses resulting in heads at 32:1 odds would stay far away from an enhanced version of the same game that includes a Powerball which brings the chance of winning down to 1 in 1152 sessions of the game.

But what if we were using a dice instead of a coin and we're trying to predict what number would come up?  A dice has six sides instead of just two, so the chances a number will show up on any given roll is 1 in 6 possibilities, or 6:1 odds.  If you substitute the ratio 6:1 for every 2:1 in the formula above, you will discover that the odds of the same number coming up on a series of five dice rolls--when you also have to correctly guess the Powerball is:

36:1 x (6:1 x 6:1 x 6:1 x 6:1 x 6:1) =  27,9936:1

Know anyone foolish enough to bet you that the same number will come up on five dice rolls while they also pick a correct random number from 1 to 36?  If you do, be sure to take their bet, because they have 1 chance in 27,9936 of winning your money.

By now you're probably asking, "What does all this gambling stuff have to do with the JonBenét Ramsey case, and specifically the ransom note?!"  Well, you're about to find out.  Just make sure you understand the "gambling stuff' above, or you're wasting your time proceeding any further.
 


A Little Background History
Back in 1998, a free-lance writer from Boulder, Colorado named Frank Coffman did an analysis of the ransom note compared to an application submitted by Patsy Ramsey to enter JonBenét in a Boulder parade.  Mr. Coffman's work was impressive for someone who probably hadn't done any prior handwriting analysis.  He was able to point out consistencies in letter formations contained on both the application and ransom note that could be easily seen by anybody who took the time to look.  Perhaps some of the consistencies Coffman found may even be the same as Leonard Speckin and Lin Wood noted in their statements above.  The only real criticism that could be made of Coffman's work was while the application contained Patsy Ramsey's name and signature, there was still no proof that she actually wrote it.  That changed recently.

On December 11, 2001, for the first time, Patsy Ramsey had to answer questions under oath.  The questions were asked in a deposition by Darnay Hoffman, a lawyer representing a man named Chris Wolf in a libel suit filed in civil court.  Patsy positively identified a pageant and parade application and as being her handwriting and signature.  This web page will deal only with those known samples of Patsy's writing.

Since Frank Coffman's analysis was based on that recently identified application, we will be using the same examples sited in his 1998 analysis as a starting point, and also add examples of our own.  Note that while the consistencies in the examples we are using might possibly be the same as those referenced by Leonard Speckin, the actual examples used does not effect the outcome of this analysis.  If Leonard Speckin found a completely different set of consistencies of the same quality and quantity the end result of our analysis would be exactly the same.  It should also be noted that while we are working with only two of Patsy Ramsey's writing samples, the Boulder police removed writing samples from the Ramsey house that spanned a period of roughly 10 years.  While we are limited in the amount of Patsy's writing samples, Leonard Speckin and the other experts had volumes of additional samples to work with.  They undoubtedly found many more consistencies than we need in the analysis on this web page.  Chet Ubowski of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation is said to have found 24 of 26 letters in the ransom note which matched exemplars from Patsy Ramsey.
(If you are not familiar with the actual three-page ransom note and/or the two applications, you can view copies of them by clicking HERE.)
 


The Analysis
Now let's take a look at the first of a series of handwriting characteristics which are common between the ransom note and the pageant application.  This is the first of nine examples which show that while Patsy attempts to disguise her writing, she can't help but to slip back to her normal printing habits on occasion.
 

EXHIBIT #1 - Inconsistent typestyles.
Ransom Note
Pageant Application
Explanation
Patsy Ramsey switches back and forth between printed block letters and cursive script letters at random when printing.
Possible Variations
  • Note written completely in cursive script style text.
  • Note written in completely in printed block style text.
  • Note written as shown in a combination of both styles.
Odds = 3:1

 

How significant is the characteristic in the above exemplar?  Both Patsy Ramsey and the author of the ransom note have a consistent habit of switching back and forth between normal printed letters and script writing.  There are only three possible variations the author of the ransom note could have used which are listed in the box above.  That gives us a one-in-three possibility or 3:1 odds if we were to guess which characteristic any person would use when writing an identical exemplar.

Now let's look at eight more exhibits, which show identical characteristics between Patsy Ramsey's known writing and the ransom note:
 
 

EXHIBIT #2 - Connected letters "t" & "e".
Ransom Note
Pageant Application
Explanation
Patsy Ramsey connects the cross stroke on the letter "t" to the following letter "e" she prints.
Possible Variations
  • No connection between letter "t" and letter "e".
  • Connect between letter "t" and "e" as shown.
Odds = 2:1

 
 
 
EXHIBIT #3 - Switching letter "a" style.
Ransom Note
Pageant Application
Explanation
Patsy Ramsey switches back and forth between a "cursive" style letter "a" and a "manuscript" style letter at random intervals.
Possible Variations
  • Note written only with cursive style letter.
  • Note written only with manuscript style letter.
  • Note written as shown with both letter styles.
Odds = 3:1

 
 
 
EXHIBIT #4 - Straight letter "y" descender.
Ransom Note
Pageant Application
Explanation
Patsy Ramsey forms the letter "y" with a u-shaped arc to the right followed by a straight line downward.
Possible Variations
  • Letter formed as shown with u-shaped arc and straight tail.
  • Letter formed as shown but with tail curved off to left.
  • Letter formed as shown but with looped tail.
  • Letter formed with two straight lines instead of u-shape.
  • Letter formed with two straight lines and tail curved off to left.
  • Letter formed with two straight lines and looped tail.
Odds = 6:1

 

Let's pause for a moment and note something worth mentioning.  Did you notice in the last three exhibits (2, 3 & 4) that the odds increased from 2:1 to 3:1 to 6:1?  And remember Lin Wood's comment about the "dissimilarities" in the ransom note?  Well, what you should have noticed is that dissimilarities in this analysis are actually other possible variations that the author of the note could have used but didn't.  The more variations that were available to the note's author the higher the odds that author's exemplars would not match Patsy Ramsey's.  It's like adding more sides to a dice, the more sides you add the more numbers there are - and the less chance you have that the number you guessed will match the number that is about to be rolled.

Now lets look at the last five exhibits and their odds:
 
 

EXHIBIT #5 - Left over-hang on capital letter.
Ransom Note
Pageant Application
Explanation
Patsy Ramsey starts capital letters with an over-hang on the left side of the vertical line rather than starting at the top point of the line.
Possible Variations
  • Second stroke on capital letters with over-hang on left as shown.
  • Second stroke on capitol letters directly on top of vertical line.
  • Second stroke on capitol letters to the right, missing vertical line.
Odds = 3:1

 
 
 
EXHIBIT #6 - Connected letter "t" & "h".
Ransom Note
Pageant Application
Explanation
Patsy Ramsey connects the cross stroke on the letter "t" to the following letter "h" she prints.
Possible Variations
  • No connection between letter "t" and letter "h".
  • Connect between letter "t" and "h" as shown.
Odds = 2:1

 
 
 
EXHIBIT #7 - Connected letter "e".
Ransom Note
Pageant Application
Explanation
Patsy Ramsey connects the tail on the lower-case letter "e" to the next letter she prints.
Possible Variations
  • No connection between letter "e" and following letter.
  • Letter "e" connected to following letter as shown.
Odds = 2:1

 
 
 
EXHIBIT #8 - Letter "i" formation.
Ransom Note
Pageant Application
Explanation
Patsy Ramsey will end the letter "i" with a slight sweeping motion to the right, forming a small hook, instead of in just a straight downward stroke.
Possible Variations
  • Letter formed with small hook to right as shown.
  • Letter formed with straight line and no hook.
  • Letter formed with small hook to left.
  • Letter formed cursive style with hook to both left and right.
Odds = 4:1

 
 
 
EXHIBIT #9 - Connected Letter "A"
Ransom Note
Pageant Application
Explanation
Patsy Ramsey connects the horizontal stroke on a capital letter "A" to the following letter.
Possible Variations
  • Letter connected to following letter as shown.
  • Letter formed with no connection to following letter.
Odds = 2:1

 

OK, so now you've seen nine exhibits which contain exemplars that match Patsy Ramsey's handwriting to the ransom note.  Now lets take a look at exactly what happens when we tally up all the odds from all nine exhibits.
 


The Math
Remember our example above how the odds on a coin toss was 2:1, and a dice roll was 6:1?  Well, if we use the same formula using the odds shown in the exhibits above, we can come up with the probability someone else would print all of the nine examples above the same way Patsy Ramsey does.  Our new mathematical equation looks like this:

3:1 x 2:1 x 3:1 x 6:1 x 3:1 x 2:1 x 2:1 x 4:1 x 2:1 = 10,368:1

Interesting number, isn't it? - Slightly over "10 thousand to one" odds!  There is only a 1 in 10,368 chance that anyone other than Patsy Ramsey would write with all nine of the above characteristics.  Are you willing to place a bet at those odds?  And can you imagine what that number would grow to if we added in all the other letters on the ransom note which matched Patsy Ramsey's handwriting?  Remember those 24 of 26 letters that Chet Ubowski supposedly found in the ransom note which matched samples from Patsy Ramsey?  Just 10 more matching letters at 2:1 odds each, added to our existing nine exemplars, would bring the odds over 10 million to one.
 

Care To Play Powerball?
Statistics show that the number of children killed by an intruder in their own home are not very high.  There are however, cases like Heather Dawn Church (1991), and Stephanie Crowe (1998) where an intruder broke in and murdered the child right in the home with the parents sleeping.  In other cases like Polly Klass (1993) an intruder entered the home, abducted the child, and then murdered the child outside the home.  And there are also cases like Jaclyn Dowaliby (1988), Sabrina Aisenberg (1997), and JonBenét Ramsey (1996), where the authorities  suspect a parent committed the murder and staged a break-in to cover-up the crime.  For our purposes, we will assume that every year an adult is sick and perverted enough to break into a home and murder a young girl.

A visit to the U.S. Census Department web page tells us that there are 41, 077,577 children between the ages of 5 -14 living in the United States at the present time.  The Census Department also tells us that 7,778 of those children live in Boulder, Colorado.  If we divide both those numbers in half to roughly represent only the females in those groups, we have the numbers (20,538,788 / 3889) of young U.S. and Boulder girls that a sadistic pedophile/murderer would target in the prime 5-14 year old age range.  Simplified with a common denominator, we can see the odds that during the next 1-year period, if a young girl is murdered by a sadistic intruder, the chances she will live in Boulder, Colorado are:

5281:1

That's our Powerball.  For every 5281 young girls in the target age range, one lives in Boulder.  Now let's add the Powerball to the previous equation which gave us 10,368:1 odds as a handwriting result:

 5281:1 x (3:1 x 2:1 x 3:1 x 6:1 x 3:1 x 2:1 x 2:1 x 4:1 x 2:1) = 54,753,408:1

Can you figure out that number?  It's well over 54 million!  Let's just round it off to a nice even 55 million to 1 for discussion purposes.  You probably don't realize it, but those odds are 156 times greater than the chances you will be struck and killed by lightening any time during the next year - estimated by the National Weather Service at 350,000 to 1 odds.  Those odds are also over 3 times greater than your chances of buying the winning lottery ticket in any of the state lottery drawings where the odds are fixed at 15,890,700 to 1.
 


Conclusion
If you haven't figured it all out yet, we can make it simple for you with the following statement:

The chances that during the next year - a girl between the ages of 5-14 who lives in Boulder, Colorado - will be killed by an unknown intruder who enters her home - and the intruder's handwriting will match nine characteristics in her mother's handwriting are:

ONE in 55 MILLION






Now realize that same probability existed in the year 1996, and specifically on December 25--the night JonBenét Ramsey was murdered.
 
 

LARRY KING: "So you agree that whoever authored the ransom note probably killed the child?"
JOHN RAMSEY: "I agree."
PATSY RAMSEY: "I would agree with that."

Or was she covering for someone else...
 
 



 
 
 
 

To see the public's responce to this web page CLICK HERE!
 

This web page is part of a continuing series of articles which dispel the
myths and expose the real facts in the JonBenét Ramsey murder case.
For a complete index of those articles,
CLICK HERE
 
 

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The context of this web page is the opinion of its author and is based on published information readily available on the Internet.  All original writing is copyright and can not be used without permission.

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Revised: 12/30/01