The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 11, 1997 · Page 8
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 8

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Saturday, October 11, 1997
Page 8
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AS SATURDAY, OCTOBER 11,1997 NATION THE SALINA JOURNAL T JONBENET MURDER CASE Lead detective in case replaced Police chief says there were missteps made in first hours after murder By MARY BOYLE The Associated Press y; The Associated Press Tom Koby, Boulder, Colo., police chief, holds a copy of the U.S. Constitution on Friday to chastise the media for pushing the limits of the protection offered by the First Amendment In covering the JOnBenet Ramsey murder case. BOULDER, Colo. — The lead investigator in the JonBenet Ramsey slaying was replaced Friday as the police chief acknowledged for the first time that missteps were made in the early hours of the case. Police chief Tom Koby. also admitted that relations have been strained between detectives and prosecutors, and announced changes in how the two departments would work together on the case. "It is accurate to say if we had to do it all over again, we would do it differently," Koby said. "At the same time, we responded the best we could." Detectives who arrived first at the Ramsey home on Dec. 26 thought the 6-year-old beauty queen had been kidnapped — not killed — and "did what was necessary to manage a kidnapping situation," Koby said. He defended investigators' work, saying they "responded well to what we thought we were confronted with," and said few agencies would have handled it differently. Critics of the investigation have said police allowed the crime scene to be trampled and permitted JonBenet's father to look for the body, which he found and moved. Koby, talking publicly about the case for the first time since February, named Cmdr. Mark Beckner to head the investigation JONBENET that has stymied police for 10 months. Koby also said three investigators were being added, making a total of eight who will concentrate solely on the case. Beckner will take over from Cm- dr. John Eller, who had been running the detective bureau while also looking for JonBenet's killer. Koby said the changes will "better enable us to finish the work we still have to do." Disagreements between police and prosecutors over how to handle possible suspects have also prompted a change in the district attorney's involvement in the case, Koby said. "There is a need for some of the intensity and past difficulties of relationships to be removed," Koby said. District Attorney Alex Hunter and his staff will have less daily involvement in the investigation because they have wanted to be less antagonistic with possible suspects than police, who prefer a "hard-line" approach, Koby said. Hunter's office released a statement saying: "We support Chief Koby's recognition that a reorganization was needed." He declined to elaborate. Koby decided to make the leadership change after Boulder investigators and prosecutors met last month with FBI experts in Quantico, Va., to review the case. Koby declined to address the scope of the investigation or the possibility of an arrest. Hunter has said the girl's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, are a focus of the investigation. But the Ramseys have criticized police for spending too much time investigating them and not enough trying to find the real killer. Some criticized the shakeup, saying it could hurt prosecutors', chances for a conviction if an ar^ ; rest is made. "Any defense attorney is now going to be able to paint a picture; of an investigation that is in gross, disarray," said Craig Silverman,; former prosecutor in the Denver district attorney's office. "This was a very good day for whbever killed JonBenet, assuni/ ing they want to get away with it,'": he said. "> Others said the changes could be positive. "It indicates that the police chief wants a sort-of new insight," said Christopher Mueller, a law professor at the University of Colorado. Llndsborg Commercial Building Metal construction on concrete slab with approximately 1,800 square feet. 3 separate work areas plus office & bath space. Great highway frontage at 214 S. Cole. $49,500. Carol Gusenius 785-227-3694 785-227-2913 T TRIPLE MURDER CASE IP Police: Man who led double life kills 3 lyiassachusetts man allegedly had a wife in one town and a gfirlfriend and sons in another By ALISON FITZGERALD Tlie Associated Press LOWELL, Mass. — Peter Contos had a wife ii* one town and a girlfriend and two sons in another community 15 miles away. And neither woman knew of the other, since he used his position in the Air National Guard as an excuse for his long absences from home. * If Contos was starting to feel the pressures of keeping his two worlds separate, as some sus- pfect, he didn't wait to get caught in a lie. "•'instead, he killed the girlfriend and the boys and stashed the youngsters' bodies in his locker a(a military base on Cape Cod, authorities say. ^Contos, 31, is jailed without bail, charged with murder for allegedly strangling 35-year- olel Catherine Rice and their sons, Benjamin, 4, and Ryan, 2 months old, at their apartment iti'Lowell on Sept. 27. ^pnly last year, Contos had married Robyn Hetu, and the couple were living in a house in S'tbneham that they shared with Hetu's parents. " Within two months, however, Rice became pregnant with Contos' second child. More re- c|ihtry, he assured her they would get a house together south of Boston. ''"She was ecstatic. She thought he was moving in with her and they were looking for a bigger place, and she thought everything was go- T CORONER'S CASE The Associated Press Peter Contos (center) sits with his attorney, James Curtis (left) during proceedings last month in district court in Lowell, Mass. ing well," said Rice's college friend Ann Gale. Friends said Rice had long believed that it was Contos' Air Force duties that kept him away from home. He apparently told his wife the same story. "There were so many stories about him being in different places," said Rice's father, Ce- cil Rice. (In truth, Contos was no longer in the Air Force full time; he was in the National Guard and had worked some security jobs.) Rice even arranged recently to have all her calls forwarded to a cellular phone so she wouldn't miss Contos' calls. "She was always bumming when she'd miss his call," Gale said. "He'd call her and say, 'I can't give you the number where I am but I'll call you back." " Over the years, Contos had refused to meet Rice's parents. He was a shadowy figure in their lives, occasionally mentioned by Benjamin. They thought it was strange, but deferred to their daughter's judgment. More recently, however, Rice had been expecting Contos to be around more often, her parents said. They said she told them he'd be there for the birth of their second child. But she went into labor two weeks early, and on July 21, Contos never responded to her pages, said her mother, Shirley Rice. Eventually, Rice called her parents, and Cecil Rice acted as labor coach for Ryan's birth. Still, Rice gave Ryan his father's last name, something she hadn't done four years earlier when Benjamin was born. In recent weeks, Rice had brought the two boys to Otis Air Force Base, 75 miles .away on Cape Cod, several times to see Contos. The young mother had planned to go there again on Sept. 27, the day she was found slain, her mother said. Rice's body was found in her bathtub. The boys' bodies were found stuffed in a plastic bag in Contos' locker at the base. Medical examiner is accused of breaking bone in dead man's neck New Jersey case has drawn bitter lines in world of top coroners By The Associated Press NEWARK, N.J. — A coroner with a reputation for finding suspicious deaths where others didn't is on trial for his professional life, accused of breaking a bone in a dead man's neck to make a suicide look like a murder. The case of Claus Speth, which went to the jury Friday, has pitted some of the nation's best-known niedical examiners against each other and revealed a political, ego- charged world of doctors who dbn't like being second-guessed. vAt issue is the death of Ronald Ptittorak, a 43-year-old accountant wfio was found hanging by bed- sheets in his Essex County jail cell inU993. Puttorak's family suspected foul play rather than the official autop- sy.ifinding of suicide, and it hired Sffeth for help pursuing a possible vfitongful-death lawsuit against We state. t'-They missed something!" Speth shouted to an assistant sftbrtly after examining the dead irian's throat. "'Speth claimed to have noticed a break in the small, U-shaped hy- old bone at the base of the tongue, aft injury more consistent with a strangulation death than a hanging. He also said he found surrounding bleeding tissue, indicating the bone had broken when Ptittorak was still alive. The state medical examiner's of- flge contends the bone was not broken until Speth examined it, an,d said no hemorrhaging tissue existed. gAfter Speth came under criminal investigation in the case, he was essentially abandoned by the people who hired him in the first p&ce. Puttorak's family dropped him from the case and eventually The Associated Press Claus Speth was charged with evidence-tampering, lying under oath and tampering with a witness. accepted that it was a suicide after all. Speth, 61, was charged with evidence-tampering, lying under oath and tampering with a witness. If convicted, he could get up to five years in prison. Prosecutor Glenn Goldberg told jurors at the end of the monthlong trial that Speth broke the bone in the body to advance the Puttorak's wrongful-death claims and make himself look like a forensic genius. "Lawsuit.... Expert witness. Ex- pert testimony. Money," Goldberg said, explaining the motive. Defense attorney Gerald Krovatin said Speth was framed by colleagues who wanted to make him the villain. Someone either accidentally or deliberately broke the neck bone, then cut away the bleeding tissue Speth had found while examining the neck, the lawyer said. "Was this tissue removed to make Dr. Speth look like a liar?" Krovatin asked. "Who's going to get indicted next for that?" The case has drawn bitter lines in the small world of top coroners, pitting prosecution expert Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner, against defense expert Cyril Wecht, the coroner who became famous for disputing the single- bullet theory in the assassination of President Kennedy. Baden testified that Speth asked him to intervene on his behalf with Dr, Geetha Natarajan, the then-acting state medical examiner who reported her suspicions about the broken bone to authorities. Prosecutors said Speth had a vendetta against Natarajan and created a phony citizens group that mailed out critical letters about her. Speth's attorneys noted that Baden was a godfather to Natarajan's children and argued that Baden was biased in her favor. BILLS BILLS BILLS CONSOLIDATE $10,000-$110/mo. $50,000 -^550/mo. NO EQUITY REQUIRED 1-800-819-7010 HOMEOWNERS ONLY NATIONWIDE LENDING CORP. 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