Profiler slipped up

By Chuck Green
Denver Post Columnist

Jan. 30, 1997-

There's an old adage that goes something like this: Actions speak louder than words. In the criminal field, there's a time-tested twist to the adage: Behavior is more telling than words.

But former FBI profiler John Douglas, who has worked for the family in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, seems to have veered from that old principle.

In his interview with "Dateline NBC" this week, Douglas has said that "his heart" tells him that JonBenet's parents, John and Patsy, weren't involved in her murder. And he relies heavily on his 4 1/2 hour interview with the couple to reach his conclusion, he said. If John Ramsey is a liar, Douglas said on national TV, he's one of the best.

But one of Douglas's former FBI colleagues, Gregg McCrary, watched the television interview with more than a passing interest. He turned down the job as the Ramsey family's profiler a couple of weeks ago. McCrary found some notable flaws in Douglas' profiling work for the Ramseys. NBC referred, without contradiction from Douglas, to the profiler's "interview with the parents for 4 1/2 hours."

McCrary said the parents should have been interviewed separately, not jointly, for the profiling work to be valid. "That's always the correct way to do this. It's fundamental," McCrary said. "You separate the people, you interview them independently, you lock them into statements and then you compare." To do otherwise virtually invalidates the effort, he said. And he wasn't impressed with Douglas' conclusion that John Ramsey is telling the truth. "I've talked to guilty offenders in the penitentiary, and some of them are so manipulative and persuasive that they almost have you believing they didn't do it," he told me yesterday.

Top-notch criminal profilers, he said, "always put more weight on behavior than on words. The behavior of the offender is much more telling than what he says later," McCrary said. And the behavior of JonBenet's killer speaks very, very loudly.

For instance, McCrary said evidence at the scene strongly disputes any theory that the killer may have been a disgruntled employee of Ramsey. "This crime was not about getting back at the father," said McCrary, who couldn't recall a case of "someone killing a kid to get back at a parent." He said the sexual assault of JonBenet "was a deviant, psychopathic sexual behavior, not an expression of anger at the father."

If revenge on the father had been a motive, McCrary said, "the killer would have displayed the body; he wouldn't have hidden it in the basement."

The profiler said the body would have been placed in a manner "to shock and offend" John Ramsey if anger or hate or revenge had been the motive.

Additionally, he said that by assaulting JonBenet, killing her, taking her from an upper-floor bedroom to a far corner of the basement and writing a lengthy ransom note - all negated a revenge killing.

"If that had been the reason for a killer being in the house that night," McCrary said, "they would have killed the little girl and gotten out as fast as possible."

It's that behavior that a profiler puts most credence in, rather than in someone's words, according to McCrary. And McCrary comes with unusually good credentials. Douglas himself considers McCrary to be among "the top criminal profilers and investigative analysts in the world."

Chuck Green can be reached at cgreen@denverpost.com.