Searching: Other Suspects?

A Man Obsessed?

On the cold December night that marked the first anniversary of JonBenet's murder, dozens of mourners showed up for a candlelight vigil outside the Ramsey home. One man in particular caught the eye of detective Lou Smit.

"Many times, criminals do return to the scene. And that was on the anniversary. That puts him right there at the Ramsey house a year later," says Smit.

The man was Gary Oliva, 38, a convicted sex offender from Oregon who made frequent trips to Boulder. He has been classified as a paranoid schizophrenic. He was convicted of assaulting another 7-year-old girl in Oregon, and spent time in prison.

Smit is convinced that a pedophile came into the Ramsey home and killed their daughter. "I've probably got 25 good leads. And I probably have another 50 pages of other leads to follow," he says.

Among the files he's keeping on sex offenders in Boulder, Gary Oliva's name stands out. Police said that in 1991, months after he sexually assaulted the little girl, Oliva tried to strangle his mother with a telephone cord. And in December 1996, Oliva, then a fugitive and a homeless drifter, may have been less than a block away from the Ramsey's house.

John Sanegustin and Ollie Gray, the Ramseys' private investigators, say Oliva frequented buildings owned by a local church, which fed homeless people. The buildings were 10 houses away from the Ramsey house.

According to Smit, Oliva called his friend right after the murder, crying, and said he would never be able to go to his house again, because the friend had children.

"The phone call started with him sobbing into the phone," said Michael, the man whom Oliva called. Michael is Oliva's best friend from high school. "He was sobbing on the phone. He related to me that he'd done something horrible." Oliva mentioned he was in Boulder.

The call, Michael says, came just days after the Ramsey murder. Gary told him he had hurt a child. "He was sobbing like you've never heard a grown man sob or cry before in your life. And I knew it was serious. I knew this very serious." So serious that Michael, who lived in a nearby state, called Boulder police.

What made Michael most worried was the cassette tapes the two had exchanged. After high school, Michael and Gary thought a fun way to keep in touch was through audio tapes.

"I'd go to Carl Jr.'s and interview someone, He'd go to the store and interview a macaroon cookie. Stupid stuff," says Michael.

But in 1989, Oliva's tapes, once amusing, changed dramatically. "The tapes started getting darker, more depraved, and sicker, it would turn my stomach," says Michael.

According to Michael, on one tape Oliva pretended he's been left alone to babysit a friend's daughter. According to Michael, Oliva talks about raping a little girl. As the tape continues, Oliva appears to be simulating a rape. On another tape, he talks about hurting a child.

"Some of the things I do like making bacon strips out of little girl, you see, I'm into it, you know," he claims Oliva said.

"These tapes are not a joke. These tapes are not a joke at all," says Michael.

Michael says he left all his information on the Boulder police tip line. "I told them about the cassette tapes. I told them about the phone call. I told them about what I knew."

No one from the police called him and asked to listen to any of those tapes. "I mentioned I had cassette tapes. I mentioned I had hand writing samples. I don't know what it's worth but I thought, here's a lead you might want to follow up on. I know this fellow was in Boulder, Colo., and I called up and told them that."

What did the Boulder police do with the tip? Nothing. According to Lou Smit, the Boulder Police didn't follow up on 95 percent of the more than 3,000 phone tips that came in. In Oliva's case, police didn't investigate him until nearly four years after JonBenet's death, when Oliva was caught with drugs - and a stun gun.

Oliva, who is wanted in Oregon for probation violations, turned himself in to the Boulder police two weeks ago. He claims he never used that stun gun on a child. He says he did not hurt or kill JonBenet.

When asked whether he told his friend he was attracted to little girls, he says: "I don't want to talk about that."

While Oliva says he doesn't remember making the disturbing audiotapes, what he will admit to is an obsession with JonBenet. "I believe that she came to me after she was killed and revealed herself to me. I'd like to see a memorial set up for her. I haven't seen that, anywhere," he says.

As it turns out, 48 Hours Investigates is not the only one interested in Oliva. A Boulder police officer assigned to the Ramsey case was in the room taking notes while Moriarty interviewed Oliva.

The Ramsey investigators had to physically take the evidence to the police before they would even evaluate it.

Why aren't the Boulder police taking these leads more seriously? Police have dismissed Oliva because his DNA doesn't match evidence at the scene. The Ramseys say police have a double standard: While some suspects have been cleared because their DNA doesn't match, they have not been cleared for the same reason.

Just this week, police said Oliva is not a suspect. Sources say his DNA doesn't match evidence at the scene.

JonBenet Ramsey would have been 12 years old this year and starting the sixth grade. Instead, she's in a Georgia cemetery, while her brutal killer or killers go free.

Searching For A Killer: Part I



  • David Kohn

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