Exploiting JonBenet

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BOULDER, Colorado: The uncertain and mistake-prone investigation of JonBenet Ramsey's murder found a focus today, if only a sidelight, with the arrest of two people for illegally providing photographs of the homicide scene to a tabloid. Lawrence Smith, a processor for Photo Craft Laboratories, which develops photos for the Boulder County coroner's office, and Brent Sawyer, a private investigator and former Boulder County deputy sheriff, allegedly handed the photos over to the Globe for a $5,500 pay-off. Smith, 36, who made only $200 for the act that could get him 8 1/2 years in jail, stands accused of theft, tampering with physical evidence, obstruction of a federal investigation and false reporting. Sawyer, 38, who faces a possible six-month jail term, was charged with obstruction of justice and is currently cooperating with police in their ongoing investigation of the leak. The photographs showed the garotte used to strangle six-year-old JonBenet, a rope tied to her wrist and a scene of her body lying in the Ramsey living room, where her father had carried her after finding her in the basement. The Globe, which had asked around to see who had developed the crime scene shots, agreed to return the photos on Tuesday now that Boulder County is dropping a lawsuit against the 1.3-million circulation weekly, but retains publication rights to the photos it already ran. Outraged by the publication of the photos, the Ramsey family have posted a JonBenet Ramsey Information Update web site in which they blast the Globe editors as "jackals, not journalists" (www.rowanblewitt.com/ramsey/)