JonBenet's Skull Fractures: The Weapon

Discussion in 'Justice for JonBenet Discussion - Public Forum' started by otg, Dec 19, 2012.

  1. otg

    otg Member

    Part-1: I believe the depressed fracture is a fingerprint of the weapon that caused it.

    For years I was almost certain that the object that was used to cause JonBenet's skull fracture was the heel of a golf putter similar to the one shown here:


    The reasons for that prior belief are as follows:

    1. The shape described in the autopsy report of the depressed portion of the fracture is rectangular. While the leaked photos of her skull didn’t exactly completely fit that description, it’s difficult to otherwise describe the shape as anything better with the information available, and I believe that a putter heel such as the one shown above would make a somewhat rectangular depressed fracture.
    2. Whatever was used had to have enough force behind it to not just crack it, but to cause a complete displacement of a comminuted portion (1/2” x 1-3/4”) of the skull.
    3. Burke was known to have injured JonBenet in the past with a golf club (although the details of that incident are still somewhat cloudy because we have to depend on the details provided by known liars).
    4. There was a plethora of available sets of golf clubs in the basement (three bags full and loose clubs in a nearby closet) where at least most of what happened had occurred.
    5. A single putter was found outside the house in some of the bushes.
    6. After being ejected from the house by BPD, John Ramsey was suspiciously interested in getting a certain set of golf clubs removed from the crime scene by his sis-in-law. (We all know the many reasons this pegs out our hinky-meters, so I won’t go into all that.)

    Now that I’ve told you why I had believed it was a putter (the most important of which was the shape of the depressed fracture), I’m going to explain how I came to the conclusion that this was not the weapon that caused all the skull injuries. Then I’ll show what I now believe actually did cause it -- and why.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2012
  2. otg

    otg Member

    Part-2: Understanding a little about the scalp.

    I first began questioning it when I realized that what had been thought and accepted to be a radiograph of her skull was actually the photoshopped product of someone’s imagination at NBC-news. You can see where and why I disputed this in the thread here at FFJ titled “The Alleged “Skull X-rayâ€. Also, a great deal of this was discussed about the same time in cynic’s thread on the weapon titled “Golf club or flashlight or…â€.

    The reason I began questioning the golf club theory is the apparent shape of the “hole†in her skull. It looked much more like an oval to me than what Dr. Meyer had described as “rectangularâ€. But there are several small fragmented pieces which appear to go outside of a perfect oval -- especially if you take as gospel what is represented in the previously assumed “X-rayâ€. But now I know that this representation is faked, certainly some of it is misinterpreted, and therefore I believe we should disregard it.

    But rather than rehash all that here, I’ll leave it to you to read the other thread and decide for yourself. What I would like to point out here is the area in the photo that I had referred to then as a “bridge of flesh†that appears to partially cover the opening of the depressed fracture. We discussed it then, but I have to bring it up again here because I believe this is where the coronal scalp incision was made for the coroner to peel the scalp away from the skull toward the front and then to the back during the autopsy. He probably cut right over the depressed fracture without realizing it at the time because he had seen no signs of injury on the outer surface of the scalp*. Understanding this is essential to seeing what is actually shown in the photo of her skull. (*In the AR, at the end of the external exam, Meyer even notes, “No scalp trauma is identified.â€)

    SCALP. Did you know there is a mnemonic for that? There are actually five layers to the scalp and they can be remembered by their acronym:
    Connective tissue
    Loose connective tissue
    That last layer is a layer of membrane-like flesh which surrounds bone (except around long bones). It is called periosteum -- or pericranium where it occurs around the skull. I believe that when the front portion of the scalp was pulled forward, most of the pericranium came up with the rest of the layers of scalp around the depressed fracture. But toward the front, as the scalp continued being reflected, some of the fleshy layer of scalp was left attached to her skull where you can even see what appears to be scalpel marks in what would be the connective tissue of the scalp remaining attached to the skull. When the back portion of the scalp was pulled, a portion of the pericranium remained attached to the skull. This is why the posterior portion of the hole is less well-defined than the anterior portion. There is a thin layer of flesh (the pericranium) covering about one third of the back portion of the hole. Some of this flesh appears almost black because it (and the skull underneath) is where the full impact of the object occurred. The dark colored flesh is part of a bruised area of scalp that saw the full impact of the weapon that hit her head.

    The following picture is of the inside of a skull showing a hemorrhage. Notice and compare the color of the hemorrhagic area to the darkened areas in the picture of JonBenet’s skull:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The first picture is described as an “Acute Subdural Hematoma†on the website it was posted, and the color is described as “red/blackâ€. An older injury (chronic) pictured below (from the same website) is described as being the color of “brownish, yellowish-orange, “machine oil†or “straw colored (or combinations of all of these).â€


    Also of note in support of my belief that the area is periosteum is in its behavior when cut. You might have come upon this when cutting certain meats or poultry, or maybe rolling out dough for some recipe. Think of some elastic-type membrane that is stretched over a more rigid muscle or bone. When a slit is cut in the membrane, it retracts, exposing the underlying flesh. But if you look at the edge of the cut, you’ll see how it tends to be thicker than the rest of the same layer (This is because of the elastic nature of the membrane). The same phenomenon may be observed when an elastic-type dough is rolled out to a thin layer and then cut (I’m thinking here about how I make Chicken and Dumplings). This is what happens when the thin elastic layer of pericranium is cut.

    I don’t want to post the pictures here due to their shocking nature, but if you have the stomach for it and enough curiosity to see what I’m talking about, go to this site ( and see (about halfway down) where they are showing how to cut a pericranial flap during a surgical procedure. Please note that this link is to a site showing very graphic images of surgical procedures done on a live (sedated) person. In fact, the word “graphic†is not really a strong enough adjective -- just be forewarned.

    If you’re able to stomach looking at the pictures, notice two things. Notice how the edge of the pericranium “bunches up†and is thicker than the rest of the membrane; and notice also how the membrane is semi-transparent so you can somewhat see through it.

    It is this rounded edge of the pericranium that glistens in the light (highlighted in the photo below of JonBenet’s wound) causing the white spots to appear along the edge. And it is the semi-transparency which allows the edges of the “hole†to show through, albeit somewhat blurred. The other factor to take into account in the overall understanding of what is shown in this photo is the dark color of the hemorrhage coinciding with the color of the hole itself, and therefore confusing the picture.

    So to sum up all of what is shown in the enlarged photo of the depressed fracture, let me state the following (and it is my opinion): The depressed fracture is almost a perfect oval, and in the only photo we have access to, it is covered in the posterior one-third with a layer of pericranial membrane which was left attached to the skull when the posterior scalp reflection was done by Dr. Meyer. (One more thing here that I feel compelled to note... I have to say that after seeing the work done by other physicians on scalp reflection, the coroner in JonBenet’s autopsy is about the sloppiest butcher I can imagine. I’ll add this to my list of failures on his part.)

    The darkened areas in this part of the photo:
    [​IMG] are hemorrhagic tissue -- not missing fragments of skull on the edge of the fracture as evidenced by the glistening light circled in the following photo (If the dark area is missing skull, there should be nothing there to reflect the light.):

    There is one fragmented edge on the right anterior edge of the depressed fracture.

    I believe this to be simply incidental and not related to the shape of the weapon that caused the fracture. It could have been a weaker spot in the skull, or it could have been a small spot in the surface of her skull that was slightly higher than the area around it causing it to see more impact from the weapon.
  3. otg

    otg Member

    Part-3: Changing direction on the weapon.

    So by accepting the apparent oval versus rectangular shape of the depressed fracture, I feel I can discount reason #1 (on my list from above in the first post) for thinking that a golf club caused it.

    Here is the abbreviated list from above with my current thoughts about each in red after each:
    1. The shape: rectangular vs. oval.
      It is oval. This is enough reason in itself to discount the golf club and open up the possibility of other potential weapons.
    2. Enough force to cause a complete displacement of a portion of the skull.
      I can’t discount the possibility of a putter having enough force to cause it; but this doesn’t necessarily exclude the viability of other objects as the weapon.
    3. Burke was known to have injured JonBenet in the past with a golf club.
      Anecdotal -- and in itself not proof of anything. Its only value is in the total context of it with other reasons.
    4. A plethora of golf clubs in the basement.
      Yes, there were; but like #3 above, its only value is in the total context of it with other reasons. There were also other items that could have been used in and around the house.
    5. A putter found outside.
      Also found outside were two baseball bats -- one of which had on it fibers from the carpet in the basement. (Hello?)
    6. JR’s interest in getting a set of golf clubs removed from the crime scene.
      This could have been to remove a particular golf club as well as any of various other incriminating items (rope, tape, bloodied cloth and/or panties, gloves, paintbrush ends, etc.).
    When I did previously think the putter was the most likely weapon, I had this one lingering doubt that bothered me. That was that it seemed almost inconceivable that the sharp corners on a putter would have not caused some external cut, scrape, or bruising of some sort that would be noticeable on the scalp before it was reflected.

    My conclusion after all this is that the putter (or some other golf club) did not cause the depressed fracture. So the question now is, “What object would have been accessible that night, that could have sufficient force behind it to cause this type of wound, and would result in the shape of depressed fracture that was found in JonBenet’s skull without causing much external scalp damage?â€
  4. otg

    otg Member

    Part-4: Defining the shape of the hole (and trying to remember my geometry).

    Using Meyer’s AR dimensions of 1/2” by 1-3/4” in the photo below, the linear fracture is separated just about 1/8” (by my roughly scaled approximation):

    In the following enlargement, notice the two edges of the skull along the linear crack right at the upper edge of the “hole” (circled). Before the skull was fractured, they were attached, so it seems to me (and by looking at them up close) that they should fit together.

    If I divide an enlargement of the depressed fracture into two separate photos, cropped at the edge of the linear fracture:
    [​IMG] . [​IMG]

    and then put them back together without the 1/8” separation,
    [​IMG]I get a more correct representation of the depressed fracture (the “hole”). Perhaps someone with better photo software can do a better job than I can overlaying the two sides. I’m limited to what I can do with Microsoft Picture Manager, but hopefully you get the general idea.

    Now I’ll draw an oval along the edge of the result and you can see how well it matches:

    This is why I believe that the depressed fracture was caused by an object that left an almost perfect oval in her skull. Of course, the obvious question then is, “What shape would that object have?”

    This is where an epiphany struck me in what I have to confess is a personally sensitive area. You see, I reached a point in my education (some time ago) where I figured I just wasn’t cut out for college. That point occurred for me in my attempt to understand Calculus and Analytical Geometry. Now, I regret not trying a little longer, but I do remember enough to recall a little about the intersection of 3-dimensional forms.

    What we have in this case is a sphere (the skull) intersecting with another unknown object, and the resulting collision or impact of those two objects is the intersection. An oval is the resulting intersection of a larger diameter sphere with a smaller diameter cylinder. If we know the curvature of the sphere and the approximate dimensions of this intersection, mathematically we could calculate the diameter of the cylindrical object. Well... at least someone who didn’t flunk out of college level geometry might be able to calculate it. I, on the other hand, have to figure it by trial and error, or by trying different diameter cylinders to see if I can find the approximate size of the object.

    (Later I’ll explain how the same object that caused this oval-shaped depressed fracture also caused the linear fracture that ran almost the length of the top of her skull.)

    Assuming Meyer’s dimensions of the depressed fracture (1/2” by 1-3/4”) are correct, we have an oval whose width to length ratio is 1:3.5.

    (Note: I don’t know whether to include the 1/8” separation in Meyer’s measurements, or if the linear crack separated only after the top portion of the skull was removed during autopsy. So I left it out and made no adjustment for it.)
  5. DeeDee

    DeeDee Member

    The dark area on JB's skull is a HOLE. The corresponding piece was punched IN towards her brain. That is what "depressed fracture" means. This doesn't mean that there was not any hemorrhagic tissue on the edges, but the first photo is misleading because it is not JB's skull and the hemorrhagic area inside that skull may have resulted from a different injury. In JBs skull it looks dark in the photo because we are looking at an actual hole in the skull and not an area of hemorrhage inside an intact skull.
  6. Elle

    Elle Member

    otg I am more than impressed with your posts here and the time taken to arrive at your theory - it was not a golf club which caused this oval shaped injury on JonBenét's skull. Truthfully, I will need the help of my husband, a retired engineer to understand some of the technical jargon. We can both go over your posts tomorrow, and I hope I can understand more. This is so interesting! Thank you!
  7. otg

    otg Member

    I am absolutely aware of the two types of fractures present on JonBenet’s skull. That is why I always refer to them as what they are, and I’m careful to differentiate between the two. If you recall, I had posted definitions of the four types of fractures that can occur to a skull at the bottom of this post back in August. Of course, JonBenet only had two those, but I felt it important to define our terms for future reference.

    It certainly was not my intent to mislead anyone with that one photo. Obviously it is not JonBenet’s skull, nor is it even the same type of tissue/membrane because it is a subdural hematoma (on the inside of the skull). It came from this site, and its only purpose was to show just how dark a hemorrhage appears next to uninjured tissue.

    DeeDee, I hope you know how much I value your opinion. It seems that the only disagreement you have with what I have written so far is whether or not the two darkened areas are part of the displaced skull, or are part of the pericranium as I believe. I think the lighting reflections that I circled at least indicate that there is something there other than simply an open “holeâ€. And the fact that the upper three circled reflections are in line with where we can see the edge of the cut pericranial membrane on either side of the skull makes me believe that it is this thin membrane stretched across the open space left by the missing fragments of skull.

    But that alone does not account for the two darkened areas on either side. Granted, I don’t have any definitive proof that those two areas are indeed contused flesh instead of missing bone. But that is my opinion based on the lighting, the appearance of the other darkened areas below that, and the exact color of those two areas compared with the color of the area that we know is open space.

    But it doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with me on that one point. My entire theory on what caused the fractures doesn’t hinge on this. Please just hang with me for a while, DeeDee, and see if the rest of what I post will make sense to you.
  8. otg

    otg Member

    Thank YOU, Elle. I hope your engineer husband doesn’t think you’re as daft as my wife does me for spending so much time discussing all this. I hope also that he will later appreciate the information I present in some animations I’m working on to illustrate the mechanical forces that caused the head injuries.

    Like I asked DeeDee... Just hang with me for a while.
  9. koldkase

    koldkase FFJ Senior Member

    OMG! I mean, OTG! ;)

    I'm so far behind! You and cynic, with your graphics and technical skills, are amazing!

    I'll catch up, I promise. In the meantime, thanks so much for your work. I swear, y'all are amazing! Oh, I said that already. But it's DOUBLE TRUE! :clap:
  10. Cherokee

    Cherokee FFJ Senior Member

    OTG, it's great to have you back posting - you've been missed!

    I see what you mean about the thin membrane being pulled back from the opening of the skull fracture. It makes sense. I've always wondered what that glistening white reflection was, but I never thought about Meyer not exposing all of the fracture for a good look at it. Apparently, he only peeled back about half of the membrane over the fracture before he took a photo. I knew Meyer wasn't thorough, but I never thought about him doing such sloppy, half-arse work also.

    It will be interesting to see what you feel is a weapon that matches the impact depression on JBR's skull and sends the force of the blow in a line towards her forehead.

    Attached Files:

  11. DeeDee

    DeeDee Member

    I'm hangin' on!
  12. Elle

    Elle Member

    I think my husband is a bit amazed at me otg, because I am still interested in this case after all the years of posting on the board at FFJ, but I have met so many interesting intelligent people here, and we all need something to latch on to. I am sorry it was Little JonBenét's death which brought us all together, but I quite believe we might find the answers when we have diligent posters like all you younger ones with your graphics and explanations. I am more than impressed!

    Are you in the medical field. otg?
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 21, 2012
  13. BOESP

    BOESP Member

    I still think the damage compares favorably to a low velocity-high pressure type trauma.

    Steve Thomas, according to his book, described his theory in a way that also fits with low velocity-high pressure (as opposed to high velocity-low pressure, which would likely be consistent with a swung object coming into contact with JonBenet's skull).

    I know everyone is tired of hearing me say this but low velocity-high pressure fits the dynamics of the wound. If that split in the skull was not 8" long and spanning the area from front to back I'd be more amendable to other considerations.:couch:
  14. otg

    otg Member

    Welcome to FFJ, BOESP.

    I remember your mentioning this several times before when I had only enough time to read and didn’t post very much. I don’t know if you have a particular object in mind, or if you think that this would have to be the case because of the linear fracture. If I understand the dynamics and the physics (and all that other stuff I paid no attention to in school), I believe the pressure required to cause a certain amount of damage would be the same regardless of the velocity of the object. The difference in velocity would be made up in the amount of weight being swung because of inertia (I think).

    Taken to the extreme low end of velocity, zero velocity would be if an object were placed on top of her head that had enough weight that it could cause the fracture. On the opposite end extreme, an object swung with extremely high velocity would have to have a very minimal amount of weight in order to cause that same amount of damage without continuing (because of its inertia) to completely crush the entire skull.

    So if I understand what you are saying (correct me if I am wrong), the difference would actually be not in the amount of pressure at the point of impact, but would be in the amount velocity versus weight of the object. Like a balancing scale, when one goes up (velocity or weight), the other would have to come down.

    But we have people here with a lot more knowledge than I have. Maybe one of them will weigh in and enlighten us both.

    I don’t think that the object used was actually swung with very much force. I think, and I hope to demonstrate when I get everything wrapped up, that it was the shape of the weapon which caused the exact shape of the depressed fracture, and caused the linear fracture to form.
  15. BOESP

    BOESP Member

    Thanks for the thoughtful response otg.

    A heavier weight applied to the head would definitely increase pressure. Keep in mind that the terms "low" and "high" are relative.

    In my opinion, the point of impact (oval shape as illustrated in your post) is not likely high velocity (such as a bullet or other high velocity element) because of the lack of deep penetration and size/shape of the piece of displaced skull.

    I can only speculate what type contact was made (I have no access to original records or evidence), however, Steve Thomas did have access and his opinion matches what I've seen in the autopsy report and photos that are available to the public.

    JonBenet could have been shoved into a door knob (height and placement of the injury are consistent with that possibility); she could have been shoved down on to something; Patsy could have slung her around when cleaning her after a soiling incident and pushed her against something or even fallen on her (thus creating a low velocity wound with high pressure applied). This is my speculation in trying to make an effort to explain possibilities for a low velocity-high pressure wound.

    I could be all wet but hitting her with a golf club didn't, in my opinion, create an 8" lineal fracture front-to-back. It is hard to tell exactly what happened just looking at photos on a computer screen. :)
  16. wombat

    wombat Member

    Over on the Kolar Book thread, I posted the following (Post No. 222):

    I have chatted with a few people and gotten a number for the shear strength of bone of about 9000 psi, although it could vary a bit, and actually be much higher. The failure of JonBenet's skull at the depressed fracture is a shear failure. Whatever hit her had to develop a pressure at impact greater than about 9000 psi. That's not that hard to do - a whipped golf club could easily create a pressure that high over a small area, initiating the fracture.

    I have never wanted to do this math because it's not my area of expertise ( I analyze structural failures) and we simply don't have enough information on the fracture, just that autopsy photo.

    Looking forward to listening to the fabulous Tricia's fabulous show in a little while with you all.
  17. koldkase

    koldkase FFJ Senior Member

    I'm with you up to this point and just want to mention that I do remember the other thread where these technical issues were debated at length, in relation to the weapon being a golf club or not.

    I will stay that I appreciate the length to which you have gone to describe the gelatinous-looking, glistening tissue bridging the comminuted fracture of the skull. I personally have always considered it to be a tissue or membrane of some sort, though I've never known what it was called and thanks so much for detailing all this for us.

    I guess one reason I never thought of this "displaced" part of the skull fracture as two different, separate comminuted fractures is because it wasn't described as such in the least, not as I remember it.

    Anyway, just to say I'm with you so far and moving on. Fascinating stuff, Otg. You might have felt unsuccessful in college in these subjects, but you certainly learned a lot as you are quite creatively applying what you absorbed. I'd never have thought of it, myself. Well done.
  18. koldkase

    koldkase FFJ Senior Member

    I swear, I love it when you talk physics like that.

    One thing I think people tend to overlook in this case is the LACK of bruising in areas there should be lots of it if, say, JonBenet fell or were swung against something hard enough to cause such a fracture. She lived some length of time after the head injury, according to many credible sources, so bruising of her extremities or other areas of impact or even intense pressure should have been present at autopsy.

    That would have given a more precise perspective on how she got that cracked skull, I believe.

    A puzzle we haven't seen resolved is exactly why there was no swelling of the scalp or outer expression of that horrific skull injury, like a scalp wound which bled externally. I feel like there is an explanation a decent forensic medical examiner could give us, but without a trial, all we get are peripheral remarks or speculations made with a news media timer ticking away. And we haven't had any of those in many years now.

    With that being said, we have to try to put together all the clues, including lack of significant bruising or other broken or fractured bones, particularly the delicate neck bones. Without any documented evidence at autopsy of any significant impact other than the skull fracture and possibly the small, round bruise on her upper jaw, the indication to me is that the skull fracture was caused by a single blow of some kind.

    I'm just speculating, of course, so I may be entirely wrong. Still reading, too....
  19. koldkase

    koldkase FFJ Senior Member

    I'm not tired of it, as I don't believe I've seen your ideas on this before.

    I'd be interested in your thoughts, absolutely.

    Since I believe JB's blood was on her pillowcase and therefore she might have even received this head injury on her own bed, I have wondered if that might have accounted for the lack of other types of bruises or injuries she might have otherwise displayed had she been on or collapsed onto a hard surface.

    But I've never been able to get any further than that with this idea.

    So, please, do tell....
  20. BOESP

    BOESP Member

    Think about a raw egg and hitting it to crack the shell when you are baking. That is low velocity-high pressure. Think about what happens in this process. There is a small impact area and the shell cracks nearly all around.

    Then think about hitting a raw egg with, say, a #16 nail; that produces a hole and some small fractures but not a fracture that travels left and right from the impact point all the way to the anterior and posterior points on the eggshell. This is similar to being struck with an object. The above is similar to the "head" (egg) striking an object (the countertop).

    If you aren't tired reading, here's an edited cut-and-paste from Websleuths posted there by me several years ago:

    "Based on the public autopsy report and physics, it is unlikely a striking blow could leave a hole that size in the back of the head and a more than 8-inch fracture and there be so relatively little damage to the underlying tissue at the impact point. The length a fracture would/could travel (in this case 8.25 to 8.5 inches, depending on what you read), especially crossing suture lines in a pliable skull, with little damage to the underlying tissue, is limited and likely no where near 8.5 inches.

    A swung weapon, relatively, could be low or high velocity depending on several factors. Regardless, her brain matter would be mutilated by the weapon at the contact point more deeply in the brain tissue if enough force was used to create that 8-inch fracture. Bullet wounds, depending on caliber and other factors, are generally high velocity/low pressure (very simply put -- lots of speed but little relative force to the surrounding area). A two-pound hand weight (which might fit that wound) if swung hard enough to make that long fracture would mutilate the brain matter underneath the contact point.

    If someone grabbed a child by the collar while pressing their thumb into the child's neck it might do several things. Depending on where the pressure was, even that thumb could subdue the child. If the child was pushed into a doorknob hard enough, that could produce a displaced skull section that didn't break the skin but it would be nearly impossible to create an 8-inch fracture that way. If, however, someone fell on a child after the head struck the doorknob, that would create relatively high pressure to an already existing wound and could force the original, shorter fracture to lengthen. Same thing with pushing a child's head into an immovable object like a heavy bath tub. The pushing motion is low velocity but the possible momentum of pressing the heading against the blunt object would create relatively high pressure, especially if force was used. Force is relative -- an adult pressing a small child is relatively more forceful than two adults doing the same action.

    She very well could have been thrown, as you said. There are just so many variables about how that head wound could have happened but I can't see high velocity being one of them because of the lack of underlying damage at the point of impact coupled with the length of the fracture. A striking blow would probably lead to a fracture but not one that traveled from the back of the head to just above the brow line in front and certainly not one that left relatively little underlying mutilation to the brain.

    Even just using lay common sense to think it through, the "for-example argument" of a three-hundred pound man swinging a bat, on the face of it, is not consistent with JonBenet's wound. Her brain would be mush underneath the contact point. Not to mention, she would have to be in a position to receive a wound that would allow an arm to swing the weapon and hit her on the back, right-hand side. That's a wide arc for those who believe she was struck while in that cluttered basement. Just think about how long your arm is then add in the length of whatever weapon you think was used -- it is highly unlikely that could happen in that basement.

    I'm not a physician, firearms expert, or a physicist. I just have contact with some people who are."
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