Lab Worker Arrested For Selling Crime Photos Deputy-Turned-Private-Eye Also Accused Of Being Middle Man In Sale To Tabloid

Police arrested a photo lab worker and a former sheriff’s deputy Wednesday, accusing them of selling pictures from the JonBenet Ramsey murder scene to the Globe.

Lawrence Shawn Smith, 36, of Boulder, a technician at Photo Craft Laboratories, where investigators’ film was being developed, stole the pictures for $200, police said.

He faces charges of felony theft, felony tampering with physical evidence and two misdemeanors - obstructing government operations and false reporting to authorities.

Brett A. Sawyer, 38, a private investigator and former sheriff’s deputy, was issued a misdemeanor summons for obstructing government operations.

Sawyer - who confessed his role to police - talked Smith into giving him the pictures, they said. He was paid $5,500 by the Globe, a supermarket weekly.

The Globe’s publication of the pictures sparked a sideshow controversy to the now 3-week-old investigation into the slaying of the 6-year-old Little Miss Colorado, who was found strangled in her parents’ basement the day after Christmas.

Sawyer, who worked for the sheriff’s department in 1980 and 1981, approached investigators over the weekend.

He said he’d been contacted by the managing editor of Globe Communications for help locating copies of the ransom note found in the Ramsey home, crime scene photos and police information.

“I screwed up,” Sawyer told KCNC Channel 4. “I made a huge error in judgment.”

Within four hours of the assignment he had the photographs and they were en route to the Globe, he said.

“They told me they weren’t going to publish them and I believed them,” Sawyer said.

The Globe told him it needed the photographs so that they could be submitted to a coroner for review, he said.

Sawyer, who has a 6-year-old son, said he feels he did an injustice to the Ramseys and to his home town.

“I hope the people of Boulder can realize that I didn’t mean to hurt the Ramseys,” he said. “I got caught up in the media craze and I’m embarrassed about it.”

He said he called many of his clients to say he understood if they dropped him.

Sawyer said he is working with authorities to determine what to do with the $5,500 he received from the Globe. He expects to donate the money.

Smith, the lab worker, told detectives that Sawyer claimed he was working for the private investigators hired by the Ramsey family, and Smith believed he was “helping to find the murderer,” according to an arrest report.

Investigators found copies of negatives from coroner’s crime scene and autopsy photos in old film cans there, the arrest report said.

Smith allegedly printed up to 20 photographs and told Sawyer he could get more, authorities said.

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