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Charles Montaldo

Jury Indicted JonBenet's Parents, But D.A. Balked in 1999

By January 29, 2013

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The grand jury investigating the death of JonBenet Ramsey indicted both her parents in 1999, but the district attorney refused to sign the indictment and prosecute the case. District Attorney Alex Hunter did not believe he had enough evidence to convict John and Patsy Ramsey for child abuse resulting in a death, according to an investigative report by a Boulder newspaper.

Both the Ramseys and their son Burke were exonerated in July 2008 by improved analysis of DNA samples from the clothing JonBenet was wearing on Dec. 26, 1996.

Charlie Brennan, staff writer for the Boulder "Daily Camera," interviewed members of the grand jury, attorneys in the prosecutor's office and law enforcement officials to confirm the vote by the grand jury to indict the Ramseys for the death of 6-year-old JonBenet.

'May Have Done Something'

"We didn't know who did what," Brennan quoted one juror, "but we felt the adults in the house may have done something that they certainly could have prevented, or they could have helped her, and they didn't."

But rather than prosecute the high-profile case, Alex Hunter announced to the world that he didn't have enough evidence to prosecution anyone.

"I and my prosecution task force believe we do not have sufficient evidence to warrant a filing of charges against anyone who has been investigated at this time," Hunter said at an Oct. 13, 1999 press conference.

Decision Called Brave

An attorney for John Ramsey told Brennan that Hunter's decision took courage in light of the public pressure to solve the case.

"If what you report actually happened, then there were some very professional and brave people in Alex's office and perhaps elsewhere whose discipline and training prevented a gross miscarriage of justice," Bryan Morgan told the reporter.

Throughout the case, John and Patsy Ramsey adamately denied any involvement by anyone in their family with the death of JonBenet. Patsy died after a long battle with ovarian cancer in 2006. She was 49.

DNA Exonerates Ramsey Family

In 2008, then district attorney Mary Lacy took the highly unusual step of announcing that modern DNA analysis techniques had exonerated members of the Ramsey family when samples found on JonBenet's clothing pointed to a still unknown suspect.

Although Hunter would not comment directly on the grand jury's vote, citing secrecy and ethical rules, members of his staff and even some of the jurors who talked with Brennan agreed with his decision.

For a grand jury to return a true bill, or an indictment as it is known, all they need is probable cause that a crime was committed. But to get a conviction, the district attorney would need evidence that proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a much greater threshold.

Unsolved Murder

On the morning after Christmas 1996, Patsy Ramsey found a ransom note demanding $118,000 for the return of JonBenet. Later that day, John Ramsey found JonBenet's body in a storage room in the basement of the house. She had been strangled and bound with duct tape.

The case remains unsolved. No one has ever been charged with a crime in connection with the death of JonBenet Ramsey, although John Mark Karr was arrested and questioned in the case after he confessed to killing JonBenet, a confession that turned out to be false.

Authorities believe they have the DNA of the perpetrator of the crime, however, and it is being compared to that of suspects in the Boulder area in December 1996 and to samples in national databases.

See Also:
JonBenet Ramsey Grand Jury Voted to Indict Parents in 1999, But DA Refused to Prosecute

Background:
JonBenet Ramsey Investigation
The Murder of JonBenet Ramsey
Profile of JonBenet Ramsey
The Ransom Note

Photo: Family photo

Comments

February 3, 2013 at 2:49 pm
(1) lisa says:

Ludicrous to try to bring the parents to trial. Which parents would be so stupid as to sexually assault and murder their child in their own home, fake a ransom note, and (as I understand it) make a beeline for the “hidden room” in the basement of the house while poilce were searching for the little girl? That indictment was way off base. I believe the Ramseys are completely innocent insofar as the murder itself is concerned. I also agree with the father when he stated that it was he and his wife who killed the child by exposing her to child beauty pageants that emphasize sexuality and beauty in little girls.

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