Patsy Ramsey and her husband, John, parents of JonBenet Ramsey, look on during a news conference in Atlanta in May, 2000.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
DENVER — Grand jurors who reviewed evidence in the death of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey indicted both of her parents for child abuse resulting in death and being an accessory to a crime, including first-degree murder, according to documents released today.
The Daily Camera reported earlier this year that the grand jury had issued an indictment, but the documents for the first time revealed the charges against the Ramseys. The grand jury accused both John and Patsy Ramsey of helping someone who committed murder, but the document did not identify the alleged killer. The documents alleged both parents intended to delay or prevent the arrest of the alleged killer.
The district attorney at the time, Alex Hunter, who presented the evidence to the grand jury, declined to pursue charges saying: “I and my prosecutorial team believe we do not have sufficient evidence to warrant the filing of charges against anyone who has been investigated at this time.”
Only pages that had been signed by the grand jury foreman and were considered official action of the jury were released. The numbering of the charges implies that there were other charges the jurors considered but rejected.
Hunter did not return a phone message left Thursday by The Associated Press in anticipation of the documents’ release.
The grand jury met three years after the beauty queen’s body was found bludgeoned and strangled in their home in Boulder on Dec. 26, 1996. The indictments alleged the crimes occurred between Dec. 25 and Dec. 26.
The Ramseys maintained their innocence, offering a $100,000 reward for the killer and mounting a newspaper campaign seeking evidence.
Former prosecutor and law professor Karen Steinhauser said grand juries sometimes hear evidence that won’t be admitted during trial that can form the basis of indictments. But she added that prosecutors must have a good faith belief that they could prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt before pursuing charges.
“I’m not sure that the release of this indictment is going to change the fact that there has not been able to be a prosecution and probably won’t be able to be a prosecution,” she said.
Lurid details of the crime and striking videos of the child in adult makeup and costumes performing in pageants propelled the case into one of the highest profile mysteries in the United States in the mid-1990s. It also raised questions about putting children on display in beauty contests long before the popularity of reality shows such as “Toddlers & Tiaras” and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” which features moms and their child beauty pageant contestants.
Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in 2006, the same year a globe-hopping school teacher was arrested in Thailand after falsely claiming to have killed JonBenet. Former District Attorney Mary Lacy cleared the Ramseys in 2008 based on new DNA testing that suggested the killer was a stranger, not a family member.
Lacy did not return a phone call.
Over the years, some experts have suggested that investigators botched the case so thoroughly that it might never be solved.
Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said the case remains open but it’s not an active investigation. He predicted the indictment’s release wouldn’t change anything.
“Given the publicity that’s been out there, many people have formed their opinions one way or another,” he said.
Earlier this week, John Ramsey asked officials to release the entire grand jury record if the unprosecuted indictment was made public. However, the judge said transcripts of grand jury proceedings and evidence presented to it are not considered “official action” under the law governing criminal court records. He also said releasing such information could hurt other grand juries, whose work is secret.
An attorney representing John Ramsey, L. Lin Wood, has said he’s confident that no evidence in the grand jury case implicated the Ramsey family and the public should be able to see that for themselves.
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