No Charges in JonBenet Case
By Steven K. Paulson
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, Oct. 13, 1999; 9:48 p.m. EDT BOULDER, Colo. The JonBenet Ramsey grand jury decided Wednesday there wasn't enough evidence to charge anyone in the 6-year-old beauty queen's killing, ending its investigation of a baffling case that cast a cloud of suspicion over her parents.
"No charges have been filed," District Attorney Alex Hunter said in announcing that the grand jury had completed its probe.
The Christmastime 1996 death of JonBenet daughter of a prominent, wealthy family drew worldwide attention. The case created friction between police and prosecutors, led to accusations that the district attorney's office was too timid, and invited scrutiny of the child beauty pageant circuit.
"I must report to you that 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," Hunter added.
Colorado Gov. Bill Owens said he will review the case and decide whether to appoint a special prosecutor.
"While I am not presently in a position to comment on the work of this grand jury, I do know one fact: a little girl was brutally murdered in Boulder, Colorado, and the killer or killers remain free today," he said.
The 12 jurors, who met for more than 13 months, left the Boulder County Justice Center without comment after the judge ordered them not to discuss it. Hunter declined to answer questions.
A telephone message seeking comment from attorney Hal Haddon, who represents JonBenet's family, was not returned. The Ramseys' suburban Atlanta home where John and Patsy Ramsey moved with their son after the slaying was dark Wednesday and no one responded to a call box at the driveway's gate.
Pam Paugh, Patsy Ramsey's sister, said she was glad the Ramseys weren't indicted. But she said on CNN's "Larry King Live" that she was disappointed the jurors could not solve the slaying.
The prominence of the family John Ramsey, the millionaire president of Access Graphics, and Patsy, a former Miss West Virginia together with the beauty of the little blond victim guaranteed coverage of every twist in the case.
It was before dawn on the day after Christmas in 1996 when Patsy Ramsey said she found a 2½-page ransom note on the back staircase in the family's home that demanded $118,000 for the safe return of JonBenet.
"Listen Carefully!" the note begins. "We are a group of individuals that represent a small foreign faction. We respect your business but not the country that it serves. At this time we have your daughter in our possession."
Eight hours later, Ramsey said he found his daughter's body in a basement room, wrapped in a white blanket. A rope was wrapped around her neck and a wrist and tied to a stick.
A red-ink heart was drawn on her left palm, and Ramsey told police he removed duct tape from the child's mouth before carrying her body upstairs.
An autopsy concluded JonBenet suffered a skull fracture, was strangled and beaten, and may have been sexually assaulted.
Authorities cleared JonBenet's brother, Burke, who was 9 at the time she died. The Ramseys initially told police Burke was sleeping when the ransom note was discovered, but his voice later was heard on an enhanced tape of Mrs. Ramsey's 911 call to police.
Critics claimed the investigation was compromised early when detectives, believing they were dealing with a kidnapping, allowed friends and family to roam through the Ramsey mansion. They also asked Ramsey to conduct a search, which led to the discovery of the body.
The investigation also was fractured by infighting between police and prosecutors over the best way to proceed. Two investigators resigned; one accused prosecutors of protecting the Ramseys and blocking police efforts to solve the case, while the other contended his fellow officers were improperly targeting innocent people, including the Ramseys.
The two investigators held two theories about JonBenet's killer: one focused on the parents; the other on an intruder. The Ramseys have repeatedly denied any involvement in the crime. They offered a $100,000 reward and mounted a newspaper campaign seeking JonBenet's killer.
Authorities amassed evidence that supported both theories.
Lab tests concluded the ransom note was written with a pen and pad that belonged to the Ramseys. Handwriting experts ruled Ramsey out as the author, but said Mrs. Ramsey's writing samples were inconclusive.
Colorado Bureau of Investigation agents concluded four fibers on the duct tape allegedly taken from JonBenet's mouth were consistent with a jacket her mother wore Christmas night, according to published reports.
Evidence pointing to an intruder includes a broken basement window and an apparent pry mark found on a kitchen doorjamb, but there were no signs of forced entry into the home or footprints in the snow outside.
Other evidence of an intruder: Investigators have been unable to identify DNA material found in JonBenet's underwear, a pubic hair found on the blanket or a palm print pulled from the wine cellar door, published reports have stated.
The Boulder County grand jury of eight women and four men began hearing evidence in the case in September 1998, listening to testimony from family, friends and police detectives. Its term was set to expire Oct. 20.
Former Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman said Hunter bent over backwards to present both sides to the grand jury, an unusual step for a prosecutor in a murder investigation.
"This grand jury heard from a plethora of Ramsey supporters," Silverman said. "It's an unusual grand jury and a not unexpected result."
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press