A Colorado grand jury voted to indict John and Patsy Ramsey on charges of child abuse resulting in the first-degree murder of their 6-year-old daughter, JonBenet, the beauty pageant princess whose death stunned the nation, according to documents released on Friday.
A grand jury sitting in 1999 voted to bring charges against the parents, believed to be suspects in the 1996 slaying. But then-District Attorney Alex Hunter refused to sign the true bill so the charges were never brought and the parents were never prosecuted.
The grand jury acted long before new DNA evidence led Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy to publicly exonerate and apologize to the parents in 2008.
“The DNA was not available to the grand jury in 1999,” L. Lin Wood, the Ramseys’ attorney, told the Denver Post. “What we have here is a release of a sliver of the evidence that the grand jury looked at and reviewed. It’s just based on incomplete evidence.”
JonBenet Ramsey was killed on Christmas in her Boulder, Colo., home and pictures of the pageant winner dominated the airwaves for years in part because of the contrast between the child’s brutal slaying and her beauty. The 6-year-old’s body was found in the basement of the family home hours after she was reported missing by the family. JonBenet had been strangled and struck on the head, which was fractured.
The case is being treated as a cold-case homicide, Catherine Olguin, spokeswoman for current District Attorney Stanley L. Garnett, told the Los Angeles Times. “If police bring evidence, we’ll look at that and consider the evidence. Unsolved murder cases are never closed,” she said.
Suspicion after JonBenet’s death immediately turned to the family, especially the parents. The case became a staple of talking-head cable television.
The documents released Friday are a true bill voted by the grand jury. But because the district attorney never signed off, they are not technically an indictment.
Still, the charges voted by the grand jury state that the Ramseys “did unlawfully, knowingly, recklessly and feloniously permit a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation which posed a threat of injury to the child’s life or health, which resulted in the death of JonBenet Ramsey, a child under the age of sixteen.”
The documents were released in response to a lawsuit by Boulder Daily Camera reporter Charlie Brennan and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The Camera reported earlier this year that the Boulder County grand jury voted in October 1999 to indict the Ramseys on charges of child abuse resulting in death, but Hunter refused to sign the document and prosecute the Ramseys.
Friday’s release involved only part of the grand jury’s indictment and centered on just two counts, which were identical for both of the Ramseys.
The other count said the Ramseys did “unlawfully, knowingly and feloniously render assistance to a person, with intent to hinder, delay and prevent the discovery, detention, apprehension, prosecution, conviction and punishment of such person for the commission of a crime, knowing the person being assisted has committed and was suspected of the crime of murder in the first degree and child abuse resulting in death.”
In 2008, prosecutor Lacy exonerated the child’s parents and immediate family in her death and apologized to them. She said that the DNA evidence pointed to an unknown male as JonBenet’s killer.