In a shocking new twist to one of the most perplexing cold murder cases in recent decades, the 1996 murder of child pageant star JonBenet Ramsey, a Colorado newspaper has revealed that a grand jury voted to indict JonBenet’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, on charges of child abuse in 1999.
In a press conference outside of the Boulder County Justice center in October of that year, Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter announced that neither of JonBenet’s parents would be charged in the murder.
"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 told the press.
But according to the Boulder Daily Camera, what Hunter neglected to mention was that the Boulder grand jury had voted to indict the Ramseys on charges of child abuse that resulted in her subsequent death, charges that would have carried a sentence of up to 48 years, according to Newser. Hunter, however, did not believe that he could prove the Ramseys’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and so he refused to sign off on the indictment.
JonBenet was just six years old when she was brutally murdered in the basement of her Colorado home on Christmas day more than 16 years ago. Although her parents fervently maintained that an intruder had broken into the home earlier that day, claiming during a CNN interview that there was a “killer on the loose,” their guilt was often called into question during the ensuing media frenzy.
Ramsey’s body was found on Dec. 26, 1996, just hours after Patsy called the police to say that her daughter was missing and that she had found a ransom note, asking for $118,000 for the safe return of JonBenet. Some of the popular theories at the time held that Patsy, who died in 2006 of ovarian cancer, had been responsible for her daughter’s murder, beating and strangling JonBenet possibly after discovering she had wet the bed and later forging the ransom note, while others assigned blame to John Bennett Ramsey.
The case took another bizarre turn in 2006, when John Mark Karr, a 41-year-old English teacher living abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, falsely confessed to the crime. Karr claimed to have been with JonBenet on the day of her death and said that her death was an accident, but DNA evidence later cleared him, and the case has remained unsolved.
In an interview with the Daily Camera, Boulder’s former First Assistant District Attorney Bill Wise defended Hunter’s decision, saying that it was “courageous,” especially in the face of the inevitable public outrage over the case’s outcome.
Wise said that he “absolutely” believed Hunter had acted correctly. "And I thought it was a pretty courageous decision, because I know about the public pressure that was being put on everybody who was involved -- but particularly the elected district attorney,” Wise said.
Several of the former grand jury members, who spoke to the Daily Camera on the condition of anonymity, voiced their opinions on Hunter’s decision.
"It's still unresolved. ... Somebody did something pretty horrible that wasn't punished,” one juror said. "I'm not saying that I am at peace. But I had sympathy with [Hunter's] decision. I could see the problem that he was in. I could understand what he was doing.
Another juror echoed that sentiment but indicated frustration over the lack of conclusion in the case, saying, “I think I did believe that they would get more evidence and figure out who did it."
"I think I have conquered the feeling of any acute frustration,” still another said.
"This is what we thought, and that's what [the prosecutors] asked us for, and that's what we gave you, our opinion," the juror said. "That was our job, and the rest of the legal procedure -- they just do with it what has to be done."