Family cleared in JonBenet Ramsey‚€™s death - Crime & courts - MSNBC.com
DENVER - Newly discovered DNA evidence in the notorious JonBenet Ramsey murder case does not match any Ramsey family members or anyone in law enforcement DNA databases, NBC affiliate KUSA reported Wednesday.
The discovery, from a new testing method, prompted the Boulder district attorney’s office to release a letter officially clearing the Ramsey family, including John, Patsy and their immediate relatives, of any involvement in the December 1996 death of 6-year-old JonBenet.
John and Patsy Ramsey, who died in 2006, had been the subject of intense suspicion in the disappearance of their daughter, a beauty queen whose innocent face smiled out at Americans in countless news reports for a dozen years.
But in a letter to John Ramsey, Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy, who met with Ramsey and his defense attorneys Wednesday morning, declared that “we do not consider your immediate family, including you, John, your wife, Patsy, and your son, Burke Ramsey, to be under any suspicion in the commission of this crime.”
“I wish we could have done so before Mrs. Ramsey died,” Lacy wrote, adding: “We intend in the future to treat you as the victims of this crime, with the sympathy due you because of the horrific loss you suffered.”
In a separate statement, Lacy offered her “deepest apology” for the family’s ordeal.
“In a highly publicized case, the detrimental impact of publicity and suspicion on people’s lives can be extreme,” she said. “The suspicions about the Ramseys in this case created an ongoing living hell for the Ramsey family and their friends, which added to their suffering from the unexplained and devastating loss of JonBenet.”
Family welcomes exoneration
In an interview with KUSA, John Ramsey said he was “grateful that they acknowledge that we, based on that, certainly could not have been involved.”
“But the most important thing is that we now have very, very solid evidence — and that’s always been my hope, at least in the recent past — that would lead us to the killer eventually,” Ramsey said.
For years after the slaying, checkout-aisle tabloids and crime shows went after the couple. News reports cast suspicion on JonBenet’s older brother, Burke. Boulder police investigating the murder said the parents were under an “umbrella of suspicion.”
Lacy has previously expressed doubts that the parents were involved. In 2003, a federal judge handling a defamation lawsuit in Atlanta involving the Ramseys said evidence in the case was more consistent with the theory that an intruder killed JonBenet, not her parents, and Lacy said she agreed.
Less than two months after Patsy Ramsey died, the case appeared to blow wide open with the arrest in Thailand of John Mark Karr, a sometime teacher obsessed with the little girl’s slaying. Karr made bizarre, detailed confessions to the killing, but authorities said DNA evidence showed Karr did not commit the crime.
Ramsey blamed the news media for fixating on his family, saying, “It became an entertainment event for the media, sadly. It boosted ratings, attracted viewers, to develop that controversy.”
He called for more coverage of the “2,000 children murdered in our country every year.”
Patsy Ramsey’s sister, Pam Paugh, said the exoneration was “a long time in coming and a very pleasant gift.”
The letter means “we have a killer on the loose,” Paugh said in an interview with MSNBC. “That killer remains at large.
“In the long run, we have to say [that] whoever did this to JonBenet, if they do not receive earthly justice, than clearly they are going to receive an afterlife justice that is not going to be pretty."
12 years of harsh scrutiny
Lacy based her decision, according to the letter, on the results of new DNA samples secured and tested at Bode Technology Group in Lorton, Va. The DNA technology, called “touch” analysis, was not available in 1996.
The recent testing was conducted on a different area of the girl's clothing, and it matches previous DNA tested from the child’s panties in 1997.
“That genetic profile belongs to a male and does not belong to anyone in the Ramsey family,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement. “The unexplained third party DNA on the clothing of the victim is very significant and powerful evidence.”
John Ramsey found his daughter's body in the family home in Boulder on Dec. 26, 1996, in a rarely used room in the basement.
According to Boulder police reports, the family got up early the day after Christmas to fly to Charlevoix, Mich., to visit family.
Patsy Ramsey found a ransom note at the bottom of a spiral staircase about 5:30 or 6 that morning. Police were called and searched the home, but JonBenet's body was not found until another search of the home was conducted five hours later by John Ramsey.
In April 1997, Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter declared the family under an “umbrella of suspicion.”
Nine years later, in June 2006, Patsy Ramsey died after a 13-year battle with ovarian cancer.
Boulder DA investigators and Lacy made the decision late last year to have the leggings of JonBenet’s panties tested at the Bode Lab. It is not clear if the leggings had been previously tested for DNA.
The investigators considered the possibility that since JonBenet was sexually assaulted and undressed and redressed, it was possible that the perpetrator left skin cell samples on the waistband of the leggings.
The Bode Lab recovered DNA from the top part of the leggings, on both the right and left legs, where the perpetrator would have put his hands to move them. Those new “touch” samples from the leggings match the DNA that was found in 1997 on the panties.
At the time of JonBenet’s death, technology for DNA testing on the child’s panties used swabs from fluid obtained from skin and clothing to establish DNA identity.
The previous 1997 DNA swab testing of the child’s panties found DNA in two separate areas. The 1997 DNA contained enough information or DNA markers to be entered into the federal DNA database called CODIS.
The new touch DNA from JonBenet has been compared with what exists in CODIS, but no match has been found.