The 1996 killing of six-year-old beauty-pageant regular JonBenet Ramsey is arguably Colorado's most famous unsolved murder case -- one that continues to fascinate a significant percentage of the public more than a decade and a half later. For proof (something in short supply when it comes to the incident), look no further than the hullabaloo over the revelation that a 1999 grand jury voted to indict the girl's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, for the crime, but then-D.A. Alex Hunter declined to do so.
The revelation is at the center of a massive investigation by the Daily Camera, the paper of record in Boulder, where JonBenet was killed. The Camera quotes district attorney Alex Hunter at an October 13, 1999 press event to announce the grand jury's end. "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," he said.
Hunter didn't mention that the members of the grand jury felt differently -- but his reticence to move forward may have had something to do with a lack of certainty among those who urged an indictment. One juror quoted by the Camera says, "We didn't know who did what, but we felt the adults in the house may have done something that they certainly could have prevented, or they could have helped her, and they didn't."
Had Hunter indicted Patsy (who has since died of cancer) and John (still among the living and remarried), Boulder would have played host to one of the biggest media circuses in the state's history, but would justice have been served? Well, in 2008, Mary Lacy, Hunter's successor as Boulder district attorney, announced that DNA had cleared Ramsey family members -- not just John and Patsy, but JonBenet's brother, Burke. And while plenty of observers felt this declaration was questionable, including KHOW's Peter Boyles, who's spent years beating the drum for an indictment, such evidence might well have led to the overturning of previous convictions...if such a conviction had been possible in the first place.
The Camera explores the question of whether Hunter (who offered a vague statement about the secrecy of grand juries in lieu of an interview) violated Colorado statute by refusing to sign the indictment. But Bill Wise, a member of Hunter's team who confirmed the grand jury's actions and spoke at length to the paper, believes his former boss did the right thing by declining to drag the Ramseys into court.
Be that as it may, authorities seem no closer to convicting JonBenet's killer than they were the day her body was found. She remains frozen in time, a smiling icon infinitely more famous in death than in life.
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Here's a Camera video featuring comments from Wise.