In 1999, then-Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter refused to sign a grand jury indictment of John and Patsy Ramsey, the parents of slain 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, citing that he could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The indictment remained secret until earlier this year, when The Boulder Daily Camera confirmed its existence. Now, a lawsuit seeks to release the un-prosecuted indictment -- but John Ramsey, father of JonBenet, opposes the release of the document unless the entire grand jury record is also opened for the public.
The Daily Camera obtained a new letter from Harold Haddon and Bryan Morgan, attorneys who represent John Ramsey, stating their objection:
"Public release of the allegations of an un-prosecuted indictment only serves to further defame (John Ramsey) and his late wife Patricia," the attorneys write in the letter. "Mr. Ramsey will have no access to whatever evidence the prosecutors presented to the grand jury and will have no ability to disprove those allegations in a court of law. Nor will the public have any ability to evaluate the propriety of the indictment unless the entire grand jury record is unsealed and opened to public view."
Daily Camera Reporter Charlie Brennan and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed the lawsuit in Boulder District Court in September. "The plaintiffs believe... that the indictment is a criminal justice record that reflects official action by the grand jury, and accordingly that it is subject to mandatory disclosure upon request," the complaint reads. Brennan and the RCFP also argue that the indictment should be made public in the interest of government transparency.
The Boulder DA's office said unsealing the indictment would be a "breach of promise" to the jury, citing the importance of maintaining the integrity of grand jury secrecy.
But last week, Weld County Judge Robert Lowenbach, the judge hearing the lawsuit by Brennan and RCFP, ruled that current Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett must show why the indictment must remain secret.
On Dec. 26, 1996, 6-year-old JonBenet was found bludgeoned and strangled to death in the basement of her family home. A ransom note from an anonymous group of individuals "that represent a foreign faction" asking for $118,000 in exchange for the safe return of JonBenet was found just hours before, but no call ever came from a kidnapper and it was never linked to a murderer.
The entire Ramsey family was cleared of any involvement in the murder of JonBenet back in 2008, thanks to then newly discovered DNA evidence. Patsy Ramsey, JonBenet's mother, died two years earlier in 2006 of ovarian cancer.
Tragically, Patsy Ramsey was still considered a possible suspect when she died.
In 2010, investigators reopened the case and launched a fresh round of interviews with witnesses hoping that they could provide more insight into the murder, but nothing fruitful came of those interviews.
The DNA evidence still points to an "unexplained third party" that serves as a vague lead for authorities still pursuing the case.
Boulder police have tested more than 150 DNA samples and investigated nearly the same amount of potential suspects in their ongoing investigation, but none have ever been linked to the crime.
For nearly 17 years Boulder police have received thousands of tips about JonBenet's murder and still receive several monthly. DA Garnett said in 2011 that he personally gets two or three tips a week from all over the world. The ones that have potential are passed along to Boulder Police's Major Case Unit. There have also been plenty of false leads, including most famously John Mark Karr, who bizarrely admitted to being with JonBenet the night of her death. DNA evidence later cleared him of any wrongdoing in this case.
For a thorough timeline of the case's major moments, visit The Daily Camera's interactive timeline of events from 1996 through 2012.
More than a decade and a half later, it remains one of the most notorious unsolved murders in U.S. history. If she were alive today, JonBenet would be 23.
This post has been updated with additional information about the judge and the district attorney in the case.