CRIME
10/28/2013 03:23 pm ET

JonBenet Ramsey's Killer 'May Be Lost Forever' Because Of Unsigned Indictment

The chance to catch the killer of JonBenet Ramsey and put a close to one of the nation's most notoriously unsolved crimes may be gone forever, according to a statement issued Friday by the city of Boulder's Police Department.

Last Friday marked the first time that the public was able to view the secret indictment that contained the charges by a grand jury against the Ramseys. The district attorney at the time, Alex Hunter, decided not to sign the indictment citing a lack of evidence and apparently believing that he could not prosecute the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Investigators at the time were disappointed in the then-district attorney's decision not to issue indictments," read a statement issued by the Boulder Police Dept. "Cases are rarely perfect and often contain conflicting evidence. As a result, the opportunity to present the entire case to a jury may be lost forever."

The Daily Camera's revelation of the indictment's existence to begin with, upset the long-held public belief that the grand jury never voted to indict anyone in the case.

The unsealing of the four-page indictment 14 years after the grand jurors convened revealed that they voted to charge both John and Patsy Ramsey with child abuse resulting in death and being an accessory to a crime, including first-degree murder of their daughter, though never directly accusing them of killing her. Being convicted of "knowingly and recklessly" causing child abuse resulting in death is a Class 2 felony that could have carried a sentence of four to 48 years in prison, though the three-year statute of limitations had long expired by the time the public ever heard about the indictment.

While the 12 grand jurors only needed to prove probable cause in order to indict the Ramseys, Hunter would have needed to prove the higher standard of beyond a reasonable doubt to be able to win a conviction at trial.

A guest opinion by current Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett published in The Daily Camera on Sunday revealed that Garnett asked his staff to review the documents when he took office in 2009.

"My, or my staff's view of what the evidence in the Ramsey case proves will only be stated in open court if a case is ever filed," Garnett said. "In the meantime, everyone, including the Ramsey family, is entitled to the full presumption of innocence."

But there certainly has been no shortage of pointing fingers, and the statement released by the police department reminisced a bit on old, well-published battles between them and the Boulder District Attorney's office during the case.

What we have learned from this experience is how important the relationships are between police departments which investigate cases and the district attorneys who ultimately prosecute cases. These roles should always remain clear. At the same time, both agencies must work collaboratively together as a team...

The status of the Ramsey investigation today is that of a cold case. The case is still open, but is not actively being investigated and there are no new leads. While we believe at this point it is unlikely there will ever be a prosecution, the Boulder Police Department still holds out some hope that one day the district attorney and the Boulder Police Department will be able to put together a case worthy of presenting to a jury.

A book published by former Boulder police Detective Steve Thomas in 2000 titled "JonBenet: Inside the Ramsey Murder Investigation," exposed some of the conflicts that existed between the DA's office and the Boulder Police Department in their handling of the case immediately after JonBenet's death. When Thomas left the Boulder Police force in 1998, his resignation letter accused the DA's office of leaking information to the media, not collaborating enough with the police department and sharing evidence information with "Team Ramsey," or attorneys for the Ramsey family. The police department received blame for failing to preserve the crime scene or finding JonBenet's body in the basement of the home for hours after she was first reported missing, and the Ramsey's accused the police of focusing their investigation too much on them and not the possibility of there being an intruder.

"Absent a confession, there is not any specific smoking gun to point the finger at any one individual," Jim Kolar, who worked on the case as a DA investigator from 2004 to 2006, told The Daily Camera. "It may be one of those cases doomed to never be solved."

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, according to 9News. Patsy Ramsey, JonBenet's mother, died 2 years earlier in 2006 of ovarian cancer. Tragically, she was still considered a possible suspect when she died.

Beginning in 2010, investigators reopened the case and launched a fresh round of interviews with witnesses that could provide more insight into the murder, according to ABC News, 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, TIME magazine reported.

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.

After all these years, Boulder police have received thousands of tips about her 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 been plenty of false leads as well, including most famously John Mark Karr -- who bizarrely admitted to being with JonBenet the night of her death, but 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.

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