US & Canada

JonBenet Ramsey: Grand jury voted to charge parents in case

Patsy Ramsey and her husband, John Ramsey, produce a picture of JonBenet Ramsey during a press conference where they released the results of an independent lie detector test in Atlanta 24 May 2000
Image caption A prosecutor apologised to Patsy and John Ramsey in 2008 after DNA evidence appeared to exonerate them

A Colorado grand jury was prepared to charge the parents of a slain six-year-old beauty queen in her death, newly released court documents in the 17-year-old murder case show.

The panel voted in 1999 to charge JonBenet Ramsey's parents with fatal child abuse and "accessory to a crime".

But prosecutors declined to try John and Patsy Ramsey on any charges.

JonBenet's body was found brutally beaten and strangled in her Boulder, Colorado, home in December 1996.

The Ramseys always maintained their innocence.

Lin Wood, a lawyer for John Ramsey, said the documents released on Friday meant "absolutely zero" to the investigation.

"The documents today are a mere historical footnote, a small glimpse into the grand jury proceedings," Mr Wood said in a statement. "It's four pages of what would have likely been hundreds of volumes of testimony and exhibit."

The prosecutor at the time, Alex Hunter, has not commented about the newly released documents. Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in 2006.


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Media captionVideos of JonBenet Ramsey's performances in beauty pageants opened a window into a subculture of which many Americans had been unaware

The investigation into JonBenet's death gained national attention in the US after grisly details of the crime and videos of the girl performing in beauty pageants were publicised.

The Ramseys were never charged, and DNA evidence eventually suggested someone else killed the girl. In 2008, prosecutors formally exonerated them in the murder and publicly apologised.

Her killing remains unsolved.

The release on Friday of the grand jury indictments came after a lawsuit by the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP).

The 1999 documents show the grand jury moved to charge Mr and Mrs Ramsey with child abuse resulting in death and with being an accessory to a crime.

The documents allege the couple placed their daughter "in a situation which posed a threat of injury to the child's life or health" which led to her death, and then helped the killer evade discovery and prosecution.

Alex Hunter, the Boulder County district attorney at the time, declined to sign the indictments, effectively dropping the charges.

"I and my prosecutorial team believe we do not have sufficient evidence to warrant the filing of charges against anyone who has been investigated at this time," Alex Hunter, the Boulder County district attorney, said in 1999.

Analysts say it is uncommon for a district attorney not to sign off on a grand jury decision.

'Not a family member'

US grand juries are convened in secret and tasked with determining whether enough evidence exists to bring a suspect to trial. But prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict - a substantially higher bar.

JonBenet's body was found in the basement of her home on 26 December 1996 after her parents reported her missing. Her skull was fractured and she had been strangled.

The couple offered a $100,000 (£61,700) reward for information about the killer. The Boulder police were also faulted for botching the initial search of the Ramseys' home.

In 2008, former District Attorney Mary Lacy publically apologised to the Ramseys after new DNA evidence suggested the killer was not a family member.

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