Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder of JonBenet Ramsey

A Continuing Saga

DA Alex Hunter
DA Alex Hunter

On October 10, 1999, the members of District Attorney Alex Hunter's prosecution team met with well known criminalist Dr. Henry Lee to discuss the forensic testing that had been conducted during the Ramsey case. The tests, which were conducted by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, were based on samples that were taken from JonBenet's fingernail scrapings, blood from her panties, and hair samples. Some of these are said to contain traces of the victim's blood and other DNA evidence that could possibly provide a link to the killer. So far, tests on the Ramsey family and other police suspects have failed to provide a match. The mystery of the DNA sample is the fact that it can't be proven to be connected to the murder or to the perpetrator responsible. Dr Lee, who became known for his work on the O.J. Simpson case, had been Hunter's forensic adviser since the beginning of the investigation.

On October 13, 1999, Alex Hunter called a press conference to announce that a grand jury that had been assembled 13 months previously to hear the evidence of the case had found that there was insufficient evidence to charge any suspect with the murder of JonBenet. Apart from John and Patsy Ramsey, the police have never publicly named any additional suspects in the case.

Governor Bill Owens
Governor Bill Owens

Three weeks after Hunter's announcement, Colorado Governor Bill Owens told interviewers that he still considered John Ramsey a "prime suspect" in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Owens made the statement after John Ramsey had offered to meet with him in an attempt to convince the governor to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the case. The governor declined the offer, stating:

"Mr. Ramsey is considered to be a prime suspect, it would be very inappropriate to meet with him."

The governor wasn't the only public official to point the finger of blame. Regardless of the failure of the grand jury to indict the Ramseys, newly appointed Boulder police chief Mark Beckner stated that, as far as he was concerned, the Ramseys were still "under an umbrella of suspicion."

By the end of October, the Ramseys' answer to these comments, particularly those made by Governor Owens, was to threaten legal action over what they described as "slanderous remarks." In response, Troy Eid, chief counsel for the governor, announced that he believed that Governor Owens was within his rights when he suggested that the Ramseys "quit hiding behind their attorneys" and cooperate with investigators looking for their daughter's killer "no matter where that trail may lead."

Eid, who was also a member of the special advisory task force that worked with Owens to decide whether to appoint a special prosecutor to the Ramsey case, further stated that the governor was well within his constitutional rights to say what he did, having been protected by the First Amendment in his role as a public official.

Another legal issue raised its head in early November when it was announced that Craig A. Lewis, a journalist for the supermarket tabloid Globe, may be indicted by a grand jury for "information brokering" related to the JonBenet Ramsey killing. He was also charged with commercial bribery and extortion relating to an offer of $30,000 that Lewis allegedly made to an independent documents examiner for a copy of the ransom note featured in the case.

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