Jurors wanted child abuse charges against Ramseys

7:36 AM, Oct 26, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - A Boulder grand jury believed John and Patsy Ramsey were responsible for the death of their daughter, JonBenet, the day after Christmas 1996, but the couple was never prosecuted and later exonerated.

The documents released Friday outline what charges the couple could have faced had they been prosecuted.

Just four pieces of paper released by the Boulder County court say the grand jury believed both parents of the 6-year-old "unlawfully, knowingly, recklessly and feloniously permitted a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation which posed a threat of injury to the child's life or health, which resulted in the death of JohnBenet Ramsey."

The grand jury believed both parents were responsible for child abuse resulting in death, not murder.

"This case from its inception was not a 'who done it' case. It really is what I would call a 'which done it' case," former Denver District Attorney Norm Early said.

Early is familiar with the case, but did not investigate it or preside over it.

"Which one? The father or the mother? It's very difficult to bring a case and say one of them did it and 'jury-you figure it out,'" Early said. "That's not going to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt, because you'll have finger pointing in both directions."

Despite the grand jury findings, the Boulder County District Attorney at the time, Alex Hunter, declined to prosecute, because he said there wasn't enough evidence.

9NEWS' partners at NBC News spoke with Hunter. He had no comment.

"I have taken an oath, along with everyone else in the grand jury process to keep it secret. Colorado statute does not allow me to comment," Hunter said.

Lurid details of the crime and striking videos of the child in adult makeup and costumes performing in pageants propelled the case into one of the highest profile mysteries in the U.S. in the mid-1990s.

The grand jury met three years after JonBenet's body was found bludgeoned and strangled in the family home in Boulder on Dec. 26, 1996.

The Ramseys maintained their innocence, offering a $100,000 reward for information about the killer and mounting a newspaper campaign seeking evidence.

Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said the case remains open but is not an active investigation. He predicted the indictment's release wouldn't change anything.

In 2008, then Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy said no one in the Ramsey family was considered a suspect and formally apologized in a letter to John Ramsey.

The same letter said "touch DNA" cleared all members of JonBenet Ramsey's family of her slaying.

DNA tests pointed to an "unknown male" in the 6-year-old child's 1996 slaying.

John Ramsey's attorneys sent a letter to current Boulder DA Stan Garnett, dated October 20, 2013.

READ: Ramsey's attorney letter and Mary Lacy's response

In the letter, the attorneys suggest Garnett release the entire grand jury record, including all witness testimony and exhibits.

When asked for a comment or interview Friday, Ramsey's attorneys referred 9NEWS to that statement.

READ: Boulder Police response

Garnett declined to speak as well. A spokesperson emailed a statement that said in part, "The issues surrounding the case are complex and nuanced and do not readily lend themselves to a short sound bite. For these reasons, the district attorney has decided to issue a statement in the form of an op ed piece, to be published in this Sunday's edition of the Boulder Daily Camera, Boulder's local newspaper."

The Ramseys maintained their innocence and have never been charged. Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in 2006.

Various media outlets have been calling the documents released in Boulder "an indictment." In fact, the documents are not an indictment, but a "true bill" from the grand jury with its findings.

READ: Garnett full statement

A true bill becomes an indictment after it is signed by the grand jury, the district attorney and then filed with the court. The DA in this case never signed the true bill and the Ramseys were never indicted or charged.

READ: John Ramsey grand jury true bill
READ: Patricia Ramsey grand jury true bill

In 2006, a globe-hopping school teacher was arrested in Thailand after falsely claiming to have killed JonBenet.

Over the years, some experts have suggested that investigators botched the case so thoroughly that it might never be solved.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)

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