As it turns out, a grand jury did vote to indict JonBenet Ramsey's parents in 1999 on charges of child abuse that resulted in her death, but the case didn't proceed because the prosecutor never signed the indictment, a newly-released report reveals.
JonBenet Ramsey was a 6-year-old beauty queen whose murder became a media sensation after she was found bludgeoned and strangled in the basement of her parents' home in Boulder, Colo., just after Christmas in 1996. Though her family members were long considered suspects, the case was never solved.
At the time of her murder, then-Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter claimed that there wasn’t enough evidence against her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, according to a report published Sunday by the Boulder Daily Camera
. New sources, including members of the grand jury, have confirmed that Hunter failed to mention that he refused to sign the indictment the jury voted on.
Child abuse that results in death is a Class II felony that could carry a sentence of up to 48 years in prison.
The Ramseys remained prime suspects until they were absolved in 2008 by the district attorney's office, citing new DNA testing techniques. Patsy Ramsey died two years earlier in 2006 from ovarian cancer, still a suspect in her daughter's murder.
"Hunter did the right thing," legal expert Scott Robinson told Colorado's NBC affiliate, 9News. He said signing the indictment would have compromised any future prosecution of a possible intruder.
But other legal experts are unsure of whether Hunter's decision to not sign the indictment agrees with Colorado grand jury law.
University of Colorado Law School professor Mimi Wesson, who has followed the Ramsey case for years, told the Daily Camera in an email that "the Colorado statute governing grand jury practice says that 'every indictment shall be signed' by the foreman of the grand jury and the prosecuting attorney."
Hunter, who left office in 2001 after 28 years as Boulder County's district attorney, declined to comment directly on his actions 13 years ago.
Robinson said he's not sure there's much anyone can do in advancing the case with the absence of new DNA evidence or a verifiable confession from the killer.
"The case is as cold as cold can be," he said.
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