New DNA technology to be used for retesting Ramsey evidence in ’96 cold case

The gravesite of JonBenet Ramsey is seen at St. James Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta, Ga. Wednesday, authorities in Boulder, Colo., announced that they are planning to use new DNA technology to retest key evidence in the 1996 cold case. Previous testing has not been able to conclusively link anyone to JonBenet's death. File Photo by John Dickerson/UPI

BOULDER, Colo., Dec. 14 (UPI) — Investigators still haunted by the 20-year-old unsolved murder of JonBenet Ramsey now plan to use emerging and more sophisticated DNA technology to retest key evidence in the case, authorities said Wednesday.

Boulder’s police department, district attorney’s office and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation announced jointly Wednesday that they have decided to take a fresh forensic look at the evidence left from the girl’s abduction and death.

The primary motivation for the new tests, officials said, are advances in forensic DNA examination that fit into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System — a sophisticated database that contains telltale genetic code for more than 15 million known criminal offenders in the United States.

“With the emergence of new DNA testing technology, the Boulder Police Department is working with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations to determine if this new technology could further this investigation,” the Boulder Police Department said in a statement Wednesday.

“Department officials will continue to reserve any additional comments until there is new information to announce.”

“We did meet with CBI and the district attorney’s office, and we had a general discussion about evidence in the Ramsey case, including new technology and DNA testing,” Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa said Wednesday. “And we are going to take a look at the new technology, and see how they may help us further this investigation.”

Wednesday’s announcement follows two decades of debate and controversy surrounding the death of the 6-year-old girl, whose body was found in the basement of her family’s home the day after Christmas 1996. The high-profile case attracted worldwide attention for years due to a series of unusual twists and turns related to the police investigation.

Authorities’ decision to retest evidence also follows an investigation into previous DNA analysis by two Colorado news outlets this year, which concluded that the forensic evidence was at odds with former Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy‘s decision in 2008 to clear the girl’s parents, John and Patsy, and brother, Burke, of any suspicion in the case.

The outlets’ investigation cited experts who questioned Lacy’s approach to the DNA testing conducted then, saying it may have been motivated by confirmation bias — a suggestion that could explain the prosecutor’s decision to clear the family, even though, the investigative report said, the move wasn’t conclusively supported by genetic testing results.

Lacy, a longtime believer that an intruder killed JonBenet, left the DA’s office in 2009. She was replaced by Stanley Garrett, who has continued to investigate the case.

JonBenet Ramsey was found dead in the basement of her family’s home on the afternoon of Dec. 26, 1996, after police and the FBI had been called in to investigate her purported abduction. The girl, 6, died from strangulation and a skull fracture, according to an autopsy, but her murder has never been solved. File Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI

“We should be doing all reasonable testing that we can do, and we will be,” he said.

The Ramsey saga began in the early morning hours of Dec. 26, 1996, when Patsy Ramsey woke up to discover JonBenet missing and a ransom note on the staircase. The letter, signed by the acronym S.B.T.C., claimed the girl had been kidnapped and offered her safe return for $118,000.

The Ramseys immediately called police, who with the FBI initiated an intensive search of the neighborhood and surveillance of the household. Despite sweeping searches of the home, JonBenet’s body wasn’t found in the basement for another seven hours. An autopsy said she died of strangulation and a skull fracture.

It wasn’t long before suspicion fell on the Ramseys, due to several abnormalities in the case — such as a ransom offer even though JonBenet was already dead. The spotlight got even brighter in the following months when the Ramseys stopped cooperating with Boulder police and the conflict was made public.

Evidence at the scene, including an open window and marks on the girl’s body that may have been inflicted by a stun gun, suggested an intruder had killed JonBenet. However, there were some unanswered questions and other signals that detectives believed pointed at the Ramseys.

Despite the yearslong investigation and a long list of potential suspects, no one has ever been arrested for the girl’s death. Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in 2006 at age 49.

In 2003, investigators developed a DNA profile from a person they said was an unknown male. In October of this year, though, officials said improved testing placed DNA trace evidence belonging to two people on JonBenet’s body.

In 1999, a grand jury voted to indict the Ramseys for their daughter’s death but then-Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter declined to charge them, fearing a conviction was unattainable.

John Ramsey, now 73, moved the family to Michigan and then Georgia after JonBenet’s death. He remarried, taking his third wife, in 2011.


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