Anger, frustration, disappointment—these were among the emotions that hung thick in the air 14 years ago when lead investigators with the Boulder Police Department heard the news: John and Patsy Ramsey would not be indicted for the death of their beauty princess daughter, JonBenet.
One lead detective, gun at his hip in disbelief, pounded the table with his fists before storming out, slamming the door behind him. For 18 months this team of detectives had worked 60-hour weeks, finding witness after witness, building what they were sure was a rock solid case.
And it had all been for nothing.
Several blocks away, secluded in the home of friends, John and Patsy were down on their knees praying in front of a television, unsure if their next night would be spent in a jail cell. They jumped up when they heard District Attorney Alex Hunter announce the decision to assembled reporters. The grand jury was officially dismissed.d
On Friday, one of America’s most famous unsolved mysteries will be revived when portions of the grand jury’s final recommendations to the DA are revealed. One key revelation, according to two sources familiar with the matter, is that the grand jury had, in fact, recommended indicting John and Patsy Ramsey with child abuse resulting in death.
In his order to release the documents, retired County Judge Robert Lowenbach noted that Hunter himself had suggested several “possible charges regarding John Ramsey and Patricia Ramsey based on the fact that the child had died and that there was evidence that a sexual assault of the child had occurred.”
Yet in the end, Hunter decided not to indict anyone. That decision continues to baffle some law enforcement officials nearly two decades later.
“They’re frustrated that they didn’t get the support and cooperation they needed from the DA’s office so that they may have moved this case to its conclusion,” says A. James Kolar, a former lead investigator with the Boulder County DA’s office and author of the book “Foreign Faction”.
Indeed, police felt they had given Hunter plenty of ammunition to charge the Ramsey couple. Among the witnesses who had gone before the Grand Jury were the Ramseys’ housekeeper, the best friend with whom they’d spent Christmas, and her brother Burke. There had been handwriting and DNA testimony. (John and Patsy Ramsey were never called to testify.) But in the end, Hunter had decided it wasn’t enough to prosecute JonBenet’s parents for her death.
Hunter declined to comment for this story, saying, “I’m bound by my oath to the court and Colorado statutes governing Grand Jury proceedings.”
Since the day Hunter refused to indict, the Boulder grand jury that heard the case has been largely silent, avoiding the limelight despite the fact that their names and faces can be found with a simple Google search. The husband of one juror said in an interview that he still tries in vain to get his wife to talk about her experience: “My wife never told me anything, and I sleep with her!” Another juror declined an interview request with The Daily Beast, saying only, “This was not a case of ‘Twelve Angry Men.’ There wasn’t much argument at the end.”
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