After 5 Years, Still No Arrest In Ramsey Murder

Beating, Strangling Of Beauty Queen JonBenet Still Unsolved

"Listen carefully! We are a group of individuals that represent a small foreign faction. We respect your business but not the country that it serves. At this time we have your daughter in our possession."

JonBenet Ramsey
THE INVESTIGATION

So began a chilling ransom note that demanded $118,000 for the life of JonBenet Ramsey, a 6-year-old child beauty queen whose life came to a brutal end.

It was early Dec. 26, 1996, when JonBenet's mother, Patsy Ramsey, called 911 and reported finding the ransom note on the back stairs of their upscale Boulder home. Several hours later, her father, John Ramsey, found his daughter's body in a basement room.

After many spinoff criminal cases and civil lawsuits, infighting among police and prosecutors and a grand jury investigation that ended without an indictment, no one has been arrested for beating and strangling JonBenet.

Police say JonBenet's parents remain under suspicion. They repeatedly have professed their innocence and maintain an intruder killed JonBenet.

A break is unlikely to come without new forensic technology or new evidence uncovered in one of the civil cases stemming from the slaying, legal analyst Scott Robinson said.

"Short of something relatively astounding, JonBenet's death will never become the subject of a criminal trial," he said.

Ramsey attorney Lin Wood said charges probably will never be filed unless experienced new investigators take over.

This year will be a difficult one for the family, Wood said.

"The five-year anniversary carries with it ... the lack of progress in finding the killer of their daughter and the stalemate in their minds of the status of the investigation," he said.

"They survive Christmas the same way they survive every other day of the year and that is through their faith."

The Ramseys declined to be interviewed, but told the Rocky Mountain News this month that they believe authorities have failed them and their daughter.

"Our strength comes from our innocence," John Ramsey said. "We cannot sit idly by for JonBenet's sake, for the sake of the next child this person will attack, if he's still alive. This is not right. Our government has failed, and our intention is to hold them accountable."

The curious still seek out the former Ramsey home. Its new owner recently got the house number changed and young evergreen trees on the front lawn help block the view.

JonBenet's grave near Atlanta, her parents' new home, also is frequented by visitors, many of whom leave remembrances such as small angels or stuffed animals.

Tensions among police officers, the Ramseys and the district attorney flared almost immediately after JonBenet's body was found. They disagreed on conditions for interviews, and neither parent was formally interviewed by police until four months after JonBenet was killed.

Former District Attorney Alex Hunter was accused of hindering the police investigation, which he denied.

Hunter, the police chief at the time and several of the detectives have resigned or retired.

Work continues, both for police and for the Ramseys.

Police Chief Mark Beckner, who inherited the case in 1998 after former Chief Tom Koby resigned, said four investigators and one commander are assigned to it, but no one has worked it full-time for at least a year.

Police have interviewed at least 650 people, many more than once, and consulted with more than 60 experts and consultants. About 140 people have been investigated, and about 1,400 pieces of evidence have been collected.

Investigators have traveled to 18 states and the cost thus far stands at about $1.7 million. Leads still trickle in.

"You can't turn the clock back," Beckner said. "We all wish it never happened, but we have to go forward and move on. You do the best you can."

He declined to speculate on whether the case would be solved, but said 35 to 40 percent of homicide cases are never solved.

This month, the Ramseys were deposed under oath in a lawsuit by a Boulder journalist who claims they defamed him by naming him as a suspect in their book. It is one of two such lawsuits.

Wood said nothing new was revealed.

Wood plans to file an open-records demand this month for all police records to help defend against the libel lawsuits and clear the Ramsey name.

And JonBenet's face framed with golden curls occasionally graces magazines and skips across television screens.

"The cruelest of all ironies ... was that this was a little girl who was being groomed for magazine covers and that's where she managed to end up," Robinson said.

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