BOULDER, Colo. - The JonBenet Ramsey murder case took another unusual twist Thursday when Boulder Police Chief Mark R. Beckner issued a formal statement that Fleet White, Jr. is not a suspect in the case -- the second time police have taken that step since JonBenet was murdered in 1996.
Police said the latest statement was made necessary because of "past inaccurate statements and speculation appearing in the media and at the request of Fleet and Priscilla White." The statement did not go into more detail about what prompted it.
"A great deal of that reporting and speculation targeted innocent community members whose only connection to the crime was as cooperating witnesses," Beckner said. "This includes the Fleet White, Jr. family of Boulder who suffered embarrassment and damage to their reputations."
Fleet White was with John Ramsey when Ramsey found the body of his daughter in a basement room at their Boulder home on the morning of Dec. 26, 1996. The two had started a search while a Boulder police officer was talking to Patsy Ramsey about her daughter's disappearance. JonBenet's body was underneath a blanket. Her wrists were tied above her head and a piece of tape covered her mouth. White ran upstairs and yelled for someone to call an ambulance.
Fleet and his wife were close family friends of the Ramseys and lived a little over a mile away from the Ramsey home at the time.
"The Boulder Police Department has never considered the White family to be suspects in the case," Beckner's statement said. "In 2000, the police department did investigate allegations made by a California woman to District Attorney Alex Hunter, as reported in the press, that were intended to cast suspicion on the White family. The department found no evidence to support the unfounded allegations. There has never been any evidence to link the White family to the JonBenet Ramsey homicide."
Beckner said Boulder police have always considered the White family to only be witnesses in the case.
Thursday's statement was the second time since the murder that Boulder police have said they are not suspects.
On April 16, 1997, City of Boulder issued a press release from Boulder Police Chief Tom Koby that said:
"Mr. and Mrs. Fleet White, Jr. are not suspects in the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation. They are considered key witnesses. The Boulder Police Department appreciates the full cooperation they have received from the Whites since the beginning of their investigation. I feel this response is necessary due to the inaccurate portrayal of Mr. and Mrs. White in certain media publications."
In 2008, then-District Attorney Mary Lacy wrote a letter to the Whites saying they weren't suspects.
Amateur Internet sleuths have tried to link White to JonBenet's murder in the past.