New DNA evidence from the JonBenet Ramsey murder case positively clears her parents and points the finger at a man whose DNA profile is not currently in any criminal database, the Boulder County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.
The district attorney made that announcement in a letter, dated July 9, to John Ramsey. (Read Letter From DA To John Ramsey.)
"Given the history of the publicity surrounding this case, I believe it is important and appropriate to provide you with our opinion that your family was not responsible for this crime," the district attorney wrote.
The 6-year-old beauty queen was found dead in the basement of her home the day after Christmas in 1996. She was strangled and bludgeoned. No one has been arrested in her slaying. Her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, have always denied their involvement in their daughter's death but for years they were under an "umbrella of suspicion."
On Wednesday, District Attorney Mary Lacy told John in the letter that "significant new evidence that has recently been discovered through the application of relatively new methods of DNA analysis" clears John, his wife, and their son, Burke, from "any suspicion in the commission of this crime."
"I wish we could have done so before Mrs. Ramsey died," Lacy wrote.
John Ramsey told reporters Wednesday that he was grateful to be exonerated, once and for all.
"I am grateful for the real professionals in the Colorado law enforcement community who continue to work quietly but effectively to find the killer of our daughter. I believe in my heart that someday we will," Ramsey said.
John Ramsey's wife, Patsy, died in June 2006 after a lengthy battle with ovarian cancer. She died at the age of 49 in Atlanta, where the family moved after JonBenet's death. She never lived to see the person who killed her daughter captured.
Burke Ramsey, who was 9 at the time of his sister's death, is currently a student at Purdue University in Indiana and will be graduating in 2009.
Paulette Paugh Davis, Patsy Ramsey's sister, said in a phone interview with WGCL-TV in Atlanta, "This is a long time coming. We always knew no one in the family had anything to do with it. It's nice to hear the Boulder County District Attorney's office is finally coming forward with this information. ... I just wish Patsy was alive to hear this. I feel like it's a message from heaven. I hope the person who did this is still alive so we can meet him face to face."
The Ramsey family is not alone in feeling a sense of vindication.
Trip DeMuth, a Boulder attorney, was the senior trial attorney assigned by the D.A. to the case the day Jon Benets body was found.
Early in the investigation, he and his team faced blistering public scrutiny because of their findings and were pulled of the case.
"My team definitely developed the belief that someone other than the Ramsey's had done this," said DeMuth. "This seems to confirm they were on the right track."
But DeMuth said he can take little satisfaction in that fact until the case is finally solved.
Lacy explained that last summer, investigators became aware of a new method of DNA evidence collecting called "touch DNA" that would scrape places where there were no stains or other signs of DNA presence to see if genetic material could be collected. The District Attorney's Office contacted the Bode Technology Group near Washington, D.C., to scrape JonBenet's longjohns, which were probably handled by the perpetrator.
The firm confirmed that the DNA it collected on the waistband of the two sides of the longjohns matched the DNA of a blood drop on the inside crotch of JonBenet's underwear.
"The match of male DNA on two separate items of clothing worn by the victim at the time of the murder makes it clear to us that an unknown male handled these items," Lacy wrote. "That genetic profile belongs to a male and does not belong to anyone in the Ramsey family."
The police have compared that profile to a very large number of people associated with the victim, with her family, and with the investigation, and has not identified the source of the DNA.
She explained that this DNA profile is now in the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which is used by federal, state and local crime labs to compare and share forensic evidence. However, there's been no match to anyone in the database.
"We are comfortable that the profile now in CODIS is the profile of the perpetrator of this murder ... We hope that we will one day obtain a DNA match from the CODIS data bank that will lead to further evidence and to the solution of this crime," Lacy said. "The number of profiles available for comparison in the CODIS data bank is growing steadily. Law enforcement agencies are receiving increasing number of cold hits on DNA profiles that have been in the system for years."
She explained that the district attorney's office then contacted another DNA expert from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to confirm that the DNA from the longjohns didn't come from sources at the autopsy. The CBI confirmed on June 27 that the DNA did not come from the autopsy.
Lacy acknowledged that there has been widespread public perception that the Ramseys were involved in JonBenet's death and apologized for her role in it.
"No innocent person should have to endure such an extensive trial in the court of public opinion, especially when public officials have not had sufficient evidence to initiate a trial in a court of law. I have the greatest respect for the way you and your family have handled this adversity," Lacy said.
This is not the first time the family has been cleared in wrongdoing, but it is the most conclusive and definitive statement made by authorities. In 2003, a federal judge handling a defamation lawsuit in Atlanta involving the Ramseys said evidence in the case was more consistent with the theory that an intruder killed JonBenet, not her parents, and Lacy said she agreed.
"For reasons including those discussed above, we believe that justice dictates that the Ramseys be treated only as victims of this very serious crime. We will accord them all the rights guaranteed to the victims of violent crimes under the law in Colorado and all the respect and sympathy due from one human being to another. To the extent that this office has added to the distress suffered by the Ramsey family at any time or to any degree, I offer my deepest apology," Lacy wrote.
Lacy said she will no longer speak about the case in public. (Read Lacy's entire statement.)
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