Grand Jury Wanted JonBenet Ramsey's Parents Charged With Child Abuse

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 25 2013 11:51 AM

Grand Jury Wanted JonBenet's Parents Charged With Child Abuse

Then-Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter speaking after the end of the grand jury hearing in 1999

File photo by Mark Leffingwell/AFP/Getty Images

It's a relatively slow Friday, so let's fill the news cycle like they did back in the 90s—with news about JonBenet Ramsey. Here's the early takeaway from a batch of newly released court documents in the nearly 17-year-old murder case, via the Associated Press:

Grand jurors who reviewed evidence in the death of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey indicted both of her parents for child abuse resulting in death and being an accessory to a crime, including first-degree murder, according to documents released Friday.
The Daily Camera reported earlier this year that the grand jury had issued an indictment, but the documents for the first time revealed the charges against the Ramseys. The grand jury accused both John and Patsy Ramsey of helping someone who committed murder, but the document did not identify the alleged killer. The documents alleged both parents intended to delay or prevent the arrest of the alleged killer.

News of the indictment is sure to generate headlines, but in reality it's unlikely to change much. Grand juries, which are largely one-sided affairs, can hear evidence that wouldn't necessarily be admitted during a trial. Even the man who presented the prosecution's case to the group—then-DA Alex Hunter—ultimately declined to press charges, saying at the time that he and his team did not believe there was "sufficient evidence to warrant the filing of charges against anyone who has been investigated at this time." Without Hunter's signature, the indictment never became official, and the three-year statue of limitations on the charges in the indictment technically expired in 2002, according to the Denver Post.

Mary Lacy, a subsequent district attorney, cleared the Ramseys in 2008 based on new DNA testing that suggested JonBenet's killer was a stranger and not a blood relative. While the case technically remains open, it's no longer an active investigation, according to Boulder Police. For those interested, the Post has plenty more coverage—including portions of the unsealed documents and a timeline—here.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 



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