Citing new DNA tests, prosecutors on Wednesday cleared JonBenet Ramsey's parents and brother in the 1996 killing of the 6-year-old beauty queen and apologized to the family for casting the cloud of suspicion that hung over them for more than a decade.
Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy said the tests point to an “unexplained third party.” She released a copy of a letter she sent to John Ramsey that said: “To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime, I am deeply sorry.”
For years after the slaying, tabloids and crime shows went after John and Patsy Ramsey, who died in 2006 of ovarian cancer at the age of 49. News reports also cast suspicion on JonBenet's older brother, Burke, who was 9 when his sister was killed. Lacy's predecessor as district attorney, Alex Hunter, said in 1997 that the parents were under an “umbrella of suspicion.”
“To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime, I am deeply sorry,” Lacy wrote. “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.”
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Early in the investigation police found male DNA in a drop of blood on JonBenet's underwear and determined it was not from anyone in her family, but Lacy said they were unable to say who it came from and whether that person was “innocent or otherwise.”
Then late last year, prosecutors turned over long underwear JonBenet was wearing to the Bode Technology Group near Washington, which used a new technique called “touch DNA” to find previously undetected DNA evidence.
Two samples were found on the sides of her long underwear, in an area where an attacker would have pulled them down.
The results, reported to prosecutors in March, indicated the newly discovered DNA matched the DNA found earlier, and was not from the Ramsey family. Lacy said the presence of the same male DNA in three places on the girl's clothing convinced investigators it belonged to JonBenet's killer, and had not been left accidentally by an innocent party.
“It is therefore the position of the Boulder District Attorney's Office that this profile belongs to the perpetrator of the homicide,” she wrote.