We’re almost a week away from the 20th anniversary of the infamous murder of six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey (a minor fascination of mine), and there’s new news about the case. For those who still refuse to accept that the overwhelming evidence points to the Ramsey parents, John and Patsy, as the murderers (and/or complicit in gruesome cover-up of that murder), there has long been a rallying cry: “What about the DNA? It ‘cleared’ them!
For those only somewhat acquainted with the case, let me introduce you to Mary Lacy, the incompetent – scratch that, willfully derelict – former district attorney (DA) of Boulder, who not only advocated for the Ramseys throughout her tenure in office, but likely ruined any chance that the killer(s) could ever be prosecuted.
It was Lacy who “cleared” the Ramseys. Actual investigators, though, never cleared them. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and virtually everyone on the initial case believed someone in the Ramsey house killed JonBenet. Lacy was the one who penned that preposterous apology letter to the parents, referring to them as “victims.” And, to big fanfare, she was the one who dragged a disturbed John Mark Karr — without any compelling evidence other than his own insane confession — back to Boulder from Thailand. (She released him in a week.) She did this on the strength of DNA tests that showed genetic material on JonBenet’s long johns and panties matching an unknown male.
The DNA evidence, however, was never exculpatory, because 1) it could have come from anywhere—the store, factory or the house, and 2) Lacy was in charge of the investigation and everything she did should be suspect. Gordon Coombes, who worked for Lacy’s office at the time, has stated that while DNA testing was still going the DA was already hosting internal lunch meetings to talk about how to defend the intruder theory:
“I was told when I went to the DA’s office, ‘Don’t voice against the intruder theory because you may be forced out if you don’t fall in line. If you don’t believe in it, just keep your mouth shut,’ ” Coombes tells The Post. “It just seemed weird the whole premise of … this attempt to influence the entire agency.”
And when Colorado news organizations recently obtained access to the “test results, laboratory notes, reports and correspondence relating to testing conducted in 2008,” they had multiple forensic experts study the results. Those experts not only found that the e-mails between Lacy’s office and firm examining the DNA showed a “confirmation bias” that tainted the investigation, they also uncovered significant errors in the interpretation of DNA testing on JonBenet’s long johns and underwear. The forensic experts found that the evidence in the case doesn’t support Lacy’s decision to “clear” the Ramseys, which, if you’ve followed the twists and turns of the case over the last two decades, is one of the least surprising things you’ll ever hear about it.
For example, they determined that male DNA located in JonBenet’s panties and in two spots on her long johns contained genetic material from at least two people in addition to the 6-year-old. As a result, they suggested that the “profile” entered into the FBI’s CODIS database in 2003 — dubbed Unknown Male 1 by investigators in the case — may not be the profile of an individual at all, but a conglomeration of genetic material from multiple people.
Stan Garnett, elected after Lacy left office, has confirmed that the CBI, which will be opening a new DNA testing facility in 2017, will retest some of the DNA evidence from the case, as well as material from numerous other cold cases. It seems highly unlikely that the testing could lead to prosecution of anyone at this point. But it’s worth remembering that in 1999 (uncovered in 2013) a grand jury voted to indict both parents in the death of JonBenét on charges of felony child abuse resulting in death, accessory to first-degree murder, and child abuse resulting in death. Lacy, the Boulder DA, refused to move forward following the indictment.
It is also important to note, because of that preposterous CBS documentary and Burke Ramsey’s offputting interviews, that police have ruled JonBenet’s brother out a number of times during the investigation. They interviewed him three times — once for three straight days — without the parents being present. The interview was videotaped, and yet neither the FBI, nor the CBI, nor any of the detectives at the time suspected Burke of being involved in the murder.
In this case we always end up in the same place.