The father of JonBenét Ramsey, the 6-year-old Colorado girl whose 1996 killing in the family home became a huge national story, is asking the Colorado governor to intervene and let an outside agency to take over DNA testing in the ongoing investigation.
On December 26, 1996, JonBenét was reported missing from the family’s home in Boulder. Her mother, Patsy, told police she found a three-page ransom note demanding $118,000 for the girl’s return. Her body was found hours later by her father, John, in a basement room of the home.
The case captivated the country since due to JonBenét’s involvement in beauty pageants for young girls, her family’s wealth, and the initial suspicion around her parents, who were never charged and later cleared by authorities through DNA testing.
The office of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ office said Monday it is reviewing a petition asking him to intervene in the investigation.
The petition claims Boulder Police have not worked fast enough to test the DNA evidence, and “given the lack of progress” the petitioners are asking the governor to “move DNA decisions in this case away from the BPD to an independent agency so that JonBenét has a last chance at the justice she deserves.”
John Ramsey said he “approved the text of the petition, signed it, and contributed to find its circulation.”
He told on Tuesday the testing should be done by a third party.
“They are in a small community, and they don’t have a lot of police resources and no experience in homicides,” Ramsey said. “I don’t fault them for that. But they are refusing help from those that really knew what they were doing. Arrogance and egos got in the way, and there’s a lot of qualified help willing to come in.”
Police have never explained to him or his family why they would not accept outside help on the case, he said. Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in 2006. John Ramsey has remarried and no longer lives in Colorado.
Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said Monday in a statement the investigation “has always been and will continue to be a priority for the Boulder Police Department.”
Police met with federal, state, and local agencies in March, the statement said, and “multiple suspects have been run through the system to check for matches due to the huge advances in DNA technology.”
“Ever since Dec. 26, 1996, detectives have followed up on every lead that has come into the department, to include more than 21,016 tips, letters and emails and traveling to 19 states to interview or speak with more than 1,000 individuals in connection to this crime,” the statement read.
In December, the department said in a statement around the 25th anniversary of the killing investigators “use new technology to enhance the investigation” and check regularly for DNA matches in order to solve the case.
“Thanks to the huge advances in DNA technology, multiple suspects have been run through the system to check for matches. CBI (Colorado Bureau of Investigation) has updated over 750 reference samples with the latest DNA technology. The Boulder Police Department works closely with CBI on future DNA advancements.”
Ramsey says some evidence has never been tested
John Ramsey said he recently attended CrimeCon, a convention dedicated to true crime, where he discovered some of the latest DNA technology is not always available to federal and local police departments but can be contracted out to independent labs.
He said some of the most compelling technology was the use of familial genealogy, a technique made famous through the identification of the Golden State Killer in 2018.
Investigators identified him using a then-novel investigative technique known as genetic genealogy, which combines DNA analysis with genealogical research.
“DNA has changed dramatically technology has changed in 25 years and there was DNA found on her body and her clothing,” John Ramsey said. There is also a good amount of evidence that was never tested in the first place, he said.
Ramsey said he was last briefed on the status of his daughter’s murder case in 2020 after he requested a meeting with the new police chief, he said. He has spoken to the FBI about DNA technology in the last several months, but they were unable to share any information as they are not the lead investigators.
He said the “same detectives are still handling the case from when it happened,” and it has been difficult to get new updates on the case.
Child murder should be a federal crime, father says
He is hopeful new DNA testing will help solve who murdered JonBenét as it has in other dormant cases.
“There have been a dozen or so cases since that have used this approach using public databases of DNA, and it should be employed in this case,” he said. “Police have refused to do that, so we should take it out of police hands.”
The latest appeal into his daughter’s death has made Ramsey want to push for legislation to make the murder of a child a federal offense, so such cases are able to have resources outside the local jurisdictions where they happen.
“Let’s bring the full resources of the government on that problem and not leave it up to the local police departments,” Ramsey said. “It’s a mess. I’ve thought about it a lot, and the only way to fix it is to make it a federal crime.”
“We can’t leave it up to local police,” he added.