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Ramsey probe gets additional $24,000

by B.J.Plasket
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER The JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation now in its fourth calendar year will soon come under the scrutiny of the "best forensic people in the world," District Attorney Alex Hunter said on Thursday.

Hunter's comments came minutes after the county commissioners appropriated $24,000 to fund the investigation for three more months.

"This case is not over," Hunter said, adding that he can "still feel the heartbeat of this case."

The commissioners, who expressed reservations about funding the probe after a grand jury disbanded in October without bringing an indictment, approved the money request unanimously and without questions.

"This is not something that you quit simply because the general public has a short attention span," said Commissioner Paul Danish. " Murder investigations can go on for years or even decades.

"I'm not optimistic, but as long as there are leads in the case, then they should be pursued."

County commission Chairman Ron Stewart called the request a "reasonable" one.

"If you're in the middle of an investigation, you don't just stop it," he said.

"There are still some avenues that are being investigated," said Danish. "And I think it would be wrong at this stage to leave some of these loose ends untied."

In a brief statement to the commissioners, Hunter said the money is for "work that must be done, work that is necessary to the investigation."

Hunter's office said it needs $9,000 to pay part-time prosecutor Michael Kane, $5,000 for travel and $10,000 for expert consultation fees.

After the meeting, Hunter said the $10,000 in expert fees will go not to new experts, but to Henry Lee, the forensic scientist who has been analyzing crime-scene evidence tests.

There has been speculation that Lee's work is focused on cutting-edge DNA testing being conducted by British scientists.

Kane, meanwhile, remains in private law practice in Pennsylvania and is waiting for a report from Lee.

Hunter said Kane is scheduled to visit Boulder this month, but he refused to comment further except to say the case is now being scrutinized by "the best forensic people in the world."

Hunter also reiterated his earlier comments that the Ramsey case is " a tough case."

Although maintaining he is optimistic the case will someday be solved, Hunter said he "doesn't want to get anyone's hopes up."

Hunter, who said he hasn't decided if he will seek an eighth term in office, said he is not concerned about former investigator Lou Smit's relationship with JonBenet's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey . Smit, who left the case because of his belief the Ramseys are innocent, is now reportedly working for them.

Smit had a confidentiality clause in his contract that precludes him from sharing case information.

"I've not seen evidence" that Smit violated the agreement, Hunter said.

Responding to reports that Smit has shared crime-scene photos with the Ramseys , Hunter said he would "have some concerns" if those reports are true.

Hunter said he is currently spending "about half" his time on the Ramsey case, which once involved a half-dozen prosecutors and five full-time detectives.

None of Hunter's deputies are still involved in the case.

Staff writer Eric Frankowski contributed to this report.