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12/26/2002

Police pass reins of Ramsey case to DA

Travis Henry
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — New lawsuits. New investigators. New spins.

In the case that never ends, there is only one thing still certain about the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation — her killer is still free.

Six years after the news about the death of the 6-year-old started spilling into the nation’s consciousness, the Boulder Police Department is calling it quits and handing the investigation over to District Attorney Mary Keenan.

“We are not going to have anybody working on the case other than tying up loose ends,” Chief Mark Beckner said Monday.

Perhaps no one has welcomed that news more than JonBenet’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, who have long maintained that Boulder police unfairly focused their investigation onto them and not the “real killer.”

“The Ramseys are elated that Mary Keenan has taken charge of this investigation and that the Boulder Police Department will not take part,” Ramsey attorney Lin Wood said from Atlanta, where the Ramseys now reside. “I think the umbrella of suspicion has been closed and put back in the closet.”

Boulder police never publicly claimed John or Patsy Ramsey were suspects, instead invoking the famous “umbrella of suspicion” description whenever asked.

Beckner said he is not turning over the case due to coercion or a pending lawsuit by the Ramseys that claims police leaked information in attempts to ruin the Ramseys’ reputation.

In a carefully worded statement, Beckner said he hoped the “new turn” in the investigation would lead the Ramseys to be more open about what they know about their daughter’s death.

“The primary reason for this change is an attempt to further the investigation in a positive manner,” Beckner said. “The interests of the Boulder Police Department have always been to do what is in the best interests of the investigation. This is a strategy to address concerns expressed by the Ramseys and their attorney that the Boulder Police Department is not following up additional leads.”

Wood said he is already in the process of turning over investigative material unearthed by the Ramseys to Keenan’s office.

“The Ramseys are convinced, and I am convinced, that Mary Keenan will approach the case with an open mind,” Wood said. “For the first time in six years, (the Ramseys) feel there is reason to have considerable hope this case can be solved.”

In a letter to Wood, Keenan said she is keeping all options open, including talking to retired Detective Lou Smit, who once worked on the case and has publicly said he believes an intruder killed JonBenet.

Keenan and her cohorts are staying mum about the investigation’s direction.

According to Beckner’s press release, both the police and district attorney’s office had pondered the switch in responsibility for the investigation — which will involve investigators who have not previously worked on the Ramsey case — for the last few weeks.

Assistant District Attorney Bill Nagel will take the helm of the investigation, along with Keenan herself.

“We are not commenting on anything,” Nagel said Monday. “That has been our approach for two years, and we are not starting now.”

Travis Henry can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 326, or by e-mail at thenry@times-call.com.