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4/27/2003

Ramsey death accidental?

The Associated Press

BOULDER — A nationally known forensic scientist who worked on the JonBenet Ramsey case said he is still unsure whether the child was murdered or died in what may have started as an accident.

Dr. Henry Lee told the Rocky Mountain News the manner of death “is still a questionable issue.”

He did not return a message left by The Associated Press at his office Saturday.

Lee, best known for his work for the O.J. Simpson defense team, was a member of a team of experts assembled by former Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter to investigate JonBenet’s death.

The 6-year-old beauty queen was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her parents’ Boulder home Dec. 26, 1996.

A federal judge in April dismissed a defamation lawsuit against JonBenet’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, after saying the evidence in the child’s death is more consistent with an intruder than the parents being responsible. The lawsuit was by a freelance journalist who sued the Ramseys because they named him as a possible suspect in their book about their daughter’s death.

Days later, Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan said she agreed with the judge. Keenan, who took over the case from police in December, has declined further comment.

Lee said he considers the question of whether there was an intruder unresolved.

“Is it really a homicide or an accidental death? We really don’t know,” he said Friday.

Lee, chief emeritus of the Connecticut State Police forensic laboratory, was involved with the case while Hunter was district attorney. Hunter retired, and Keenan, who worked for Hunter, took over in 2001 after winning election.

Keenan hasn’t talked to him about the case, and isn’t obliged to, Lee said. He acknowledged there may be significant new evidence in the case since his last involvement.

“I respect her,” Lee said of Keenan. “She is a very competent attorney.”

Early Dec. 26, 1996, Patsy Ramsey called 911 and reported finding a ransom note on the back stairs demanding $118,000 in exchange for JonBenet’s life. Hours later, John Ramsey found his daughter’s beaten, strangled body in the basement.

No one has been arrested in the child’s death, but police said the parents were under “an umbrella of suspicion.”

The Ramseys, who moved to Atlanta with their son, have insisted an intruder is responsible.

Keenan has said police did an exhaustive investigation of the Ramseys as potential suspects and her office would pursue new or previously unchecked leads.