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Police say Ramsey case needs more details

By B.J. Plasket
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- Unable to build a case during a grueling 15-month investigation, Boulder police on Thursday asked District Attorney Alex Hunter to convene a grand jury to investigate the murder of JonBenet Ramsey .

It may be a long time, however, before their case is actually heard by a grand jury.

Hunter, in a prepared statement issued late Thursday, didn't say if he would impanel the jury, but spokeswoman Suzanne Laurion this morning said, ``This will take a lot of time,'' and said Hunter has no timetable for reviewing the case file and deciding whether to impanel a grand jury.

The Boulder police, in another statement issued Thursday, said the investigation ``has progressed to the point at which the authority of a grand jury is necessary in order to have a complete investigation.''

Hunter's release, however, said the request was made because the investigation ``has not yet resulted in sufficient admissible evidence to charge anyone.''

Authorities have hinted for months that a grand jury may be the only way to get testimony from reluctant witnesses, including John and Patsy Ramsey , the slain 6-year-old's parents.

The Ramseys have refused additional interviews with police and also have refused to allow their 10-year-old son Burke to be questioned.

If called before a secret grand jury, witnesses must answer questions or convince a judge they have ``good cause'' for their refusal. Under Colorado law, there is no prohibition against calling children before the panel.

The term of the current standing grand jury in Boulder County is about to expire, and District Judge Joseph Bellipanni is scheduled to begin selecting a new panel on April 22. That jury, consisting of 12 jurors and two alternates, will be chosen from a pool of about 140 potential jurors.

Hunter could present the Ramsey case to that jury or impanel a special grand jury solely for the Ramsey case. Laurion said those decisions are also a long way from being made.

The police, meanwhile, are continuing their investigation. Thursday's release said 64 tasks on the department's 90-item task list have been completed.

Commander Mark Beckner, who is heading the police investigation, said, ``The longer we work on this case, the clearer it becomes that deactivating the case would not be appropriate. The appropriate step at this time is to ask for a grand jury to assist us in gathering additional admissible evidence.''

While the law allows grand jury witnesses to bring attorneys, the lawyers are not allowed to participate in the proceedings, all of which are secret. Nine of 12 jury members are required to recommend an indictment, but the district attorney is not bound by the grand jury recommendation.

Hunter, meanwhile, was not returning media phone calls this morning. Laurion said he was ``holed up in his office'' with his staff working on the grand jury question.