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Team begins digesting evidence

by Pam Regensberg
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- Prosecutors, investigators and criminology experts today began hearing previously privileged information in the 17-month-old JonBenet Ramsey murder case.

More than two dozen law-enforcement experts gathered this morning at the University of Colorado Coors Events and Conference Center to hear evidence in the highly publicized Boulder slaying.

At the center of today's activities is District Attorney Alex Hunter, the man ultimately responsible for the case's fate.

Hunter, who must decide whether to indict someone in the child's slaying or convene a grand jury to hear the case, arrived shortly before 7 a.m. He was accompanied by renowned criminologists Barry Scheck and Dr. Henry Lee, who gained fame during the O.J. Simpson trial.

``We're just here to listen,'' Hunter said before the meeting. ``I'm open-minded and anxious.''

Hunter's team of prosecutors and criminologists -- who bring hundreds of years of law enforcement experience to the table -- will hear more than 30,000 pages of evidence and review physical items collected in the Ramsey slaying.

The police presentation is expected to last two days.

By Tuesday afternoon, more than a dozen additional people will know what only Boulder investigators have known since the Dec. 26, 1996, homicide. The case, which gained international attention in the days and weeks following the slaying, has been surrounded by secrecy.

Though the media attention appeared to wane in recent months, news vans equipped with satellite dishes and other media vehicles filled the event center parking lot while reporters and photographers congregated outside the secured doors.

Popular radio personality, Peter Boyles of KHOW Radio, aired a play-by-play account of the morning events, including the time the invited guests arrived.

Behind the locked doors, the prestigious panel is expected to take a break every 90 minutes; lunch will be brought in as well. Boulder police Cmdr. Mark Beckner is expected to make a brief comment Tuesday, city spokeswoman Leslie Aaholm said.

DA spokeswoman Suzanne Laurion said Hunter probably will make a brief statement, as well.

Police hope the meeting will persuade Hunter to charge someone for the 6-year-old's murder or convene the grand jury to further investigate the slaying.

JonBenet was found dead in the basement of her Boulder home. She had been sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled.

Hunter had said the girl's parents remain under suspicion, but they have not been charged.

A 2-page ransom note demanding $118,000 for the safe return of the child was found in a private stairwell.

That note, the crude garrote found around JonBenet's neck and the autopsy report are among the pieces of evidence authorities are reviewing today and Tuesday.

Boulder police brought eight investigators to the meeting while Hunter brought eight Boulder County prosecutors, investigator Lou Smit, grand jury specialist Michael Kane, three district attorneys, two criminologists and two outside investigators.

Associated Press contributed to this report