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7/1/2006

DA: Death won’t affect JonBenet case

By Amanda Arthur
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Patsy Ramsey’s death will not affect the investigation into the long-unsolved death of her 6-year-old daughter, Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy said this week.

Ramsey, 49, died June 24 in Georgia after a years-long battle with ovarian cancer. She was thrust into the national spotlight Dec. 26, 1996, when her daughter JonBenet was found beaten and strangled in the family’s Boulder home.

Though Patsy Ramsey and her husband, John, became a central focus of investigations into the girl’s death, the couple steadfastly maintained their innocence. Police never officially named them as suspects but said they were “under an umbrella of suspicion.”

In 2003, Lacy took a controversial stance when she openly defended a federal judge’s ruling supporting the theory that an intruder — not Patsy Ramsey — was responsible for JonBenet’s murder.

That same year, investigators said they were unsure her killer would ever be found.

“My honest answer on this is I do not know if it’s solvable,” Tom Bennett, the lead investigator on the Ramsey case for the district attorney’s office, told the Daily Times-Call in 2003.

Lacy said this week she has a policy of not speaking to reporters about the case. Bennett also remained mum.

Bennett came out of retirement and returned to the district attorney’s office in May to again take over the Ramsey investigation after the man who replaced him, Jim Kolar, left the office to return to Telluride.

In a statement released this week, Lacy said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of Patsy Ramsey. The Boulder District Attorney’s Office extends our sincere and heartfelt sympathy to John and (son) Burke Ramsey and to all of Patsy’s family members and friends.”

Though some have speculated that Patsy Ramsey’s death will lend further weight to skeptics’ claims that the case will never be solved, others remain optimistic that JonBenet’s killer will be brought to justice.

Former Deputy District Attorney Trip DeMuth, who attended Patsy Ramsey’s funeral in Georgia this week, said he was impressed by the outpouring of support for the Ramsey family.

DeMuth was a lead investigator on the Ramsey case until 1998. He left the district attorney’s office in 2000, after an unsuccessful bid for the top job against Lacy.

In a telephone interview from Georgia, DeMuth said, “Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that an innocent woman had her daughter tragically murdered, was targeted by the police and spent the last years of her life defending her name.”

DeMuth, who now works for an international civil law firm, said he believes JonBenet’s case is solvable but that the chances that will happen become slimmer as time passes.

“If (the case) is being investigated, it’s not being investigated very aggressively,” he said. “And if that’s the case, her death isn’t going to affect the investigation at all.”

DeMuth said he believes the case might have been solved already had the Boulder Police Department “taken a more broad investigative approach than simply focusing on the Ramseys.”

“Everything about this case is tragic,” he said. “It’s tragic that it hasn’t been solved.”

Amanda Arthur can be reached at 303-684-5215, or by e-mail at aarthur@times-call.com.