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Ramsey spending about

by B.J.Plasket
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER Authorities have been trying to find out who killed 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey for more than two and a half years.

That is about to become a $2 million question.

Boulder's most famous homicide has now become its most expensive, with the city's costs already topping $1.3 million and the county's cost about to go over $600,000.

Together the county and the city have spent about $1.88 million on the investigation, which has produced no arrests.

Prior to Thursday's $56,999 county appropriation to fund the grand jury process through October, the county mainly the district attorney's office and the sheriff's department had spent $547,498 during the first 31 months of the investigation. The new appropriation, if spent in its entirety, will put the county's tab over $600,000.

The city of Boulder's tab passed that mark a while ago.

The bulk of Boulder's expenditures came in 1997 with Ramsey -related expenditures of $531,475 and in 1998 with the expenditure of $630,956.

During the first week of the investigation, the last week of 1996, Boulder spent $21,377 on the case. Most of that $20,340 was spent on police overtime.

Boulder spent $134,621 on overtime in 1997 and $37,541 in 1998. So far this year overtime has cost the city $8,026.

Boulder taxpayers also footed $71,899 in travel expenses over the life of the case, including $57,392 in 1997.

Most of the county's Ramsey expenditures more than $477,000 have come from the district attorney's office in the form of hourly wages. Figures released this week indicate the district attorney's office has so far spent $332,518 in hourly wages on the case. The DA's second-largest expense, rent on the "war room" from which the investigation has been conducted, has so far totaled $48,458.

Normally the county would not have to pay for space in the Justice Center, but is paying the rent of another agency that agreed to move out of the building to make room for the investigation.

DA Alex Hunter's office has also spent just over $31,000 for computer equipment used in the case. The sheriff's office has contributed just under $16,000 in wages and employee benefits.

Hunter, appearing before the board of county commissioners this week to ask for the additional $57,000, called the request "legitimate" and necessary to complete the investigation.

Ron Stewart, the chairman of the board of commissioners, said he felt the county has an obligation to keep funding the case while the grand jury is still working. The board unanimously approved the request.

The grand jury, meanwhile, has not met since May 25. Hunter said other investigative work, however, is still being done.

Hunter's media officer, Suzanne Laurion, said her boss has tried to be as frugal as possible in conducting the probe. She said Hunter's office was not large enough to contain the war room and that his staff was already busy when the Ramsey case broke.

Laurion said Hunter is also getting a good return on the money he is spending.

"He's managed to hire people who put in more hours than they are paid for,'' she said. "It's been a tight ship and Alex, over the years, has always kept tight purse strings."