Court documents released Friday reveal that a 1999 grand jury voted to indict John and Patsy Ramsey of child abuse resulting in death and being an accessory to a crime, including murder, in connection to their 6-year-old daughter JonBenét, but a prosecutor declined to sign it citing a lack of evidence.
The grand jury's indictment papers did not indicate who killed the young beauty queen. The charges didn't directly accuse the Ramseys of killing their daughter, but alleged they permitted JonBenét to be placed in a dangerous situation that led to her death and it accused them of helping the killer, who has never been brought to justice.
The Ramseys were not officially indicted, however, because then-District Attorney Alex Hunter refused to sign the documents to prosecute them. In 2008, then-Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy exonerated the girl's parents and immediate family after DNA evidence pointed to an unknown male as JonBenét's killer.
JonBenét's body was found Dec. 26, 1996. She had been strangled and her skull was fractured.
JonBenét Ramsey's mother, Patsy, died of cancer in 2006.
Earlier this week, John Ramsey asked officials to release the entire grand jury record if the unprosecuted indictment was made public. However, the judge said transcripts of grand jury proceedings and evidence presented to it are not considered "official action" under the law governing criminal court records. He also said releasing such information could hurt other grand juries, whose work is secret.
An attorney representing John Ramsey, L. Lin Wood, said he's confident that no evidence in the grand jury case implicated the Ramsey family and the public should be able to see that for themselves.
"Anything less than the release of all of the proceedings is a gross injustice to the Ramsey family," he said.
Former prosecutor and law professor Karen Steinhauser said grand juries sometimes hear evidence that won't be admitted during trial that can form the basis of indictments. But she added that prosecutors must have a good faith belief that they could prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt before pursuing charges.
"I'm not sure that the release of this indictment is going to change the fact that there has not been able to be a prosecution and probably won't be able to be a prosecution," she told The Associated Press.
Some other experts have suggested over the years that investigators botched the case so thoroughly that it might never be solved.
Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said the case remains open but it's not an active investigation. He predicted the indictment's release wouldn't change anything.
"Given the publicity that's been out there, many people have formed their opinions one way or another," he said.
Hunter did not return phone messages left Thursday by The Associated Press in anticipation of the documents' release. Lacy also did not return a message seeking comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.