BOULDER, Colo. – A decade after the Christmastime slaying of JonBenet Ramsey, two aspects of the case endure: the public's fascination with the murder of the 6-year-old beauty contestant, and a sense for some that the notorious crime may never be solved.
Interest in the case was briefly rekindled this past year with the death of JonBenet's mother, Patsy Ramsey. The one-time Miss West Virginia died June 24 of ovarian cancer at the age of 49 in Atlanta, where the family had moved after her daughter's slaying.
Then, in August, the case appeared to blow wide open with the arrest in Thailand of John Mark Karr, a sometime teacher obsessed with the little girl's slaying.
Karr made bizarre, detailed confessions to the killing, but after he was brought back to the United States he was freed for lack of corroboration for his claims — or even any solid indication he'd been near Boulder at the time of the killing.
District Attorney Mary Lacy has said the investigation remains open and DA's investigator Tom Bennett said in a recent interview that the office is still receiving information about the case. Bennett noted that the office has hundreds of other, more active cases. The Boulder Daily Camera reported Saturday that Lacy had asked county commissioners for $40,000 to hire another investigator on the case.
JonBenet's father, John Ramsey, a software entrepreneur, has said in recent interviews he believes the case will be solved.
JonBenet was reported missing from the family's Boulder home by her wealthy parents on the morning after Christmas 1996. While police were taking an initial look at evidence, including an unusual ransom note written on a notepad in the home, John Ramsey found his daughter's body in the basement.
She'd been strangled and bludgeoned and had signs of sexual molestation.
The case became an overnight media sensation, driven in part by photos and videos of the little blonde girl competing in beauty pageants in provocative costumes.
This wealthy, politically liberal town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains became a regular backdrop for newscasts as the case wore on well past the holidays.
As months and then years passed without arrests or seeming progress, infighting between the police and prosecutors became public and endlessly debated. The district attorney's office was accused of treating the Ramsey family with kid gloves. The prosecutor reportedly thought the police too anxious to investigate the family.
Although leadership of both departments has changed, the agencies apparently remain at odds over the case.
Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said his department and the DA's staff aren't communicating about the case. "I have no idea what they are doing. They don't share that with us," Beckner said, noting his department wasn't involved in arresting Karr.
Lou Smit, a former DA's investigator who became a close friend of John and Patsy Ramsey, says DNA eventually will solve the case and prove an intruder killed their daughter.
"I still think the case can be solved. We need to wait for the DNA databanks to fill up," said Smit.
Former lead police investigator Steve Thomas, who has maintained from the start that suspicion points to the family, disputes that DNA will solve anything.
On one point, however, Thomas may agree with Smit and the others: "Boulder's criminal justice system was simply unprepared for this case," he wrote in an e-mail exchange with the AP.