BOULDER, Colo. (CN) - Documents show that a Colorado grand jury recommended that John and Patricia Ramsey be charged for the abuse of their 6-year-old daughter, JonBenét, who was found dead in their home in 1996.
A Boulder County judge Lowenbach last week ordered that the indictment be released. It was handed down in 1999 but never prosecuted.
Senior District Judge J. Robert Lowenbach ruled that only official actions of the grand jury would be released.
The document shows the grand jury recommended at least two charges against each parent: child abuse resulting in death and accessory to a crime.
The recommended charges were identical for each parent.
"On or between December 25, and December 26, 1996, in Boulder County, Colorado, John Bennett Ramsey did unlawfully, knowingly recklessly and feloniously permit a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation which posed a threat to the child's life or health, which resulted in the death of JonBenet Ramsey, a child under the age of sixteen," according to Count IV (a).
"On or about December 25, and December 26, 1996 in Boulder County, Colorado, Jon Bennett Ramsey did unlawfully, knowingly, and feloniously render assistance to a person, with intent to hinder, delay and prevent the discovery, detention, apprehension, prosecution, conviction and punishment of such person for the commission of a crime, knowing the person being assisted has committed and was suspected of the crime of murder in the first degree and child abuse resulting in death," Count VII states.
The language is identical in the two recommended counts against Patricia Paugh Ramsey.
After reviewing the indictment, Lowenbach suggested in his order that JonBenét had been sexually abused before she was killed, though the published documents do not reveal so much.
JonBenét was found dead in the basement of her home on Dec. 26, 1996, after her mother reported her missing. Patsy Ramsey claimed to have found a ransom note that demanded more than $100,000 in cash for the girl's safe return.
Then-Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter declined to file charges against the Ramseys, citing alack of evidence.
Current District Attorney Stanley Garnett published an op-ed in the Boulder Daily Camera on Sunday, in which he discusses the indictment and his views on the proposed charges.
"These documents mean that this grand jury believed there was 'probable cause' (a lower threshold standard of proof than 'beyond a reasonable doubt') based on the evidence they had heard, that the named defendants had committed the crimes listed," Garnett wrote. "That they were not pursued within the statute of limitations means that the DAs with the authority to do so believed that the evidence did not rise to the necessary level to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at a jury trial. I don't know if I would have made the same decision, but I know how difficult these decisions are."
Garnett said he had been aware of the proposed charges since he took office in 2009.
"I asked my appellate department to review them and was told that they related to charges for which the statute of limitations had run years ago," Garnett said. "My staff evaluated the Ramsey case to determine if there was any charge for which the statute of limitations had not run and for which there was conclusive evidence. Because there was none, we focused on other matters (including four murders we tried in 2009, two of which were cold cases). My, or my staff's view of what the evidence in the Ramsey case proves will only be stated in open court if a case is ever filed. In the meantime, everyone, including the Ramsey family, is entitled to the full presumption of innocence."
The Boulder Police Department said in a statement that investigators were disappointed that the Ramseys never faced charges and suggested a strained relationship between the department and then-District Attorney Hunter.
"Investigators at the time were disappointed in the then district attorney's decision not to issue indictments," police said in the statement. "Cases are rarely perfect and often contain conflicting evidence. As a result, the opportunity to present the entire case to a jury may be lost forever. We also understand the criteria for taking a case to trial is higher than probable cause.
"What we have learned from this experience is how important the relationships are between police departments which investigate cases and the district attorneys who ultimately prosecute cases. These roles should always remain clear. At the same time, both agencies must work collaboratively together as a team. Under District Attorney Stan Garnett, we've been able to develop a team approach - with both agencies aiming for similar goals - to achieve unprecedented success in prosecuting cold cases, most of which had been rejected for prosecution under previous district attorneys. Justice, and the public interest, is better served with this type of collaboration and shared focus."
The department said that JonBenét's killer will likely never face justice.
"The status of the Ramsey investigation today is that of a cold case," the statement said. "The case is still open, but is not actively being investigated and there are no new leads. While we believe at this point it is unlikely there will ever be a prosecution, the Boulder Police Department still holds out some hope that one day the district attorney and the Boulder Police Department will be able to put together a case worthy of presenting to a jury."
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