BOULDER, Colo. -
With criticism mounting over their handling of JonBenet Ramsey's 1996 slaying, Boulder police handed the investigation over to the District Attorney's Office six years ago. On Monday, the police department welcomed it back.
With the support of newly elected Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, Police Chief Mark Beckner said his agency is reactivating its Ramsey investigation and again taking the lead in efforts to solve the city's most infamous cold case.
As part of the change, Beckner said, his department has invited veteran investigators from several state and federal agencies to participate in an "advisory task force.â
The group, which will include about 20 people, will meet for a two-day "powwowâ sometime in the next few weeks to review all the evidence. The goal of the task force, Beckner said, is to "explore all possible theories about what happened the night JonBenet was killed.â
Beckner didn't directly address a letter that former District Attorney Mary Lacy sent in July to the Ramsey family exonerating them as suspects in their daughter's death. He said he wants to go into the talks with no presumptions.
"We are open to all possibilities,â he said.
The 6-year-old beauty queen was found dead Dec. 26, 1996, in the family's Boulder home, 755 15th St. Police said then that her parents were under an "umbrella of suspicion,â but a grand jury ended an investigation into the case with no indictments. JonBenet's mother, Patsy Ramsey, died in 2006.
Beckner said he began thinking about taking over the investigation last summer when Lacy sent her apology letter, and he met with Garnett about that prospect.
"We were on the same page right away,â Beckner said.
Boulder police gave up the case in 2002, in part because of criticism that they bungled the initial investigation by ruining evidence and focusing solely on the Ramseys as suspects. Beckner said he was "OKâ with that change at the time, "if people felt it was better off with the District Attorney's Office.â
Now that time has passed, Beckner said, his department is ready to pick up where it left off.
Lacy said Monday that she supports moving the case back to Boulder police. She said Garnett doesn't have time to review 30,000 pages of investigative materials, and police "really are the ones with the knowledge and the background.â
"Reinventing the wheel would be crazy,â she said. "It would have taken Stan a year or two and wasted a lot of resources.â
Garnett said police should lead the investigation because "district attorneys prosecute, and police investigate.â
He will, however, be on the new Ramsey task force, which also will include representatives from the FBI, Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Colorado Attorney General's Office.
John Ramsey's attorney, L. Lin Wood, of Atlanta, said he and his client are optimistic about the change.
"The goal is to solve the murder,â he said.
A letter police sent Ramsey on Monday asked for any information he was willing to provide, Wood said.
"I expect that sometime in the future they would speak with each other,â he said, adding that he hopes police investigators can leave behind any bias they once had.
"Old habits are hard to break,â he said. "My only concern is that this be a fresh look.â
Trip DeMuth, a former Boulder prosecutor who worked on the Ramsey case, said he doesn't believe Beckner can handle the case without prejudice, and it is "less likely to be solvedâ unless the department approaches it without baggage.
Larry Pozner, a Denver defense attorney who's been critical of the handling of the case, said he doesn't expect new leads or suspects to come from the task force or future police work.
"This case is badly damaged,â Pozner said, "and there's nothing they can do to correct the impression of their bias or the evidence that was lost.â
But Chief Beckner said he's hopeful that a new look and advancing technology will shed new light.
"Some cases never get solved, but some do,â he said. "And you can't give up.â