Police, DA plan new DNA testing in JonBenet case
Officials may use new technology on old evidence.
boulder» Police and prosecutors are planning a new round of DNA tests on key evidence in the unsolved 1996 murder of 6year-old JonBenet Ramsey.
An investigation by the Daily Camera and 9News found serious flaws in the interpretation of previous DNA testing on the panties and long johns the girl was wearing when she was killed late on Christmas 1996 or early the next morning.
Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett and Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa confirmed Tuesday that they and members of their staffs recently discussed the issue with Colorado Bureau of Investigation administrators, who are on the verge of unveiling new, more sophisticated DNA tests than their lab has ever used before.
The meeting took place shortly before Thanksgiving, Testa said.
“We did meet with CBI and the district attorney’s office, and we had a general discussion about evidence in the Ramsey case, including new technology and DNA testing,” Testa said. “And we are going to take a look at the new technology and see how they may help us further this investigation.”
“We should be doing all reasonable testing that we can do, and we will be,” Garnett said.
The testing would be conducted with new, more sensitive “kits” required of crime labs by the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, the database that includes genetic profiles from more than 15.1 million known offenders and arrestees and more than 738,000 unsolved cases.
The investigation found that DNA evidence in the case doesn’t support the controversial decision by former District Attorney Mary Lacy to clear the girl’s family members from all suspicion in her death.
The two news organizations obtained exclusive access to the test results, laboratory notes, reports and correspondence relating to testing conducted in 2008, at Lacy’s request, by a forensic laboratory in Virginia then known as Bode Technology.
Multiple forensic experts who examined that evidence on behalf of the Camera and 9News disputed all of Lacy’s conclusions with regard to the DNA.
For example, they determined that male DNA located in JonBenet’s panties and in two spots on her long johns contained genetic material from at least two people in addition to the 6year-old. As a result, they suggested that the “profile” entered into the FBI’s CODIS database in 2003 — dubbed Unknown Male 1 by investigators in the case — may not be the profile of an individual at all, but a conglomeration of genetic material from multiple people.
At the same time, the experts disputed Lacy’s conclusions that the genetic material in the long johns “matched” the DNA in the panties, that there was no innocent explanation for its presence on the girl’s clothing, and that it therefore had to belong to the killer.
And the Camera and 9News found that Lacy was told of the results’ ambiguities before she issued her controversial letter on July 9, 2008, clearing JonBenet’s parents, John and Patsy, and brother Burke of any suspicion in her murder.
Experts who reviewed the DNA evidence and e-mails between Lacy’s office and Bode Technology were concerned that Lacy’s approach showed signs of a phenomenon known as confirmation bias — an investigation tainted by a desire to reach a hoped-for result.
Lacy established herself as a strong supporter of the theory that an intruder killed JonBenet, dating to her time as a chief deputy in the district attorney’s office immediately after the murder.
As one example, thenDA’s investigator Andy Horita wrote to the lab on March 12, 2008, that his bosses were “very excited” and “pleased” about the results that were being reported, and that “we’re happy with what has been done and don’t see the need for additional testing” unless strongly recommended by the lab.