Po­lice, DA plan new DNA test­ing in JonBenet case

Of­fi­cials may use new tech­nol­ogy on old ev­i­dence.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Char­lie Bren­nan and Kevin Vaughan

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.

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