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DNA clears JonBenet's family, points to mystery killer

  • Story Highlights
  • New DNA tests exonerate all members of JonBenet Ramsey's family
  • Child beauty contestant was slain in December 1996
  • DNA points to unidentified male as her killer
  • District Attorney Mary Lacy writes letter clearing John Ramsey, family
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(CNN) -- Recently developed "touch DNA" technology has cleared all members of JonBenet Ramsey's family of her slaying, authorities said Wednesday.

Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy said no one in the Ramsey family is considered a suspect and formally apologized in a letter to John Ramsey for the cloud of suspicion his family has lived under for nearly 12 years.

"To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime, I am deeply sorry," Lacy wrote. Read the letter »

Instead, DNA tests conducted earlier this year point to an "unknown male," in the 6-year-old child beauty pageant contestant's December 1996 slaying.

Early on in the case, Boulder police said parents John and Patsy Ramsey, and their son, Burke, were under "an umbrella of suspicion" in JonBenet's death, although they were never named as suspects.

John Ramsey found his daughter's body in the basement of the family's Boulder, Colorado, home on December 26, 1996. She had been strangled and beaten. Testing in 1998 showed that DNA evidence found in the girl's underwear and beneath her fingernails was from an unidentified man and did not match anyone in the Ramsey family. Follow the timeline »

Tests conducted in March revealed that new DNA collected from a pair of long johns matched a sample previously taken from the child's panties.

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Genetic material was scraped from the waistband of the long johns, which JonBenet was wearing over her underwear when her body was found. Lacy said in her statement that authorities believe the long johns were either replaced or removed by her killer.

Additional tests were conducted to ensure that the genetic material did not come from law enforcement or medical examiner's personnel, the statement said.

"The unexplained third-party DNA on the clothing of the victim is very significant and powerful evidence," Lacy's statement said. "It is therefore the position of the Boulder District Attorney's Office that this profile belongs to the perpetrator of the homicide."

That same DNA also exonerated John Mark Karr, a one-time schoolteacher, after he was arrested in Thailand and confessed to the killing in 2006. Lacy was widely criticized for the handling of Karr's arrest.

Lacy took pains to state that her office does not consider JonBenet's father, her mother -- now deceased -- or older brother to be suspects. She said she released the findings in the interest of justice.

Lacy blamed "evidence reported by the media" rather than "evidence that had been tested in court" for suspicions cast on the Ramseys as the case was investigated, suspicions that she said "created an ongoing living hell for the Ramsey family and their friends."

She added, "We believe that justice indicates that the Ramseys be treated only as victims of this very serious crime."

John Ramsey told CNN affiliate KUSA that he is "grateful" that there is "irrefutable DNA evidence" that clears the family. Video Watch John Ramsey express his gratitude »

"It's hard for people to accept and think that someone could come into a home and murder a child from their bed and we were perhaps an answer," he said. "It became an entertainment event for a lot of the media, sadly. ... It boosted ratings, attracted viewers, to develop that controversy."

Ramsey continued, "You know the pain, the intense pain that we felt was the loss of our child. The accusations and the finger pointing weren't significant ... We were deeply crushed by the loss of our child, particularly in the manner that it happened."

Ramsey said his late wife also would be "thankful for the continuing efforts to find the killer."

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Atlanta attorney Lin Wood, who represents the Ramseys, told CNN that Patsy Ramsey's death is "one of the sad notes of today's news, because she's not here with us to celebrate the vindication of her family."

"What's happened today, though, is irrefutable DNA evidence has now resulted in John and Patsy and their son, Burke, being officially cleared in this case," he added. "This family suffered too many years, too many heartaches of being falsely accused in the murder of their child."

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