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New prosecutor looks at JonBenet Ramsey case

  • Story Highlights
  • Stan Garnett says he'll take fresh look at JonBenet Ramsey case
  • Garnett says he hopes to decide who should follow up on tips
  • Case was taken from Boulder police in 2002
  • Last year, prosecutors exonerated JonBenet's mother, father and brother
  • Next Article in Crime »
By Ashley Broughton
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(CNN) -- The new district attorney of Boulder County, Colorado, said he plans to take a fresh look at the investigation into the 1996 slaying of JonBenet Ramsey.

The DA's office assumed responsibility for the investigation in 2002. But District Attorney Stan Garnett told CNN that he wants to decide during his first 30 days in office whether the case should be returned to Boulder police.

"I'm trying to determine whether it's efficient to have the ongoing investigation handled by my office or somebody else," said Garnett, who was sworn in as district attorney January 13.

The DA's office is relatively small, he said, with 27 lawyers and six investigators handling between 2,000 and 2,500 felony cases a year.

Although the Ramsey case has not generated news since last year, tips and information regularly come in to authorities. Whoever is handling the investigation is charged with checking them out and deciding whether they are worth pursuing, Garnett said.

He said reports that he is considering reopening the case are inaccurate. "It's not closed. It hasn't been solved, and it's been open the whole time."

The case is one of the nation's most famous unsolved murders.

On December 26, 1996, John Ramsey discovered the body of his 6-year-old daughter, JonBenet, in the basement of the family's Boulder home. The girl had been strangled and beaten. A ransom note was found on the stairs of the home, demanding $118,000.

Early in the case, Boulder police said JonBenet's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, were under "an umbrella of suspicion" in her death. But they were never formally named as suspects, and a grand jury refused to indict them. Patsy Ramsey died in 2006 after a lengthy battle with ovarian cancer.

In July, Garnett's predecessor, Mary Lacy, issued a public apology for the suspicion surrounding the Ramsey family after a DNA test performed using new technology showed that DNA found on JonBenet's underwear and under her fingernails belonged to an unidentified man. The test results, Lacy said, were "powerful evidence" that allows investigators to think the Ramsey family were victims, not suspects.

That same third-party DNA exonerated John Mark Karr, a one-time teacher, after he was arrested in Thailand and brought to Colorado. Authorities said Karr told a University of Colorado professor in e-mails that he was involved in JonBenet's death. He told reporters after his arrest that he was with the child when she died, although he called her death an accident and said he loved her.

Lacy was widely criticized, including by then-Gov. Bill Owens, for the handling of Karr's arrest.

Boulder police also have long faced criticism over their handling of the investigation.

But, Garnett said Friday, "I've been very impressed by the Boulder P.D. They are a fine department now and have handled a number of cases very well. ... They've done a very nice job."

The department has 24 investigators, four times as many as the DA's staff, he said.

Garnett was elected DA in November to replace Lacy, who could not run again because of term limits. Before he was elected, he served as a trial lawyer for 22 years, according to the DA's Web site.

All About JonBenet RamseyJohn RamseyPatsy RamseyJohn Mark Karr

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