JonBenét Ramsey’s murder has still not been solved nearly a quarter century later, but a team of volunteer investigators thinks they know what the Boulder Police Department should be focusing on to move to the next stage of the investigation.
As we reported last year, just before the 25-year mark in the child pageant queen’s murder case, the college town’s police department said it was using new DNA technology to “to enhance the investigation” in hopes of tracking down the killer.
But now, a group of volunteers — including the daughter of a detective who spent years investigating the case — says the department needs to re-test three key pieces of evidence specifically under the format needed to perform forensic genealogy research.
For those who don’t know, forensic genealogy is a groundbreaking new tool that has helped identify suspects in dozens of cases of murder and sexual assault. Experts compare the DNA samples from a crime scene to open-source databases from services like Ancestry.com or 23andMe. This narrows the suspect pool way down, as law enforcement can start to build a family tree of a suspect. It was instrumental in helping police to nail the Golden State Killer.
As for the pieces of evidence this group insists should be tested? Underneath the 6-year-old’s fingernails, her long johns, and her underwear. Just a reminder of what a gruesome crime this was…
Cindy Smit-Marra, the daughter of late detective Lou Smit — who introduced the “intruder theory” that rocked the case, but sadly passed away before locking down a suspect — and investigator John Anderson explained to The Sun:
“We request that the lab that did the testing on the long johns use their current technology to potentially identify more markers and/or separate any comingled DNA. This would simply take a phone call from the Boulder Police Department.”
The duo said Boulder police could alternatively bring in cutting edge private companies that specialize in forensic genealogy, like Parabon or Othram.
For the time being, the team has been using their own money, along with funds donated through their GoFundMe, to test DNA and narrow down the suspect pool.
But they want Boulder police to step it up — specifically, to “coordinate with experts who can re-evaluate all of the physical evidence in this case to determine if that evidence may yield further identifying and/or corroborating DNA,” Smit-Mara and Anderson said, explaining:
“New DNA markers found could then be tested in the format required to do forensic genealogy. Then retain an expert to conduct a ‘familial’ DNA search for relatives of the killer in CODIS using the DNA profile of the killer currently in CODIS.”
That would be a huge step forward. If the killer really was a strange intruder, comparing the DNA on file to suspects in the case wouldn’t help. But comparing it to the DNA of the public at large could point cops in the right direction!
The team is unsurprisingly frustrated with the department, as they confessed their relationship with Boulder officials has been “disappointing.” Smit-Marra and Anderson added:
“Our team met twice with the Boulder Police Detectives and the Boulder District Attorney to share what we were doing and the results of our independent DNA analysis. Unfortunately, our last request for a meeting was rejected when I confirmed the purpose of our meeting was related to Lou Smit’s Intruder Theory, which eliminates the Ramsey family and focuses on efforts to identify her killer.”
For its part, the department recently revealed on Twitter it had been, in fact, meeting with private labs. In response to someone who urged tem to “Get JonBenét’s DNA retested,” the department tweeted:
“Your information is not accurate. The Boulder Police Department regularly meets with multiple entities regarding this investigation, to include private labs, the FBI, CBI, the District Attorney’s Office and others. In this ever- and quick-changing field of DNA analysis and testing, we are constantly speaking with these investigative stakeholders to evaluate how best to proceed given legal and scientific rules and limitations. Due to the length of time since this crime first occurred, Boulder police must be extremely cautious with handling of evidence and analysis. The Boulder Police Department has spoken with members of the Ramsey family in the past few years who have provide (sic) information to investigators. Detectives have never stopped investigating leads that continue to come in and having the DNA tested daily in CODIS.”
This prompted a response from John Andrew Ramsey, JonBenet’s half brother, on Tuesday, who retweeted Boulder police’s comment with a note of his own. He wrote:
“Holy Moly! A real life response from @boulderpolice! So here is the issue…they talk a big game but every feeler I got out there tells me otherwise. Not to mention a terrible track record. Do you give them the benefit of the doubt?”
Let’s hope that forensic genealogy report is eventually performed one way or another, since it sounds like that could very well be what cracks this puzzling case!
[Image via 60 Minutes Australia/YouTube]