The Jury May Be Grand; Its Verdict Isn't

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The never-ending saga of the JonBenet Ramsey case has convinced everyone in America of one of two things: Either the Boulder police and district attorney are among the most intellectually challenged people in the world, or JonBenet was killed by someone who is not only crazy, but also incredibly lucky. On Wednesday, the grand jury looking into the case for the past handed out its long-awaited decision: They were unable to find sufficient evidence to prosecute anyone in the death of the six-year-old beauty queen. Ramsey’s parents, long considered prime suspects in the 1996 murder, expressed "mixed feelings" over the decision, and reiterated their hope that the killer would be brought to justice. "The investigation took a major blow from the grand jury," says TIME Denver bureau correspondent Dick Woodbury. "We may learn more about the reasoning behind their decision, but the fact remains that the odds of reaching a conclusion on this case just got a whole lot longer."

As the governor of Colorado considers appointing a special prosecutor to the murder investigation, people everywhere are shaking their heads in disbelief. What have the police been doing all this time? Nothing particularly productive, apparently, especially given that JonBenet’s immediate family is linked to some pretty damning evidence: a ransom note composed with paper and pen from the family house, which handwriting experts speculated might have been written by one of the parents, reported multiple disappearances of Mr. Ramsey on the night of the murder and the fact that the family was permitted to wander freely throughout the house, after the police arrived, on the night JonBenet was killed. The overwhelming belief that the parents had something to do with their daughter's demise led to accusations that Boulder County D.A. Alexander Hunter is shielding the well-to-do — and well-connected — Ramseys from the brunt of the investigation. The grand jury, however, could find nothing with which to nail them — or anyone else. Now it looks as if JonBenet's death, for nearly three years the subject of national interest — and obsession — will become a matter for state investigators. At this stage, whatever trail of evidence there might have been has surely run as cold as the upcoming Colorado winter.