By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) - A Colorado judge on Wednesday ordered the release of the 1999 indictment of JonBenet Ramsey's parents in the child beauty queen's killing, offering a glimpse into the investigation of a crime that has long captivated the nation.
The 18-page Boulder County Grand Jury indictment of John and Patsy Ramsey will be released for public inspection on Friday, Judge Robert Lowenbach ruled. At the time the grand jury handed down the indictment, then-District Attorney Alex Hunter refused to sign it and prosecute the Ramseys.
The documents were not expected to include any dramatic new revelations about the still-unsolved 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenet, a case that has been covered exhaustively by the media. It has been the subject of several books and at least two documentaries.
Attorney Thomas Kelley, who represents the plaintiffs - a Boulder newspaper reporter and the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press - said the documents could provide answers to some lingering questions about the case.
"But," said Kelley, "I don't think it will help us understand this inscrutable crime"
He added the judge's decision represents a victory for freedom of the press.
"When a grand jury puts a year of work into an investigation, they are entitled have the results of their work known by the public," Kelley said. "When the district attorney simply discharges the grand jury and tells them everything is secret, the public's right to know is severely compromised."
Current Boulder County District Attorney Stanley Garnett fought the release of the indictment on the grounds that grand jury proceedings are meant to be secret. A spokeswoman for his office said prosecutors would abide by the judge's ruling.
John Ramsey also opposed the release of the indictment.
Early on the morning of December 26, 1996, Patsy Ramsey reported JonBenet missing, telling police that she had found a ransom note asking $118,000 for her daughter's safe return.
That afternoon in the basement of their home, John Ramsey discovered JonBenet's body, covered by a blanket, a cord around her neck, her wrists bound and duct tape over her mouth. An autopsy showed she had died from strangulation and a skull fracture.
The grim case touched off a media frenzy, fueled in part by controversy over JonBenet's participation in child beauty pageants.
In 2008, then-Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacey announced that the Ramseys and their son, Burke, had been cleared as suspects in the case, in part due to DNA evidence which showed the involvement of an unknown male.
Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer in 2006, at the age of 49. JonBenet's murder remains unsolved.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Gunna Dickson)