Grand Jurors go to house
Grand jurors inspect Ramsey house
Panel methodically examines home where child was found dead almost two years ago
By Charlie Brennan
News Staff Writer
BOULDER -- Grand jurors took a field trip Thursday, spending several hours inspecting the house where JonBenet Ramsey was found murdered.

Clutching notepads and other printed material, they scoured the 15-room, 61/2-bath house unsupervised while Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter and his team of prosecutors huddled in the back yard.

The tour of the home, which JonBenet's parents sold in February, was supposed to be a secret, as are all grand jury proceedings.

But within 15 minutes of the jurors' arrival shortly after 9 a.m., reporters and photographers began arriving at the home at 755 15th Street. Prosecutors warned the media to stay 100 feet away from the jurors, as required by a court order.

Jurors methodically inspected the grounds, tested different doors, and even examined the southwest window well where the John and Patsy Ramsey have said they believe an intruder may have gained entry to the home.

The jurors, who began investigating the case Sept. 15, were chauffeured to the Ramsey home in a sheriff's van and dropped off in an alley behind the house.

Each keeping to themselves and working quietly, they traipsed for two hours and 20 minutes through all four levels of the residence, which the Ramseys bought for $500,000 in 1991 and called home until the morning of Dec. 26, 1996.

That's the day John and Patsy Ramsey told police they woke up before dawn, discovered their 6-year-old daughter missing and found a 21/2-page ransom note demanding $118,000 for the girl's safe return.

JonBenet's body was found early that afternoon beaten and strangled. Her parents, who moved to Atlanta in the summer of 1997, have been labeled suspects in the case but maintain they're innocent and welcome the grand jury probe, which began Sept. 15.

Legal experts said it's rare for a grand jury to visit a crime scene.

"That's very unusual," said Susan Brenner, a professor and national grand jury expert at the University of Dayton School of Law.

"They normally don't do this, because they normally don't have to. If you have got enough to indict, you don't need to tour the house. And if you don't have enough to indict, touring the house is not going to do it. But it can't hurt."

However, Christopher Mueller, who teaches evidence and procedure at the University of Colorado School of Law, said there's nothing startling about the visit.

"This gives them an idea how isolated the various rooms are from each other, that it would be easy for noises to happen in the vicinity of JonBenet's room that the parents wouldn't necessarily hear. And it's good for them to get a feel for that."

JonBenet's parents have said they put her to bed about 10 p.m. Christmas night in her bedroom on the second floor then went to sleep in their third-floor bedroom and never heard a suspicious sound. Their bedroom was three levels above the tiny windowless basement room where JonBenet's body was found behind a closed door.

October 30, 1998
1999-02-18: "Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, JonBenet and the City of Boulder"
Written by Lawrence Schiller, February 18, 1999

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"In many respects, the case was "scene-dependent"-could a person have lifted the window-well grate and climbed through the broken window to the basement and still leave a partial spider web intact? How well could someone hear from one room to another?

On October 29, the grand jury toured the Ramseys' fifteen-room house. By 9:10 A.M. some jurors were already combing the property, going in and out through the side doors on the north side of the house and in and out the front door and peering in through the windows on the ground level. Each juror carried a notepad and several pages of photocopied material.

Kane, Levin, Morrissey, Wise, and Hunter lingered in the yard while the jurors spent several hours in the house,

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working mostly alone, almost never speaking to one another, each moving along at his or her own speed. The house was now unfurnished, and without the aid of photographs, it was hard to visualize how it had once looked. Still, the tour was sure to have an impact on the jurors. It was, after all, the crime scene.

Before the group left, one male juror tested the drainpipes on the exterior of the house, to see how strong they were. Possibly he wondered whether the pipes could support someone trying to scale the outside of the house. Another juror looked at the duct that led from the boiler room to the front of the house. Probably the jurors had been told Lou Smit's theory about how the scream might have been heard by the neighbor but not on the third floor, by JonBenet's parents.

At 11:20 the jurors left, two hours and twenty minutes after they arrived."

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