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Ramsey Investigators' Secret Trip To Asia

By Rick Sallinger

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - This year marks 20 years since JonBenet Ramsey was murdered in her home in Boulder. Now CBS4 has learned of a secret trip made to Asia by investigators early on in the case.

The trip was to visit the manufacturer of the underwear worn by the 6-year-old girl when she was killed.

If there is a clue that could solve this disturbing murder mystery it may be as simple and complex and three letters, DNA. Small spots of blood from a still unknown person was found in JonBenet's underwear. Did it come from the killer? Or did it come from somewhere else like from those who made the items?

JonBenet Ramsey
(Photo by Axel Koester/Sygma via Getty Images)

Former Adams County District Attorney Bob Grant was on the team advising Boulder on the Ramsey case.

He told CBS4's Rick Sallinger, "One of the things that might have been possible would be to isolate a team that worked on that particular manufacturing belt of those pants and take DNA samples from that."

Grant said he was speaking of the assembly line belt of the plant that made the panties.

So the Boulder District Attorney's office sent investigators to southeast Asia to the undisclosed country where the underwear was made. But Grant says the trip did not pay off as hoped.

"The manufacturing process didn't lend itself to that they couldn't take everybody's DNA and they had issues with the government," said Grant.

John Mark Karr
John Mark Karr was briefly a suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey slaying. Karr, a schoolteacher, was arrested Aug. 16, 2006, in Thailand after he made phone calls and wrote e-mails in which he claimed to have killed the 6-year-old in her Boulder home in December 1996. The case against him disintegrated when DNA tests showed Karr could not be the killer. A woman who has a restraining order against Karr said in June 2010 that he is living as a woman and trying to form a cult of little girls to have sex with him.

Several years later what has been called the most expensive DNA test ever took place. John Mark Karr was flown to Boulder from Thailand in business class under then District Attorney Mary Lacy after Karr claimed he killed the JonBenet. But his DNA didn't match.

He was released.

Grant told CBS4 "The fact that he was considered by DA Lacy a viable suspect leads me to believe there were folks in the office who had a stronger feeling about the intruder theory than others of us had."

What has been determined is that the DNA found on JonBenet's clothing, including a later sample that was discovered and tested, did not match anyone in her family. Based on that in 2008, Lacy exonerated JonBenet's parents and brother Burke.

In fact, no match has ever been found with anyone. Grant believes that early trip to southeast Asia was worth the try.

The Boulder home where JonBenet Ramsey's body was found. (credit: CBS)

"I don't know if it's possible to determine if a DNA sample as small and long ago as this one had a particular whether it was of Asian origin or not," said Grant.

Nearly 20 years after her murder, DNA still remains a key factor in finding JonBenet's killer. Grant hopes perhaps one day there will be a "hit" in a data base that will match the DNA found on JonBenet and it will turn out to be from whoever murdered her.

Grant says he agreed with former District Attorney Alex Hunter not to prosecute the parents of JonBenet even though a grand jury voted to have them indicted for child abuse resulting in death.

JonBenet Ramsey
John and Patsy Ramsey, the parents of JonBenet Ramsey, meet reporters after four months of silence in Boulder on May 1, 1997. Patsy holds up a reward sign for information leading to the arrest of their daughter's murderer. Their 6-year-old daughter was found dead on Christmas night 1996. (Photo By Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post)

"For me the lynchpin of why the case should not have gone forward then was the presence of unknown male DNA of the underwear of JonBenet when she was found dead," said Grant.

He adds there is still evidence today that would support both main theories, whether she was killed by an intruder or someone who was living in her home at the time.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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