DNA

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(Note: Public knowledge of the DNA testing is incomplete. Not all DNA testing documents have been released.)

An area of the long johns that was cut out for DNA testing in 1999. An interpretable profile could not be derived from the cut out area.

Trace amounts of DNA were recovered from various items at the scene. The DNA overwhelmingly belonged to JonBenet Ramsey herself, however some mixed profiles contained unidentified components. Some argue that one or more of these identified profiles belongs to an intruder or intruders who were in the home on the night of JonBenet's death. This theory has been contested by Boulder Police and independent scientists consulted by the Boulder Daily Camera, however it has been supported by the Ramseys' lawyers and some investigators from the District Attorney's office.

Background[edit]

DNA testing for the Ramsey case has occurred in several different laboratories over the years. Different labs have performed different types of tests, with different levels of sensitivity.

Initial tests on evidence taken from the home were performed at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) throughout late 1996 and early 1997. DNA samples were also tested and enhanced at the Denver Crime Lab. When the District Attorney's office had complete control of the case under Mary Lacy, they contracted Bode Laboratories to perform testing of a select objects. After the case was transferred

Results Summary[edit]

Only some DNA testing reports have been released. There is no public list of which items have been tested for DNA. Based on limited information we know:

Single Source Profiles[edit]

  • DNA consistent with JonBenet Ramsey was found on:

There were no single-source profiles found from anyone other than JonBenet Ramsey.

Mixed Profiles (Jonbenet + Other Contributors)[edit]

  • DNA consistent with Burke Ramsey was found on:
    • Three areas on the nightgown contained Touch DNA (low quantity) including JonBenet's DNA and an additional male contributor consistent with Burke Ramsey
    • One area on the nightgown contained Touch DNA (low quantity) including JonBenet's DNA and an additional contributor consistent with Burke Ramsey and Patsy Ramsey
  • DNA consistent with an unidentified male (popularly known as "Unidentified Male 1") was found on:
    • One bloodstain from underwear contained JonBenet's DNA and an additional contributor (enhanced to a 10-marker profile after multiple rounds of testing) - the additional contributor has been named "unidentified male 1" and has been submitted to the national CODIS database.
    • The top-right area of the long johns contained Touch DNA (low quantity) including JonBenet's DNA and several additional contributors, one of whom was consistent with "unidentified male 1".
  • DNA consistent with a second unidentified male was found on:
    • The bloodstain on the "garrote" contained JonBenet's DNA and an additional 7-marker male profile (NOT consistent with "unidentified male 1" or any other contributor to another sample).
  • DNA consistent with a third unidentified male was found on:
    • The bloodstain on the wrist-cord contained JonBenet's DNA and an additional 6-marker male profile (NOT consistent with "unidentified male 1" or any other contributor to another sample).
  • Additional unidentified DNA:
    • Fingernails from her right hand contained JonBenet's DNA and two additional contributors, one male, one female (too weak to be compared to other samples)
    • Fingernails from her left hand contained JonBenet's DNA and one additional male contributor (too weak to be compared to other samples)
    • Another bloodstain from underwear contained JonBenet's DNA and an additional contributor (too weak to be compared to other samples)
    • Additional alleles that did not match either JonBenet or "unidentified male 1" were present on the long johns.


Fingernails DNA:

Panties DNA: 7-1: mixed profile - between 1 and 2 markers identified (possibly) 7-2 (described as "from the edge of the cutting"): mixed profile - UM1 deduced from this (9 marker profile) - eventually became 10 marker profile. 7-3: no interpretable DNA recovered 7-4: matched Jonbenet Ramsey 7-5: no interpretable DNA recovered 7-6: no interpretable DNA recovered

Long johns DNA:

Garrote DNA:

Wrist-cord DNA:

Theories[edit]

Limitations of DNA Analysis[edit]

To quote Mark Stolorow, from Cellmark laboratories, who worked on the Ramsey case: "DNA testing is not a determination of guilt or innocence. DNA testing only reveals which samples match and which samples don't match... Sometimes, it's the most important piece of evidence that's brought to trial. Sometimes, it's the least important."[1]

Impossible to determine biological origin of touch DNA.

Impossible to determine when a piece of DNA was deposited.

The analysts who conducted the DNA testing

Most agree that as long as the DNA remains unidentified, there is no way of knowing. Gregg Laberge, the analyst who actaully extracted the DNA profile in question, held this view.

"LaBerge indicated that it was his opinion that the male sample of DNA could have been deposited there by a perpetrator, or that there could have been some other explanation for its presence, totally unrelated to the crime. I would learn that many other scientists held the same opinion." [kolar foreign faction]

Greg Laberge: "I think it would be wrong for them to focus just solely on the DNA because the DNA (as important an aspect as it is), it is not the sum total of the investigation."[2]

"Intruder" Explanation of the DNA[edit]

Proponents of this view concede that the majority of the unidentified DNA comes from transfer/contamination, but argue that one profile ("unidentified male 1") comes from an intruder. They believe the location of the DNA on the victim's underwear to be suspicious, and discount the possibility of a transfer before or after the crime.

The Ramseys' legal team has endorsed this theory. District Attorney Mary Lacy claimed this was the only valid theory of the DNA and famously stated there was "no innocent explanation" for the DNA, though the Boulder Police Department and several scientists consulted by the Boudler Daily Camera disagreed with this claim.

Lin Wood: "DNA found on JonBenét’s underwear was from saliva, while the DNA found on her pajama bottoms was touch DNA". This is a simplification. Amylase testing ... initially inconclusive

Also, it cannot be proven that the DNA from the long johns was not also from saliva. the biological source of "touch dna"

Proponents of this theory: John and Patsy Ramsey, Ramsey lawyer Lin Wood, Ramsey private investigator John San Agustin, Lou Smit, District Attorney Mary Lacy, Ramsey defense expert Lawrence Kobilinsky

"Transfer/Contamination" Explanation of the DNA[edit]

Proponents of this view point to

  • the minuscule quantity of the unidentified DNA, which is consistent with the amounts of foreign DNA found on clothing even immediately after laundering.
  • the lax handling of evidence at the crime scene and during the post-mortem, for example the use of unsterilized nail clippers in the morgue, the handling of objects like the ransom note without gloves,

Generally two scenarios:

  • Before the crime
  • After the crime

Proponents of this theory:

Boulder Daily Camera "DNA in Doubt"

DA investigator Tom Bennett: "The DNA on the underwear may be from the killer, but it may not be," Bennett said."It`s minute DNA, like from a cough or sneeze.... You can`t just jump to conclusion it`s positive proof that will trace back to the killer." (2004)

Mike Kane: "There is always a possibility that it got there through human handling, ... You have to ask yourself the possible ways that it got there: whether it was in the manufacture, the packaging or the distribution, or whether it was someone in the retail store who took it out to look at them"[3]

Anonymous law enforcement source November 2002: "Another investigator with expertise on forensic issues, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the theory that the underwear DNA might be the result of point-of-production contamination. And, wherever it came from, that investigator said, "We certainly don't think it is attributable to an assailant. That's our belief. When you take everything else in total, it doesn't make sense. I've always said this is not a DNA case. It's not hinging on DNA evidence."[4]

James Kolar suggests that “Cloth to cloth” transfer could be responsible for [the transfer of genetic material from her underwear to the leggings.] (p. 427).

I believed, as did many of the other investigators working the case, that that there may have been a plausible explanation for the DNA found in the underwear and that its presence may have had nothing whatsoever to do with the death of JonBenét. The presence of this DNA is a question that remains to be resolved, but it continues to be my opinion that this single piece of DNA evidence has to be considered in light of all of the other physical, behavioral, and statement evidence that has been collected over the course of the investigation.[5]

Dr Henry Lee also gave his support to this theory.

Nov 2002 according to rocky mountain news, "investigators obtained unopened "control" samples of identical underwear manufactured at the same plant in Southeast Asia, tested them - and found human DNA in some of those new, unused panties."[6] However according to Kolar, Bennet and Laberge said the DA's office had done tests and determined much lower quantities of DNA. It is unclear if the Rocky Mountain News article is referring to experiments by the police or by the DA's office. (the DA's office took control of the case in December 2002).

Dr Dan Krane. “The presence of a DNA profile says nothing about the timeframe or the circumstances under which that DNA came to be associated with the sample,” said Krane. Krane is one of the world’s foremost DNA experts, testifying as an expert witness in more than 100 criminal trials in which DNA evidence was presented. He is also the president of Forensic Bioinformatics, which has reviewed testing from hundreds of cases around the world every year since 2002.[7] "The DNA in your tests could be there because of a contact that was weeks, months, even years before the crime occurred," biochemist Dan Krane told Westword in 2014. "Someone has optimistically concluded that they can have confidence in these results, and that just seems misguided."[8]

The scissors theory: photographs show that the areas scraped for touch DNA had previously been cut. The sample containing the original "unidentified male 1" profile was from "the edge of the cutting". Both the panties and long johns were cut on the same day. Even a small amount of contamination on scissors, or a failure to completely sterilize the scissors between cuttings, would result in the presence of consistent foreign trace DNA on both items of evidence.

Timeline of Testing[edit]

1997 CBI Testing (Excerpts)[edit]

January 15, 1997 - CBI

Available Excerpts: Excerpt 1, Excerpt 2, Excerpt 3

1997 CBI DNA Test Results
Bloodstain from shirt (#5A) Consistent with JonBenet Ramsey
Bloodstain from shirt (#5B) Matched JonBenet
Bloodstains from panties (#7) Mixed profile: major component JonBenet. Unidentified minor component (1 allele identified at 1 locus).
Right Fingernails (#14L) Mixed profile: major component JonBenet. Unidentified minor component (1 allele identified at 2 loci). [According to Kolar, "The right fingernails indicated that two further unique profiles were present": an unidentified male, and a unique unidentified female profile.]
Left fingernails (#14M) mixed profile: major component JonBenet. Unidentified minor component (1 allele identified at 4 loci). [According to Kolar the left fingernails indicated an unidentified male.]
Bloodstain from white blanket (#16A) Consistent with JonBenet Ramsey
Swab with saliva (14I) Matched JonBenet.
Samples from tape (15A and 15B) Matched JonBenet.
Bloodstains from nightgown (17A and 17C) Matched JonBenet.
Semen stains from black blanket (23A, 23B) DNA profiles could not be developed from the sperm fractions. However, the results for the epithelial fractions was not visible in the excerpt. According to Thomas, semen stains taken from the scene were matched to John Andrew Ramsey. [NOTE: semen stains contain fractions of both sperm cells and epithelial cells]

The unidentified profiles observed in these results were described as "very weak". Melissa Weber from Cellmark [...] The Boulder District Attorney's office nevertheless [...] Bill Wise, Ollie Gray and Alex Hunter both cited these results as the reason he did not believe the Ramseys were involved in the killing.

[according to a random timeline: May 13, 1997 - DNA results from samples sent to Cellmark reportedly are complete and in Boulder authorities hands.] (???)

1998[edit]

December 3, 1998 - "It’s learned that five Ramsey family members have been asked to provide DNA samples to authorities. The five are not considered suspects. Sources say authorities want the DNA to see if it can be linked to unmatched DNA found in the Ramsey home."

1999[edit]

January 5, 1999 - Photographs were taken of the underwear and the cutting taken from the crotch area of the underwear.

1999 CBI Testing[edit]

May 17, 1999 - CBI Testing

Full Report: LINK

1999 CBI DNA Test Results
Cuttings from panties (#7-3, #7-5 and #7-6) No interpretable DNA profiles
Cutting from panties (#7-4) Matched JonBenet Ramsey
Cuttings from long johns (#6-B1, #6-B2 and #6C) No interpretable DNA profiles

2001 CBI Testing (No Reports Made Public)[edit]

"the Boulder Police failed to request an analysis of the second bloodspot on JonBenét’s panties. This was only done when an attorney, preparing the evidence for the Grand Jury insisted on it 3 years later [in 2000?????]. The result of the second analysis was a bombshell. While the earlier DNA had been far too weak to identify the killer, the DNA from the second bloodspot was almost capable of doing so and it came from the same white male. [...] "When the DA’s office took over [this was in December 2002], they gave priority to enhancing the DNA until it identified the killer. His DNA has now been put into CODIS, America’s combined DNA index."

In November 1998 the CBI had purchased two new DNA testing kits--the AmpFLSTR Profiler Plus™(Profiler Plus) and the AmpFLSTR Cofiler™ (Cofiler) kits. But, the use of these new kits was suspended until April 23, 2001, because of a case unrelated to the Ramsey case (the People v. Michael Shreck), in which the courts argued about whether DNA results from the new kits were admissible as evidence. On April 23, 2001, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the new DNA kits were allowed.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, this resulted in a new round of DNA testing occurring in the Ramsey case in 2001. According to the newspaper, "JonBenet’s underwear is analyzed again resulting in between one and two markers out of 13 being defined".

Pre-2002 FBI Mitochrondrial DNA Testing (No Reports Made Public)[edit]

Some time prior to 2002 - FBI extracts mitochondrial DNA profile from axillary hair. Consistent with Patsy Ramsey or a member of her maternal line.

2002[edit]

It is likely that another profile was developed from a different area of the panties sometime in 2001-2002, which was greater than 5 markers, but less than the 10 markers required for submission to the FBI's national DNA database (CODIS).

We know this because on December 10, 2002, Andy Horita first contacted CBI about what would be needed to submit a profile to CODIS. He was informed that Boulder Police submitted a profile (via the Denver Crime Lab) "quite a while ago" to the CBI for comparison within Colorado (though not with the entire national database). According to CBI's guidelines " profiles with fewer than 5 autosomal loci should not be entered into CODIS as they would never be able to return matches". It is unclear if or when a profile was developed of sufficient quality to submit to the state database.

2003 Denver Crime Lab Testing[edit]

Laberge Denver Crime Lab deduces Unidentified Male 1 (report has never been made public)

early STR testing of panties sample:

The male DNA sample, subsequently identified as Distal Stain 007-2[actually stain 7-2, not distal], only contained 9 genetic markers, and like the DNA collected from beneath JonBenét’s fingernails, was of insufficient strength to be entered into the state and national databases. Moreover, the sample was so small that technicians were not able to identify the biological origin of the exemplar. [9]

Eventually a 10th marker was identified which then met the minimum standard for entry into CODIS:

DNA replication technology was utilized in the Denver Police Department’s crime lab, and the 10th marker was eventually strengthened to the point that the unidentified male sample discovered in JonBenét’s underwear was able to be entered into the state and national databases. This laboratory success didn’t take place until 2002.[10]

The head of the Denver Crime Lab was Greg Laberge. He discussed his work on the case in Kolar's book:

I met with the man who had worked so diligently to enhance the DNA sample identified as Distal Stain 007-2. Denver Police Department crime lab supervisor Greg Laberge met me for lunch in early December 2005 and advised me that the forensic DNA sample collected from the underwear was microscopic, totally invisible to the naked eye. So small was it in quantity, consisting of only approximately 1/2 nanogram of genetic material, equivalent to about 100 – 150 cells, that it took him quite a bit of work to identify the 10th marker that eventually permitted its entry into the CODIS database.[11]

After the arrest of John Mark Karr in August 2006, Karr's defense attorney Steve Jacobsen gained access to all the DNA testing documents up to that point.[12] He discussed these briefly with the Boulder Daily Camera:

Jacobson, of Collins & Rafik, said the male DNA profile found mixed with JonBenet's blood in her underwear has between nine and 10 of the 13 markers used by most law enforcement authorities to compare profiles. The sample carries the probability that a randomly selected individual would match it is one in more than a billion, Jacobson said Monday.
That is much better than the DNA evidence gleaned from testing a second blood spot found in the underwear just after JonBenet's death, which has been disclosed by investigators as contaminated. The same spot was tested again in 2001 and resulted in between one and two markers being defined, Jacobson said. The probability of a random match for that low of a threshold is one to two out of a hundred.

2008 Bode Lab Testing[edit]

March 24, 2008 - Bode Laboratories

Touch DNA testing. Quantities much smaller.

  • Long Johns (top right exterior) (2S07-101-05A) - mixed profile including JonBenet and at least one male contributor. Unidentified male 1 was consistent but remaining component should not be considered single-source profile. Probability of randomly selecting an unrelated individual from the US population who would also be consistent: 1 in 6200.
  • (2S07-101-05B) - mixture including JonBenet and at least one male contributor. Unidentified male 1 "cannot be included or excluded".
  • (2S07-101-05C) - mixture including JonBenet and at least one other contributor. Minor contributor is "low level, contains allelic dropout and therefore is not suitable for comparison".
  • (2S07-101-05D) - mixture including JonBenet and at least two other contributors including one male. "Due to the complexity of this mixture it was deemed unsuitable for any further comparison purposes".
  • The cutting from the panties (2S07-101-06A, -06B, and -06C) - partial profile consistent with JonBenet.
  • Nightgown (bottom front) (2S07-101-07A) - mixture including JonBenet and at least one male contributor. Burke Ramsey and Patsy Ramsey cannot be excluded. Probability of randomly selecting an unrelated individual from the US population who would also be consistent: 1 in 50,000.
  • Nightgown (left shoulder, front and back) (2S07-101-07B) - mixture including JonBenet and at least one other contributor. Burke Ramsey and Patsy Ramsey cannot be included or excluded.
  • (2S07-101-07C) - mixture including JonBenet and at least one male contributor. Burke Ramsey and Patsy Ramsey cannot be included or excluded.
  • (2S07-101-07D) - mixture including JonBenet and at least one male contributor. Burke Ramsey cannot be included or excluded.
  • Other evidence received by Bode but "not processed at this time": ligature from neck, broken paintbrush handle, ligature from wrist, Wednesday panties,


Under Mary Lacy, the DA's office approached Bode Laboratories in 2007. They made no secret of the fact that their intention was to clear the Ramseys and "validate the existing CODIS profile by eliminating point-of-manufacture controversies."

Lacy established herself as a strong supporter of the theory that an intruder killed JonBenét, dating back to her time as a chief deputy in the district attorney's office immediately following the murder. She had already issued one public "exoneration" of the Ramseys back in 2003.

As one example, then-DA's investigator Andy Horita wrote to the lab on March 12, 2008, that his bosses were "very excited" and "pleased" about the results that were being reported, and that "we're happy with what has been done and don't see the need for additional testing" unless strongly recommended by the lab.

An email one month earlier from Horita had alluded to the lab's assignment as an exercise "to validate the existing CODIS profile by eliminating point-of-manufacture controversies."

This, independent experts have said, runs contrary to the spirit of "double-blind" standards to which such testing should adhere.

2008 CBI Testing[edit]

June 26, 2008 - CBI - http://jonbenetramsey.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/130877820/20080626-CBIrpt.pdf

  • Fingernails (14L and 14M) - could not be analyzed due to insufficient sample remaining.

(Miscellaneous items from suspects were also tested)

2009 CBI Testing[edit]

January 13, 2009 - CBI - http://jonbenetramsey.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/130877823/20090113-CBIrpt.pdf

  • Neck ligature (Item 8) mixed profile, major component JonBenet. Unidentified minor component ("unidentified male 1" was excluded). According to Kolar this was a 7-marker male profile.
  • Wrist ligature (Item 166) mixed profile, JonBenet was consistent. Unidentified minor component ("unidentified male 1" was excluded). According to Kolar this was a 6-marker male profile.

(Miscellaneous items from suspects were also tested)

2018 CBI Testing[edit]

June 29, 2018 - Boulder Daily Camera reports "a new wave of DNA testing" has been completed, "although investigators are not talking about what was learned".

"We did meet with CBI and the district attorney's office, and we had a general discussion about evidence in the Ramsey case, including new technology and DNA testing," Testa said. "And we are going to take a look at the new technology, and see how they may help us further this investigation."

The testing would be conducted with new, more sensitive "kits" required of crime labs by the FBI - In 2017, the CODIS lab began requiring more sophisticated DNA tests that identify at least 20 individual points of comparison — as opposed to the standard of 13 required since 1997. All accredited DNA labs, including the one operated by the CBI, are required to use the new testing kits.

Common Questions about the DNA[edit]

  • What is "Touch DNA"?

text

  • Can Genealogical DNA Be used like with the Golden State Killer?

Unlikely.

  • If the DNA could be useless, why has it been used to clear people?

Police have repeatedly stated that no one has been cleared on the basis of DNA alone. Chief Mark Beckner specifically said: "Exonerating anyone based on a small piece of evidence that has not yet been proven to even be connected to the crime is absurd in my opinion. You must look at any case in the totality of all the evidence, circumstances, statements, etc. in coming to conclusions."

  • Does the submission of the DNA to CODIS prove that it is from the perpetrator?

No.

  • Is "Unidentified Male 1" one person or a mixture of multiple people?

Experts consulted in 2016 raised the possibility that "unidentified male 1" could be a mixture of multiple contributors' DNA. The reports from the 2003 testing that resulted in the creation of "unidentified male 1" have never been made public.

It is important not to confuse the long johns samples with the underwear samples. Bode Labs explicitly stated that the long johns samples should not be considered single source profiles. Bode did not comment on the original underwear sample from which UM1 was taken.

  • Was the unidentified male's DNA "comingled" with Jonbenet's blood?


References[edit]