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Friday, December 26, 1997 Published at 13:59 GMT

World: Americas

Beauty queen murder - one year on
image: [ Remembering JonBenet - a candlelight vigil held in Boulder, Colorado ]
Remembering JonBenet - a candlelight vigil held in Boulder, Colorado

On Boxing Day 1996, JonBenet Ramsey, pretty, vivacious, and a champion beauty queen at the age of six, was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her family's home in Boulder, Colorado.

[ image: JonBenet Ramsey - she died on Boxing Day 1996]
JonBenet Ramsey - she died on Boxing Day 1996
A year later, the murder remains unsolved and Boulder, about 30 miles (50 km) northwest of Denver, has been the focus of an intense investigation.

Boulder used to have a reputation as an affluent university town and a quiet, safe place to live. More Americans now know it as the scene of a long, gruesome media trial that should have been a straightforward investigation.

There were plenty clues. Craig Silverman, a former prosecutor, said: "You had the rope. You had the tapes. You had the garage. You had all sorts of things that you would think would lead you to a killer, in a short matter of time."

There was even a ransom demand. It was three pages long, asking for a very specific amount of money - $118, 000. The police said it was written on notepaper taken from the study of JonBenet's parents' home.

[ image: The dead girl's mother, speaking at a press conference]
The dead girl's mother, speaking at a press conference
The problem was that all avenues of suspicion led to the dead girl's wealthy and influential parents, Jon and Patsy Ramsey.

In the days after the murder, they appeared on network television and hired a lawyer and a publicist, but for four months refused to be interviewed formally by police.

A year on, the chances of solving the mystery have diminished.

Professor Mimi Wesson, of the University of Colorado, said: "In most cases the evidence deteriorates with the passage of time. Inevitably, witnesses' memories fade. The physical evidence may begin to deteriorate. And the hope that you're going to discover something new, something that will allow you to put it all together fades over time."

But basic clues remain. Scientific analysis of the ransom note shows that it could have been written by JonBenet's mother, and a paintbrush belonging to Mrs Ramsey is said to have been used in the murder.

Although both parents remain under what investigators call an "umbrella of suspicion", no charges have been made.

The editor of Boulder Weekly, Joel Dyer, said: "If you are going to have to go into court against people with OJ Simpson kind of money on a defence, I think that you can't have any holes and you can't have any problems that a great defence team can easily turn against the prosecution."

The Ramsey family moved away from Boulder months ago, and only a long legal battle would get them back to Colorado for further questioning.

The chances of anyone being brought to trial for the murder of JonBenet are said to be minimal.

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