2001-12-18: Case haunts DA's aide who led grand jury
Case haunts DA's aide who led grand jury
Kane says he never felt that Ramseys gave him the straight
story during his interviews
By Charlie Brennan, News Staff Writer
Michael Kane says he still thinks about the JonBenet Ramsey
murder every day.
"And at least once a week, when I'm out running or something,
this case will be running through my head," he said, "and I'll think,
'What if we did this now?' or 'What if that happened?' "
Kane, 49, joined former District Attorney Alex Hunter's team in
June 1998, about 18 months after JonBenet was found beaten
and strangled in the basement of her Boulder home.
He led the 13-month-long grand jury probe that concluded Oct.
13, 1999, with no indictments issued in the case.
JonBenet's parents remain under an "umbrella of suspicion" in the
Kane spent many hours questioning John and Patsy Ramsey
about their daughter's murder. He said he believes they have yet
to give him the straight story.
"When I met with them, I never felt that they were genuine,"
Kane said. "I always felt like I was talking to a press secretary
who was giving responses with a spin.
"I always felt like their answers were very careful and, in some
cases, scripted. And that caused me a lot of concern."
Kane said one of the biggest mistakes in the case was that
officials didn't take it to a grand jury in the early going.
"I think the major problem with this case was the hard-core
evidence gathering," Kane said.
He believes a grand jury should have been impaneled promptly --
not necessarily to secure a rapid indictment, but in order to use a
grand jury's broad powers to subpoena witnesses and, equally
important, personal records.
"I had this argument with them until the day (former Boulder
prosecutors) Pete Hofstrom and Trip DeMuth were off the case" in
August 1998, Kane said.
"That's what a grand jury is for, because a grand jury can order
someone to produce documents. It's up to the DA's office to say,
'There's an awful lot of things we need to know about, and the
only way we're going to know about it is by getting these
"Instead, it was almost two years later when we started issuing
subpoenas for information, and the trail sometimes grows cold. A
lot of businesses don't keep records that long," Kane said.
Many people connected to the case claimed they tuned out the
constant chatter it sparked in the media. Not Kane.
"There were lots of times, sitting in the (Boulder justice center)
war room at night, I'd flip on the TV and they'd be doing a
program about this case, and somebody would say something,
and I'd say 'Darn, I wish I'd thought of that,' " Kane said. "And
then, I'd follow up on it."
On occasion, such brainstorms still lead Kane to call and share
ideas with Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner. And, periodically,
he'll get a call from Beckner seeking Kane's thoughts on any new
wrinkle in the case that might have arisen.
Kane has had virtually no contact, however, with Boulder District
Attorney Mary Keenan. She inherited the case from Hunter after
his retirement in January.
"I don't feel slighted" by Keenan, Kane said. "I worked that case
intensely. I had my shot. I did everything with the information that
I had at the time to try to come up with an answer. And it didn't
"Maybe what this case needs now is someone coming to the case
for the first time, who may have a light bulb come on."
Kane moved back to his native Pennsylvania and spent the time
since November 1999 in private practice doing primarily civil
He returned Dec. 10 to the Pennsylvania State Department of
Revenue, as deputy director for taxation. He had been working at
that Pennsylvania state agency when Hunter picked him to pilot
the Ramsey grand jury.
Kane, a divorced father of two girls -- Kathleen, 17, and Madeline,
13 -- makes his home in Mechanicsburg, Pa., less than a mile from
where his daughters live with their mother.
Asked if he's frustrated that no one has been charged in
JonBenet's slaying, he didn't hesitate: "Lots. In a word, lots. I
didn't sign on there to not come up with a conclusion that was not
Kane participated in two interviews with the Ramseys after joining
the case. In the first, he was teamed with former homicide
investigator Lou Smit for an interrogation of John Ramsey that
spanned three days -- June 22 to 24, 1998.
More recently, he traveled with Beckner to Atlanta for interviews
with John and Patsy Ramsey, conducted Aug. 28 and 29, 2000, in
the office of their lawyer, L. Lin Wood. Those contentious sessions
ended with the Ramseys and the Boulder officials calling the
interviews a waste of time.
Reflecting now on his interviews with the Ramseys, Kane said, "I
never felt like I was getting a spontaneous response
"John Ramsey always left me with the impression that he was a
very smart man, and he is very careful at answering questions,"
Kane said. "Whereas, Patsy struck me as somebody that just had
an answer in advance of the question, and just kind of resorted to
an 'I don't know' if she didn't have an answer in advance."
Kane said that with more than half a dozen books published and
two movies made about the case, people could assume they
know everything there is to know about the murder -- other than
who did it, of course.
But, he said, such an assumption would be wrong.
There remain "dozens" of secrets, he said. "Absolutely. Dozens.
And a lot of what the public thinks is fact is simply not fact."
He wouldn't disclose any of the former or correct any of the latter.
The legacy of the Ramsey case for Kane, personally, is that it left
him in bad need of a vacation from criminal law.
"I got burned out on the cat-and-mouse aspects of it, after
spending a year and a half focused on nothing else but that
case," Kane said. "The process of going from small point to small
point to small point, trying to find the truth, can be very intense
"Sometimes it's rewarding, but after doing it for a year and a half
on this one case, I was just glad to get a break from it."
Contact Charlie Brennan at (303) 892-2742 or
December 18, 2001