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Sunday, June 25, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Patsy Ramsey, JonBenet's mom

The Associated Press

Patsy Ramsey, 49, who was thrust into the national spotlight by the unsolved 1996 slaying of her daughter, beauty-pageant contestant JonBenet, 6, died Saturday after a long battle with ovarian cancer, her lawyer said. Mrs. Ramsey was diagnosed with the disease in 1993 and had a recurrence several years ago, attorney L. Lin Wood said. She died at her father's home in Roswell, Ga., an Atlanta suburb, with her husband, John, at her bedside.

JonBenet was found beaten and strangled in the basement of the family's home in Boulder, Colo., on Dec. 26, 1996.

Mrs. Ramsey said she found a ransom note on the back staircase demanding $118,000 for the safe return of JonBenet. John Ramsey said he found his daughter's body in a basement room eight hours later.

Boulder police said early on that Patsy and John Ramsey were under an "umbrella of suspicion" in JonBenet's death. The Ramseys said an intruder killed their daughter. A grand-jury investigation in Boulder ended with no indictments, and no arrests have been made.

In 2003, U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes in Atlanta concluded that the evidence she reviewed suggested an intruder killed JonBenet.

That opinion came with the judge's decision to dismiss a libel and slander lawsuit against the Ramseys by a freelance journalist, whom the Ramseys had named as a suspect in their daughter's murder. The Boulder district attorney at the time said she agreed with Carnes' declaration.

"Hopefully her legacy will not be tied to the false accusation related to the brutal murder of her daughter," Wood said of Mrs. Ramsey on Saturday.

Scott Robinson, a Denver defense lawyer who has followed the case from the start, said JonBenet's killing is unlikely to be solved and accused police of mishandling the case by focusing on the Ramseys.

"Once the forensic evidence was made public, it was clear that the police accusation that they were under the umbrella of suspicion was not only unfair but insulting," Robinson said.

Mrs. Ramsey was born in Parkersburg, W.Va., on Dec. 29, 1956. She was Miss West Virginia in 1977.

"Those who were fortunate enough to really know Patsy didn't just like her, or admire her, but truly loved her," longtime friend Linda McLean of Parkersburg, W.Va., said Saturday. "Watching how she maintained her strong faith through all her heartache gave the rest of us strength."

JonBenet followed her mother into beauty pageants, learning how to walk, gesture and perform and collecting a wardrobe of elaborate costumes, including that of a Las Vegas showgirl and a cowgirl.

John and Patsy Ramsey left Colorado after JonBenet's death and wrote a book, "The Death of Innocence," published in 2000.

They had homes in Atlanta and in Michigan, where John Ramsey ran unsuccessfully for the Michigan House in 2004, finishing second among six candidates vying for the Republican nomination.

The Ramseys discussed their daughter's death during the campaign.

"We can't just hold our breath and hope the killer will be found and then go on with our lives," Mrs. Ramsey said in 2004. "We have to move ahead now. We can't let evil win."

Mrs. Ramsey is survived by her husband and their son, Burke, 19.

She will be buried next to JonBenet in St. James Cemetery in Marietta, Ga., said Terry Pendley, owner of Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home in Marietta. Services were scheduled for Thursday.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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