Charlie Brennan of the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo., won the Investigative/Enterprise DFMie for small newsrooms for breaking a story that had stayed a secret for more than decade.
On Jan. 27, 2013, Brennan reported that the grand jury investigating the death of JonBenet Ramsey had voted to indict her parents in 1999, but the district attorney refused to prosecute.
Brennan’s editors’ nomination explained:
It had been years since we’d seen a true bombshell in Boulder’s most notorious criminal case, but this absolutely qualified as one – all thanks to the dogged investigative reporting of Charlie Brennan, who has covered the Ramsey case since Day 1.
Through sources that included grand jurors, Charlie was able to confirm, for the first time, that the grand jury that investigated the unsolved slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet in 1998 and 1999 secretly voted to indict the girl’s parents, on charges of child abuse resulting in death, and that the district attorney refused to prosecute them.
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
Following his revelation, Charlie enlisted the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to help pursue the release of the indictment, first through open-records requests, then a lawsuit against the current DA.
Much to many observers’ surprise, a judge in October ordered the release of the unprosecuted indictment, which confirmed what we’d reported months earlier.
(The story on the indictment’s release was written by Mitchell Byars, since Brennan was a plaintiff – and Brennan wrote an essay about why he sued for release of the indictment.)
Other stories submitted as part of Brennan’s nomination:
- Legal expert: Ramsey grand jury’s vote on abuse charge possibly a ‘compromise’
- JonBenet Ramsey’s death a tragic, bizarre case from the start
Charlie Brennan’s investigation into the JonBenet Ramsey case is an incredible example of the power of ‘staying on a story.’ By developing his sources and fighting to publicly release legal documents, Brennan did an exceptional job of keeping our legal system transparent and accountable.
This is one of two DFMies for the Camera and six for the Colorado newsrooms. The Camera and the Denver Post swept both the large-newsroom and small-newsroom DFMies for breaking news and investigative/enterprise journalism.
About Charlie Brennan
Brennan, senior reporter at the Boulder Daily Camera, Boulder, Co., has been in the news business the better part of the past 34 years. In 2012, he joined the Camera, where he covers science and the environment, some general assignment, and also serves as an editor, backing up the city desk operations.
The bulk of his career was spent at the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News in Denver, where for more than 20 years he was a reporter covering criminal justice, politics, sports, general assignment and also served as an assistant city editor.
Other stops in Brennan’s career have included the Hollywood (Fla.) Sun-Tattler, the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and KDVR Fox31 TV in Denver.
Brennan also collaborated with Lawrence Schiller on the New York Times best-selling account of the JonBenet Ramsey case, “Perfect Murder Perfect Town.” He lives in Lafayette, Co.
Other small-newsroom finalists for the Investigative or Enterprise Journalism DFMie were:
- Michael Price and Kristina Scala of the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., for their reporting on racist text messages by local school officials.
- Sandy Mazza of the Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif., for her reporting that led to the resignation of the Carson city manager, who had been hired despite lacking qualifications.
- Julie Reynolds of the Monterey Herald for reporting that led to reforms at Salinas Valley State Prison, where conditions on the psychiatric unit had caused deaths of inmates.
The investigative or enterprise category was not divided by newsroom size in 2013, when MaryJo Webster, Mara Gottfried, Christopher Magan and C.J. Sinner of the St. Paul Pioneer Press won the DFMie.