By People Staff
August 24, 1998 12:00 PM

To many of those close to Colorado’s JonBenét Ramsey murder case, Steve Thomas was just the kind of police detective—hard-nosed but humane—needed to pursue such a long and winding probe. “I really felt that he was one of the few people who had a clear head about the investigation,” says Judith Phillips, who, as a former friend of the Ramseys, was interviewed several times by the seven-year veteran of the Boulder Police Department, one of the lead detectives. “He was dedicated to finding the murderer and impassioned about the case.”

Possibly too impassioned. On Aug. 6 it was revealed that the 36-year-old Arkansas native had resigned, giving his boss, Chief Mark Beckner, a letter that scathingly criticized the Boulder district attorney’s office for obstructing the investigation and—by implication—police brass for going along with it. “I believe the district attorney’s office is thoroughly compromised,” Thomas wrote, charging that the probe into the December 1996 slaying of the 6-year-old beauty queen had been willfully hampered by bias toward the Ramseys. Calling for appointment of a special prosecutor, he contended, among other things, that key evidence went uncollected for lack of necessary search warrants and that he was “advised” not to speak to certain witnesses. Responding for vacationing D.A. Alex Hunter, a spokeswoman termed Thomas’s claims “substantially false and misleading.”

Sources close to the Ramsey investigation say that Thomas, described by one police official as “solid and thoughtful,” was airing the long-standing frustrations of a number of detectives who feel there is enough evidence for a prosecution and see the D.A.’s office as foot-dragging. “There is an uprising amidst the rank-and-file officers, a groundswell against what is going on,” says another veteran Boulder cop. “We officers owe it to Steve to do something.”