On Dec. 26, the seventh anniversary of JonBenét Ramsey's murder, her parents, John and Patsy, met their lawyer Lin Wood for dinner at an Atlanta steak house. Despite the day's somber significance, the Ramseys were in a buoyant mood. "They view Christmas as a season of hope, this year especially," says Wood. "They're elated."

In a dramatic turn in the still unsolved case, Colorado authorities recently submitted DNA evidence that could identify the 6-year-old's killer. In November they finally sent the DNA from a spot of blood found on her underwear to the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, which logs genetic profiles of criminal offenders. The sample—which comes from a male unrelated to JonBenét—was gathered after her murder on Dec. 26, 1996, in her Boulder, Colo., home, but police never submitted it to the FBI database. (Attorney Wood charges Boulder investigators were so convinced of the Ramseys' guilt "that they didn't pursue it"; the Boulder police, who turned over the investigation to the district attorney a year ago, have declined comment.) Although Wood cautions it could be months, if not years, before authorities get a "hit" on the DNA, he says the family is optimistic. "The investigation has given them a renewed hope," he says.

Also lifting their spirits: After a round of chemotherapy, Patsy, 47, is in remission from ovarian cancer. The family relocated last summer from Atlanta to Charlevoix, a small town in northern Michigan with a slower pace, where their son Burke, 16, is a junior at a public high school. John, 60, a former CEO of a high-tech firm, is now a part-time consultant. And they still get back to Atlanta, and spent the holidays there with family and friends. Not surprisingly, the murder remains a constant in their lives. In December John and Patsy filed a S12 million lawsuit against FOX News Network over a story that said no evidence had been found that an intruder killed their daughter. The DNA samples could put that argument to rest too. "John and Patsy never stop living with their loss," says Wood. "They miss their child."