The National Fascination with the 1996 Murder of JonBenét Ramsey

Murder of JonBenét Ramsey

 

Murder of JonBenét Ramsey: Today is the day that JonBenét Ramsey would have been 33 years old. She never even got to 7 though.

John and Patsy Ramsey’s youngest child was found dead in the basement of their Boulder, Colorado, home in the afternoon of December 26, 1996. This was almost eight hours after Patsy called 9-1-1 in a panic to say that her 6-year-old daughter had been taken.

Sometime around 5:30 a.m., Patsy woke up to find a sloppy two-and-a-half-page ransom note at the bottom of the stairs. The note threatened to “behead” the child if her parents didn’t pay the $118,000 ransom to a “foreign faction.”

Jon Benét’s body was found by John just after 1:30 p.m., when he was searching the house again. By that time, cops and family members were already there. He took the little girl up the stairs in the clothes she wore to bed the night before and put her down near the Christmas tree in the living room.

JonBenét had been hit in the head and choked. Her brain was also broken.

In later investigations, the medical examiner found injuries to her uterus and what looked like blood on her underwear, though blood smears found on her body weren’t in the same places as the stains.

What started out as a terrible and sad event quickly turned into a crime with strange circumstances: The note demanding money when JonBenét wasn’t even taken from her home makes no sense. Was she? Did someone mess with that window in the basement? If someone broke in, why weren’t there any footprints in the snow outside the house? How did no one find her during the first search of the house? One family friend looked into the wine cellar where she was found but didn’t turn on the light.

With so many people coming and going from the Ramseys’ house on the first day, even before John moved his daughter’s body, it seems like a lot of evidence was being tampered with. How could a proper forensic investigation even happen?

There are now a lot of books, news shows, and TV movies that look into, analyze, and re-enact the case. The Boulder Police Department says they’ve looked over and followed up on 21,016 tips, letters, and emails, and officers have talked to more than 1,000 people in 19 states. They’ve also handled more than 1,500 pieces of evidence, including 1,000 DNA samples.

Even though it’s been more than 25 years, there are still a lot of questions that haven’t been answered about JonBenét Ramsey’s death.

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Has there been any new information in the murder case of JonBenét Ramsey?

She died, but no one was ever charged with her murder. One man admitted guilt and was jailed, but it was not a real confession. Over the years, other names have been suggested, but none of them have been proven to be the real one.

“There’s still a good chance we’ll never know,” Elizabeth Vargas, who hosted A&E’s 2019 special Hunting JonBenét’s Killer: The Untold Story, told E! News. “I don’t think it’s possible one person did this. That’s my own opinion, so that means two people, and that means at least two people out there know what happened. It’s incredible to me that those people have kept that secret, that people they probably told in their lives, because that’s a hard secret to keep, that nobody has told. We have all sorts of cold cases that were solved decades later, and I think this could be one of them.”

The Boulder Police Department said in a statement that they have updated more than 750 samples using the most up-to-date technology and still hope to find a match one day, 25 years after JonBenet’s death (18 April 1921).

In January 2021, John Ramsey, 80, was in the Discovery+ program JonBenét Ramsey: What Really Happened? He told USA Today that it was too hard for him to watch the whole show, even though he was in it.

“The death of JonBenét took away my desire to live for a while,” he said. “The actions of the police took away my ability to live normally and that, to some extent, continued for a long time in the way we were treated and assaulted.”

Why did people think JonBenet Ramsey’s parents were involved in her death?

For more than ten years, John and Patsy were thought to be guilty, though they were not always actively being investigated. Patsy died on June 24, 2006, of ovarian cancer. She was buried next to Jon Benét, but there was still a lot of doubt about her.

“The police drew a conclusion immediately that day, the next day and then tried to find the evidence to prove it,” John told USA Today. “And the evidence they were finding was, unfortunately for them, contradictory to their conclusion. But they never admitted that and struggled with that for years and spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars trying to prove otherwise.”

DNA from the scene was sent to the FBI database in December 2003. In a letter made public in 2008, Mary Lacy, who was Boulder County District Attorney at the time, told John that new “touch DNA” technology had shown her that he, Patsy, and their son Burke Ramsey had nothing to do with the murder. The tests instead led to a “unknown male.”

“To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime,” she said, “I am deeply sorry.”

After eight years, however, a joint investigation by Boulder’s Daily Camera and 9 News called into question her choice to publicly clear the Ramseys based on that DNA evidence. In October 2016, news outlets said that three different genetic markers were found on the child’s pajamas—she already knew of two of them, but this was the first time the third one had been made public—and that the one sample that was used to clear suspects could have been a mix of DNA from more than one person.

“It’s a rather obvious point, but I mean, if you’re looking for someone that doesn’t exist, because actually it’s several people, it’s a problem,” Troy Eid, a former state’s attorney for Colorado who helped review the case for the governor in 1999, told the paper in 2016.

In an interview with ABC News at the time, Lacy addressed the new findings and the lingering criticism. “I’ve withstood worse than this…and it’s nothing compared to what the Ramsey family has gone through targeted as suspects in their own daughter’s murder,” she said. “I was trying to prevent a horrible travesty of justice. I was scared to death that despite the fact that there was no evidence, no psychopathy and no motive, the case was a train going down the track and the Ramseys were tied to that track.”

She talked about what she saw when she toured Ramsey’s house a few days after the murder, when she was in charge of the office’s Sexual Assault Unit as a deputy district attorney: a “butt print” in the carpet outside of JonBenét’s bedroom.

“We all saw it,” Lacy said. “The entire area was undisturbed except for that place in the rug. Whoever did this sat outside of her room and waited until everyone was asleep to kill her.”

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How have the news outlets talked about the JonBenét Ramsey case over the years?

When this case was first reported in 2016, it almost seemed wrong to call it a “cold case” because people were still deeply interested in learning more about the murder of Jon Benét.

On the case’s 20th anniversary, two new TV films were made, followed by Who Killed JonBenét? on Lifetime. This came 16 years after the CBS drama Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: JonBenét and the City of Boulder aired. Marg Helgenberger played Patsy in Lawrence Schiller’s movie version of his own book about the case, and Dyanne Iandoli played Jon Benét.

Dr. Phil McGraw also made a big deal in September 2016 when he interviewed Jon Benét’s older brother in several parts. He was the only other person known to have been in the house when his sister died who had never talked about the case in public. He was only 9 years old at the time, and he had never been a confirmed suspect, but no one had ruled him out either.

Why do people still find the murder of JonBenét Ramsey so interesting?

Since it was easy to get caught up in the details of the O.J. Simpson trial more than 25 years after he was found not guilty of killing Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, it’s not a wonder that people still want to know more about the Ramsey case.

The police weren’t sure if the Ramseys were getting away with murder or if the real killer was still on the run. Grace doesn’t believe that John Ramsey killed his daughter.

Who put JonBenét Ramsey to death?

Jon Benét, a white 6-year-old from a rich family, was killed in Boulder. It was the first official murder in the city this year. There was a sad star story behind what happened, and the media focused on the link between crime and pop culture. The FBI got a ransom note that was the longest they had ever seen, at $118,000.

After JonBenét’s body was found, John tried to use his private jet to take his family to Atlanta, saying that there were important things to do. Even though the police stopped the flight, they were finally able to leave town three days later. John and Patsy told CNN that a killer was on the run in a nearly 40-minute interview. The video of the show started going around soon after the event.