I’ve been fascinated by this case since it first happened. Even if I was young when it first happened it was talked about in the media for years so by the time I was a young adult and super into true crime novels this was something I read up a lot about. It’s never really been officially solved even though I have my theories as well as the rest of the internet. In case you haven’t heard about this (or don’t know much and want to know more) I have written an article here for you. It won’t include everything as it’s going to be long enough as it is.
On December 25th, 1996 in Colorado a child pageant beauty queen named JonBenet Ramsey was killed in her home. Except, it didn’t start out exactly that way. First there was a whole rigamarole of a fake kidnapping and ransom note. The police were called in and JonBenet was found in the basement of her home by her father. For the longest time the police basically were like “we don’t know what the fuck happened” and obviously, instant suspicion was placed on the parents. The police still pretty much don’t know what the fuck happened but there is evidence which has been repeatedly examined over the years and has forced theories from experts, civilians, and your typical internet crazy person.
First let’s talk about the ransom note which was allegedly found by Patsy Ramsey (JonBenet’s mother).
Patsy realized that JonBenet was missing after finding a ransom note on the kitchen staircase. One that was written on her own stationary from her own office and specifically mentioned a 118,000 dollar ransom for the safe return of her daughter. The exact total of the bonus that John Ramsay got that year from his job. The note was unusually long (two pages) and oddly specific. Not to mention it was written at the crime scene and the FBI believe was staged. The police stated that there are/were indication that Patsy wrote the note herself but they were never able to prove it definitively. She died with that knowledge herself because there’s really no way to prove it now. Or at least not much of one if she’s dead. The original note (in the original handwriting) can be seen here. It’s kind of hard to read so the text is as follows:
Listen carefully! We are a group of individuals that represent a small foreign faction. We
dorespect your bussiness [sic] but not the country that it serves. At this time we have your daughter in our posession [sic]. She is safe and unharmed and if you want her to see 1997, you must follow our instructions to the letter.
You will withdraw $118,000.00 from your account. $100,000 will be in $100 bills and the remaining $18,000 in $20 bills. Make sure that you bring an adequate size attache to the bank. When you get home you will put the money in a brown paper bag. I will call you between 8 and 10 am tomorrow to instruct you on delivery. The delivery will be exhausting so I advise you to be rested. If we monitor you getting the money early, we might call you early to arrange an earlier delivery of the money and hence a [sic] earlier
deliverypick-up of your daughter.
Any deviation of my instructions will result in the immediate execution of your daughter. You will also be denied her remains for proper burial. The two gentlemen watching over your daughter donot particularly like you so I advise you not to provoke them. Speaking to anyone about your situation, such as Police, F.B.I., etc., will result in your daughter being beheaded. If we catch you talking to a stray dog, she dies. If you alert bank authorities, she dies. If the money is in any way marked or tampered with, she dies. You will be scanned for electronic devices and if any are found, she dies. You can try to deceive us but be warned that we are familiar with law enforcement countermeasures and tactics. You stand a 99% chance of killing your daughter if you try to out smart [sic] us. Follow our instructions and you stand a 100% chance of getting her back.
You and your family are under constant scrutiny as well as the authorities. Don’t try to grow a brain John. You are not the only fat cat around so don’t think that killing will be difficult. Don’t underestimate us John. Use that good southern common sense of yours. It is up to you now John!
Handwriting analysis was done on the note and the reason it is believed to have been written by Patsy is the four different types of “A” shapes used in the note and the fact that Pasty used the same types in her own writing.
Next lets talk about the behavior of the family upon discovery of this alleged ransom note left by the “kidnapper”. The note states that police and friends and family should not be called but they were called almost immediately. Police arrived within three minutes of the discovery of the note and then friends and family arrived as well. Believing it to be a kidnapping, the only real place that was restricted and investigated by the forensic team that arrived was JonBenet’s bedroom which left the rest of the house open for people to move around in freely if they wanted. The night of this death and staged kidnapping the only known people in the house were JonBenet, Patsy, John, and their son Burke. Upon arrival, police found no signs of forced entry to the house or a break in. Arrangements were made to pay the ransom but there was never any attempt by anyone to collect the money.
It was around 1pm that day when the body was discovered by the father, John. He was asked to search the house to see if anything seemed wrong or missing and he found JonBenet in a basement room. Her mouth was covered with duct tape and there was a nylon cord around her neck and wrists. He picked her up and moved her (as well as kissed, hugged, and cried all over her body) which extremely contaminated any evidence they could have potentially got from the scene of the crime and her body itself. Patsy stated that JonBenet was not in the same clothes that she was put to bed in, instead she was now in a t-shirt and leggings. The family provided blood, hair, and other samples to the police and were interview extensively. Though it didn’t much matter with John seeing as how he had handled the body after death it would be hard to prove that any DNA evidence they found on the body that was his could potentially be linked to her actual death.
The autopsy concluded that JonBenet’s cause of death was “asphyxiation due to strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma”. She had been strangled and there was also a skull fracture. A garrote was used to strangle her using the nylon cord and part of a paintbrush. The bristles of that paintbrush were found in Patsy’s art supplies but the final third of the brush was never found despite extensive searching. There were no signs of conventional rape on the body of JonBenet but investigators also couldn’t rule out that there may have been some sort of sexual assault.
Perhaps the most interesting bit of evidence was the bowl of pineapple with a spoon in it left out in the kitchen. Burke’s fingerprints were found on the bowl. John and Patsy insist they never fed her anything after she went to bed but there was pineapple found in her stomach during the autopsy.
A blood sample was found in the underwear of JonBenet and it was shown to belong to two people other than JonBenet. It was compared against other thousands of other samples but none were shown to be a match. In October 2016, new forensic analysis uncovered that the original DNA actually contains genetic markers from two individuals other than the victim, JonBenét.
The huge problem in finding the perpetrator in all of this has a lot to do with the sloppy investigation process. Sharing evidence with the family, a rookie investigation team with little to no experience, contamination of the crime scene, and the delay in interviewing the parents about the death of their daughter.
There was an attempt to indict and convict the Ramseys for being responsible in their daughter’s death but the prosecution felt they didn’t have enough “beyond a reasonable doubt” evidence to ever get them convicted (despite the police insistence that this was the fault of Patsy or both parents equally) and it never went to trial. It was also pointed out (however ridiculous) that the evidence was “more consistent with a break in than Patsy Ramsey being the killer”. As of September 2016 this is still an open investigation and homicide case.
The theories about JonBenet’s death range between anonymous intruder and family members. Some investigators say that they should be more focused on an intruder than the actual family. There were 100 burglars in that area in recent months surrounding the death as well as 38 registered sex offenders. One of the suspects had been convicted of child pornography and sexual acts against a child. There was a boot print found in the basement leading investigators to believe in the idea that there had been an intruder. The theory was based on a man entering through a basement window, shocking JonBenet with a stun gun and then carrying her down into the basement where he murdered (and possibly assaulted her).
In my personal opinion, the “anonymous intruder” theories are complete bullshit given the evidence that they already have and the behavior of the Ramseys on the day of the staged kidnapping and the discovery of the body.
According to one investigator, Greg McCrary, “statistically, it is a 12-to-1 probability that it’s a family member or a caregiver” who is involved in the death of a child. (source)
The way the police saw it, there was absolutely no forced entry into the house and the cooperation from the Ramseys in the investigation of finding their daughter was difficult and at times impeded by them. The ransom note was obviously staged as well and too oddly specific to be the work of an intruder. Who would come into a house, kill a kid, then sit down and write a note on the stationary of the mother of a kid (with the very specific number of the Christmas bonus of the father) if they were just some random guy? This isn’t the behavior of a criminal who would do this. Even if it were premeditated from a stalker on the internet (due to JonBenet’s relative fame as a child pageant star) one would think that the ransom note would have already been prepared and not something hastily thrown together inside the house after the crime.
Part of the theories seem to state that the rope and “strangulation” could have possibly been staged to cover up what really happened. The brother, Burke, was interviewed three times but was never considered to be a suspect by police. However, many people think it was him and there are many theories surrounding that as well. One of which was aired recently on CBS stating that Burke may have possibly hit her in the head with a heavy object (not intending to kill her) and the family went on to cover that up. Burke is currently suing CBS for defamation of character seeking millions of dollars in damages. It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out considering he’d have to prove that’s not what happened, I suppose. Not sure exactly how that works. It’s forensic experts who allege that this is what happened.
In 2006 a man named John Mark Karr who was arrested in Thailand falsely confessed to murdering JonBenet. He claimed that he drugged her and sexually assaulted her. He was able to provide no evidence linking himself to the crime, no details other than publicly known facts, and the claim of drugging her made no sense since there were no drugs in her system. Furthermore, his DNA did not match the samples that they currently have for JonBenet.
If I had to make a guess myself, I would believe that this was either an accidental (or on purpose) death by the brother, Burke, and the family surrounded him because he was so young and decided to cover it up so he wouldn’t get in trouble. I have no proof, obviously, and this will forever remain my theory (and clearly the theory of many others) but it seems as though the circumstances surrounding her death will most likely be taken to the grave by the people who did it. After reviewing all of the evidence myself to the extent that I can, I don’t see how anyone but Burke even makes sense but I’m also not an expert.