The Murder of JonBenét Ramsey
What happened that Christmas became one of the most notorious and unsolved cases of modern times.
JonBenét Ramsey via Criminal Minds Wiki — Fandom
“I want to be a doctor or a nurse to help people get well.” — JonBenét Ramsey.
It was Christmas 1996 when a panicked phone call was made from the residence of Patsy and John Ramsey to 911 emergency services, stating their daughter, JonBenét, was missing.
At the time of this case, the 24-hour news cycle was not as immediate as it is today, and with it being the week between Christmas and New Year, stories were notoriously slow in breaking. However in the case of a young, white pageant girl from a wealthy family, the news was picked up quickly by the outlets of the day and rapidly travelled to all corners of the globe. What followed became one of the most notorious and unsolved cases of modern times.
The Ramsey family
On the 6th of August 1990 in Atlanta, Georgia, JonBenét was born to parents Patsy and John Ramsey. With her mother’s training, JonBenét started to compete in children’s beauty contests from an early age, winning multiple titles, including Little Miss Colorado Sunburst in 1995.
Patsy Ramsey, born Patricia Paugh in 1956, was a former pageant performer herself, winning Miss West Virginia in 1977. Attending West Virginia University, Patsy graduated with a B.A in Journalism in 1978. Two years later, Patsy married John and their son, Burke, was born in 1987.
John Ramsey, 13 years Patsy’s senior, was born in 1943 in Nebraska. In 1966, he joined the Navy as a Civil Engineer Corps officer in the Philippines and Atlanta. Before meeting Patsy, John already had three grown-up children with his ex-wife. The marriage ended when John had an affair with a co-worker. In 1992, John’s daughter, Beth, was killed in a car accident in Chicago, aged 22.
In 1989, Ramsey formed the Advanced Product Group, which later merged with several other companies to become Access Graphics, a computer services company that became a subsidiary of aerospace, defence and technologies industry giant Lockheed Martin. John was given the role of CEO and president of Access Graphics.
After the birth of JonBenét, the family moved to Boulder, Colorado, in 1991 for John’s work. The family owned two private jets, a yacht and a holiday home in Michigan. Their net worth in 1999 was reported to be $6.4million.
(L-R) JonBenét, John, Patsy, Burke via thesun.co.uk
It was Christmas Day in Boulder, and the Ramsey family had spent the evening at the home of their nearby friends, Fleet and Priscilla White, before returning home before 10 pm, when JonBenét was put to bed.
At 5.30 am on the 26th of December, the family awoke to catch a private flight to their second home in Michigan. Patsy went to start breakfast for the family, and a few steps from the bottom of the spiral staircase, she discovered a ransom note written to John and demanding $118,000 for the safe return of his daughter, JonBenét. It also told the Ramseys not to contact the police and that they would be in contact between 8 am to 10 am that day.
Patsy called 911 shortly after her discovery and was put through to dispatcher Kimberly Archuleta. Archuleta proceeded to take the details of the crime and dispatched officers to their address.
From the 911 call, it is evident that Patsy intended to hang up the phone. However, the call remained connected, and Archuleta continued to listen.
Police arrived at the Ramsey’s home, and due to the Christmas holiday, seasoned officers were at home, leaving less experienced officers to deal with the apparent kidnapping. In the meantime, the Ramseys called their friends, the Whites, to help with the search for JonBenét. They arrived shortly after the police and were allowed to enter the house. At around 7.30 am, John left the living room to secure the ransom money for the kidnappers.
At 10 am, the police secured JonBenét’s bedroom to keep it from contamination, and at around the same time, the FBI arrived to wiretap the Ramsey’s phone. At this point, the window of time the kidnappers had claimed they would call had been and gone. The FBI left the scene shortly after but left an additional officer with the Ramseys. Detective Linda Arndt from Boulder Police Department suggested that John kept himself busy by searching the house.
John and Fleet White eventually found JonBenét in the basement just after 1 pm. She was wrapped in a blanket, with duct tape over her mouth and a garrotte tied around her neck with a paintbrush that had been used for leverage. Six-year-old JonBenét was dead.
John carried her body upstairs and placed her on the floor. The police subsequently moved her body to a sofa where she remained until she was taken away by the Coroner at around 8 pm.
The Coroner concluded that JonBenét was killed by ligature strangulation and craniocerebral injuries. She had multiple abrasions to her neck, cheek, legs, and other body parts. She also noted that there was blood in JonBenét’s underwear.
The family home
The Ramsey’s home in Boulder was a 7,000 square foot, four-storey home, with five bedrooms, multiple staircases and a large basement that spanned the underneath of the house.
The Ramsey’s House via dailymail.co.uk
The basement was partitioned into several smaller rooms. A brand new train set was built on a table in its own space, and the children often played down there. It was also used for storage, filled with old paint cans, arts and crafts, and decorations. There was a room to the northwest of the basement with a window, with a previously broken windowpane. The pane was never fixed because John often locked himself out of the house, and this was an easy way in. The window is how police believed the kidnappers gained entry to the property. A suitcase was positioned under the window, which was thought to have helped the intruders get back out of the window.
The Ramsey’s basement layout via denverpost.com
JonBenét was found in the room used as a wine cellar on the other side of the basement. This room was windowless and had one door in and out.
JonBenét was strangled and hit in the head with an unidentifiable object. While the murder weapon has never been found, a few objects have been called up for debate. A metal baseball bat was found by the butler door later on in the search, but this could have been placed there by one of the staff on the property. However, there were found to be carpet fibres from the basement on the bat. Another object in question is the flashlight on the kitchen counter, the head of which was consistent with the shape of the injury found on JonBenét’s head.
Over the years, various people have confessed to the murder of JonBenét Ramsey.
Gary Olivia is a convicted paedophile, currently serving a ten-year sentence in Colorado for possession of child pornography. He called a former classmate on the 26th of December, stating he’d hurt a little girl. The friend said;
“I tried to get more information out of him. I immediately called the Boulder Police Department and told them what I knew about Gary and what he had told me just days earlier. They didn’t get back to me. Three months later I called the police again to find out what was going on in its investigation of Gary, but instead I was sent to a police answering machine set up for tips on the JonBenét case. I left a message on the recorded line and again I never heard back from investigators.”
Another suspect was John Karr, a teacher living in Thailand. Karr confessed to killing JonBenét in 2006, and at the time, he was also connected with child pornography charges in America. He was extradited back to the US, but there was no evidence linking him to the crime. It was later acknowledged that if he hadn’t confessed, he might have ended up in a Thai prison known for their poor conditions.
The case of JonBenét Ramsey’s murder is still unsolved, And whilst tips can still be phoned into the Boulder police department, over 20 years have passed, and there seems to be no clear conclusion to her death.
Or is there?
Many theories point to the family when it comes to JonBenét’s death. A lot of ideas have the father, John, pegged as the killer.
John claims he carried JonBenét from the car to her bedroom the night before, yet there was no DNA from him or anyone else in the family on her clothing. Detective Arndt claimed he was acting strangely and even took the time to read his mail while the police were still looking for JonBenét. Arndt told John to search the house again from top to bottom, to give him something to do. Instead, he started at the bottom of the house, where he and Fleet White immediately found JonBenét’s body in the basement. Arndt also describes in the same interview that she mentally counted the bullets left in her gun, ready to offload them, because she was convinced John was the killer.
According to Fleet White, John cried out to him prior to turning on the light to see JonBenét in the wine cellar. That room had previously been searched, so, unsurprisingly, Fleet White should be suspicious.
“In virtually every staged murder case that I’ve seen, the perpetrator manipulates the arrival of friends or other family members who are then put in the situation where they actually discover the body, or they are with the perp when the body is discovered.” — Ron Walker, FBI Agent at the scene.
Some theories point to the brother, Burke. Patsy may have taken JonBenét to the bathroom before going to bed, and afterwards, JonBenét went back downstairs to get a snack, where her brother was already eating. There was a piece of the undigested fruit in JonBenét’s stomach, found during her autopsy, and a bowl of pineapple on the kitchen table, with Burke’s fingerprints on it. Perhaps she took a piece of pineapple from Burke’s bowl, and in frustration, he lashed out.
Patsy was training her daughter JonBenét in pageantry, and she wanted her not just to take part but to win. According to one neighbour, who used to photograph the family, Patsy even bleached JonBenét’s hair. The mother was so focused on pageantry that it took up all of her attention. Attention Burke was now being deprived of. When JonBenét was younger, Burke had hit his sister in the face with a golf club during an angry outburst, which required plastic surgery. JonBenét had also visited the doctor 37 times that year.
Alternatively, it may have been Patsy who snapped. JonBenét had issues with wetting the bed, and Patsy claimed she would still wake up in the middle of the night with wet sheets. The maid once found a grapefruit-sized ball of faeces in JonBenét’s bed. Patsy may have accidentally hurt her daughter for another bedwetting incident, not realising how much damage she had done. Police noted that she was in the same clothes from the previous night, which was unusual for the pageant queen. Patsy’s paintbrush from her craft area was also used to secure the garrotte around JonBenét’s neck.
In an open letter to the Ramseys written by Fleet White, who was there when JonBenét was discovered, he speaks critically of the family and the investigation;
“After JonBenét Ramsey was killed in Boulder nearly twenty months ago, her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, immediately hired prominent Democrat criminal defense attorneys with the law firm of Haddon, Morgan and Foreman. This firm and its partners have close professional, political and personal ties to prosecutors, the Denver and Boulder legal and judicial communities, state legislators, and high-ranking members of Colorado government, including Gov. Roy Romer. The investigation of her death has since been characterised by confusion and delays.”
While he didn’t accuse the family of their involvement in the case, he highly criticised the way the Ramseys influenced the outcome of the family’s portrayal in the media and with the law;
“While it is unlikely that the district attorney has been corrupted by Ramsey defense attorneys, it is certain that the district attorney and his prosecutors have been greatly influenced by their metro area district attorney advisers and by defense attorneys’ chummy persuasiveness and threats of reprisals for anyone daring to jeopardise the civil rights of their victim clients.”
The Ramseys did not formally speak to the police for over 100 days, but they did hold their first interview on CNN on 1stof January 1997, less than a week after JonBenét’s death.
Steve Thomas, who was a Boulder police officer working on the case at the time, claims the family and District Attorney, Alex Hunter, refused standard protocols. This included refusing to sign search warrants for bank and phone records and giving the Ramseys copies of the police reports before their formal interviews.
Thomas also stated that he spoke to one of the Grand Jury members, who was involved in the vote to indict the Ramseys over JonBenét’s death, who said they had voted to indict the Ramseys. Yet, D.A. Alex Hunter told media that the Grand Jury had agreed there wasn’t sufficient evidence and the Ramseys were not under suspicion. Comparing the JonBenét Ramsey case to Sid Wells’ murder in 1983, Alex Hunter did the exact opposite and pushed for a Grand Jury.
Thomas ended up leaving the police force because of the frustration behind the handling of the family and evidence in this case.
The Ramseys were cleared from any involvement on 9th of July 2008;
“To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime, I am deeply sorry.” — Mary Lacy, Boulder District Attorney.
The ransom note via 9news.com
The ransom note was around 370 words in length and was written on three pages of a legal pad with a Sharpie pen, both of which were found to come from the Ramsey’s home—claiming to be written by those in a “small foreign faction” and signed “Victory! S.B.T.C”.
The note is the most critiqued pieces of evidence from the case, partly due to its length but also its content. In a 2016 CBS documentary, The Case Of: Jonbenét Ramsey, three experts rewrote the three-page ransom note, and it took all of them over 20 minutes just to copy the text. Meaning the kidnappers would have spent at least 20 minutes writing the letter in the Ramsey’s home. They also put the pad and Sharpie pen back where they found them, as the stationery belonged to the Ramseys. On the pad, there were clear indentations where additional ransom notes had been started and rejected.
During the CBS documentary, Jim Fitzgerald, a forensic linguist, dissected the note and created a profile of the author. Despite the letter being written by a “small foreign faction”, the author’s writing ability was high. Numerous difficult words were spelt correctly, and he concluded that the author’s native language was English. He also put the writer aged over 30 due to the lack of slang in the note. He also believed the author was female. He gave six examples of maternalistic language used throughout the note, “when you get home”, and “do not particularly like you”. There were numerous similar phrases used in the Ramsey’s Christmas newsletter.
Fitzgerald criticised the phrase “small foreign faction” as counterproductive to the note, as it diminishes any authority in the kidnappers. There were also multiple movies quotes in the letter, including Dirty Harry and Speed.
The amount of money the kidnappers ask for is also precise. The author demanded $118,000, which was the exact figure that John received for his annual bonus that year. The kidnappers had seemingly done their research; they knew how to get into the property and knew where to find JonBenét in the house, so in theory, they would also understand that the Ramseys could get hold of more money.
The kidnappers said they’d call between 8–10 am on the 26th, but they never did. This wasn’t acknowledged at the time by the parents, which Detective Arndt found very odd. The note also told the Ramseys not to call the police, which they did immediately.
The ransom note was signed “Victory! S.B.T.C” which has an unprecedented number of theories around it. Some believe it stands for “Saved By The Cross”, a religious quote referring to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross meant we have victory over death. It may also be a random phrase created by the kidnappers.
There are no signs of forced entry into the basement. There were dust and spiderwebs on the window that were left undisturbed. In the CBS documentary, the producers built basement and kitchen replicas of the Ramsey’s house. The show included one of the hosts attempt to climb through the window without unsettling the debris, which was impossible in the reconstruction. There were also no fingerprints found on or around the area.
There was also a suitcase underneath the window that was not customarily placed there. It had little debris on it, and there was conflicting evidence that JonBenét had fibres from the suitcase on her body.
During the autopsy, the Coroner found strange marks on JonBenét’s body that looked like marks from a taser. There is a theory that JonBenét’s attacker stunned her to subdue her, but no taser was ever found. However, a piece of train track from the set in the basement was compared to the distance of the marks, and that fit the two patterns well.
Additionally, the Coroner found blood in JonBenét’s underwear. They also found DNA. There was evidence that JonBenét’s hymenal opening was large than average, indicative of sexual abuse. Other supposed proof of sexual abuse includes the bedwetting and soiling, both of which JonBenét experienced. However, forensic scientist, Dr Henry Lee, tested a pair of store-bought underwear, and the results came back positive for DNA trace evidence. This showed that the DNA found on JonBenét’s underwear could have come from the manufacturing process rather than anything more sinister.
The murder weapon
The head injury JonBenét sustained during her attack did not break the skin, so the Coroner did not realise the significant blow to her head until an internal inspection had occurred. The head wound showed remarkable similarities to a flashlight found on the Ramsey’s kitchen counter.
The flashlight on the Ramsey’s kitchen counter via thesun.co.uk
There is also the case of the baseball bat, but John Ramsey was adamant that the bat did not belong to their family, despite being found in the property. Evidence rules out an accidental fall to make such an injury, as the damage made needed heavy force behind it.
The bat found outside the Ramsey’s home via underworldtales.com
Many of the Ramsey’s neighbours report lights on in the house on Christmas night and early the following day. There were also reports of a missing safety light on the property. Another neighbour heard a scream between midnight and 2 am. Further neighbourhood reports can be found here; there are multiple, differing accounts.
JonBenét’s death was the first murder in Boulder that year. The officers who arrived at the house on the morning of JonBenét’s disappearance were new to the department. It took the officers four hours to seal off JonBenét’s bedroom, and when the Whites arrived to help with the search, they were let into the house immediately, without regard for the contamination of the scene. Friends and a victim’s advocate group kept themselves busy tidying and cleaning up the house, making themselves useful meanwhile removing any evidence that may have helped police.
When JonBenét was brought up from the basement, John Ramsey had already removed the tape over her mouth and had attempted to remove her wrist restraints. An officer then moved JonBenét from the floor to a sofa, which meant the body had been moved twice before the Coroner and forensics arrived. The police had no control over the situation, and the case had problems from the start.
Because of the number of people involved in this case, there are a vast number of suspects. These range from the family itself, to Santa Claus.
“Ninja Guy” — Nine months after JonBenét was murdered, a 14-year-old girl known as “Amy” was sexually assaulted in her home whilst her parents slept. Amy attended the same dance school as JonBenét, and she performed in several public events in Boulder. He entered and left Amy’s house discreetly;
“He was like a ghost. We couldn’t figure out where he came from, or where he went,” said Amy’s father, who thought the perpetrator had done something like this before.
The issue with this theory is that paedophiles do not usually change their age range focus, and there were eight years of an age difference between the two girls. There was also no ransom note left in Amy’s case.
“Santa Bill” — Bill McReynolds had played Santa several times at the Ramsey’s holiday parties, the most recent being 23rd of December, a few days before JonBenét was found dead. McReynolds was also one of the five people the Ramseys named for further investigation. McReynolds paid a little too much attention to JonBenét and even tried to arrange a visit with her on Christmas Day. He once said;
“[JonBenét’s] star dust was all I took with me for good luck when I had heart surgery… Her murder was harder on me than my operation. She made a profound change in me. I felt very close to that little girl. I don’t really have other children that I have this special relationship with — not even my own children or my own grandchildren… I’ve asked my wife to mix the star dust JonBenét gave me with my ashes. We’re going to go up behind the cabin here and have it blow away in the wind.”
Bill McReynolds eventually moved away from Boulder with his wife and has since passed away.
The housekeeper — Linda Hoffman-Pugh and her husband both worked for the Ramseys. One theory is that Linda led JonBenét down to the basement in an attempt to claim ransom money after the Ramseys had denied the request for a loan. The Pughs knew the Ramsey’s itinerary and the layout of the house, and they had access. They would have also learned about the broken window in the basement, and they both had reason to be in the house if they were caught.
An outsider — Lou Smith, Homicide Detective on the JonBenét case believes it may have simply been a kidnapping gone wrong;
“I believe that he was going to take her out of [the] house. There is some evidence to suggest that he did perhaps try to put her in a suitcase. Perhaps he couldn’t get the suitcase in the window and then get out of the window himself. Perhaps he got into the window and couldn’t pull the suitcase out after him. So, I don’t know why he suddenly went to that basement room, fashioned a garrotte from something that was right there in plain sight and brutally murdered JonBenét. Perhaps she knew him. Perhaps she screamed. Something triggered this man to kill JonBenét in a very brutal fashion.”
The Ramseys had an open house for two days around Christmas because they had decorated the inside and outside of their home to look like a gingerbread house. Between 1,500 and 2,000 people entered the property, and at the time, 38 sex offenders lived within a few miles of the Ramsey’s residence.
“People in Boulder have no need to fear that there is someone wandering the streets looking for someone to attack” — Mayor Durgin, 3rd January 1997.
Mayor Leslie Durgin believed that Boulder was safe, due to the discrepancies in JonBenét’s case. She said there were “no visible signs of forced entry in the house”. She also reiterated that it appeared someone knew the home well.
The Ramsey’s house was expansive, so the kidnapper would have needed clear instructions to get JonBenét from her bedroom and down to the basement. It is likely that only someone with knowledge of this house would have been able to do this successfully.
After 24 years, there are multiple theories, suspects, murder weapons and pieces of evidence that lead nowhere, in the case of JonBenét Ramsey. There are also many unanswered questions with this case, which came first; the strangulation or the head injury? Why didn’t District Attorney Alex Hunter help, rather than hinder, the investigation?
As of 2001, the Boulder police report having interviewed more than 600 people, investigated around 140 potential suspects and logged about 1400 items of evidence. So why hasn’t it been solved?
Steve Thomas, former Boulder police detective, believes it is politics. Others say it was an opportunistic sexual predator, and some say it is a cover-up as the result of a tragic accident.
After JonBenét died, the family moved back to Atlanta, Georgia. Burke attended Purdue University, he went on to work in the technology industry, and now lives a quiet life. John Ramsey remarried following Patsy’s death in 2006 from ovarian cancer and currently resides in Michigan with his third wife.
It is unlikely that this case will ever be solved due to the number of theories, people involved and inadequate police work at the scene. Whatever the truth, it will likely die with the person or people who committed it, after all this time.
Almost 25 years after her kidnap and murder, beauty pageant winner JonBenét Ramsey may finally be the next victim to have genealogy DNA used in her case.
According to Radar Online, Roscoe J. Clark and Derek Brommerich believe they’ve found a suspect in the case. The men, who aren’t involved with the authorities, but instead run an online group relating to JonBenét’s murder, travelled to Colorado and gathered DNA from someone they believe is a suspect.
The DNA was obtained from a discarded cigarette butt and was passed onto Under Sheriff Mike Angus of Genesee County, and from there it will go to the FBI.
“This could be the breakthrough everyone has been waiting for during the past 24 years and it’s based on hard evidence and forensic science. I’m 100-percent positive we have the right suspect, and we can’t rule this person out,” Roscoe J. Clark told Radar Online.
If this unnamed suspect did indeed kill JonBenét Ramsey, it will rule out long-thought theories that her brother, Burke, accidentally killed his younger sister.
There has also been an additional update. According to TikTok user sydbroadbent, she attended a recent lecture with criminal profiler and retired psychologist John Philpin, who then disclosed undisclosed evidence about JonBenét’s case.
According to the four-part video, which has now been viewed over 200,000 times collectively, the woman makes a case for eight-year-old Burke being unable to strangle his little sister, due to not being strong enough.
Philpin claims an intruder could be to blame for JonBenét’s murder, and it all comes down to ransom amount.
John Ramsey’s bank statement was a desk visible to anyone who came into the house. Because of this, an intruder could have seen the additional money the Ramseys had and requested it off the back of this letter.
Philpin also apparently refers to tampering. When JonBenét was missing, her parents received a lot of visitors to their home, so the crime scene was quickly muddied.
So, with this new information, do we believe that an intruder murdered JonBenét Ramsey, was it an inside job, or are Clark and Brommerich on the right trajectory?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
JonBenét Ramsey via hernamewasjonbenet.tumblr.com
Much of the research for this article came from sites like JonBenét Ramsey Case Encyclopedia, who have spent years building all the evidence and profiles about the case.