JonBenet Ramsey was born on August 6, 1990. She was a true beauty queen as a young child, as she was very successful in numerous beauty pageants all over the United States. The titles she held include Little Miss Charlevoix Michigan, Colorado State All-Star Kids Cover Girl, America’s Royal Miss, National Tiny Miss Beauty, Little Miss Merry Christmas, Little Miss Colorado, and Little Miss Sunburst (wikipedia). JonBenet lived in Boulder, Colorado, with her parents, John and Patsy, and her brother, Burke.
Sadly, JonBenet Ramsey and her family became best known to the American public in the aftermath of the events surrounding her mysterious death on December 25, 1996. A combination of police blunders, mysterious evidence, and other conclusions created a national media buzz that continues on, even to this day. John and Patsy Ramsey are continually looked at the most likely culprits in the public eye, and the young Burke has even been mentioned as a possible murderer in some accounts (Maloney).
The Ramsey family lived the quintessential “good life” in Boulder. John was a very successful businessman who had moved his family there from Atlanta, Georgia, in 1991 with the financial resources from a lucrative computer business that he started out of his very own garage (Maloney). The family built a house in an upscale neighborhood and made many new friends, their home becoming a regular party spot for their companions in the neighborhood. With all the riches that they had, not to mention a beautiful and very successful young daughter, would they have killed her? This is a question that still remains unanswered.
After attending a Christmas party at a friend’s home on December 25, 1996, the Ramseys returned home early that night, around 9:30, planning to get up at dawn and head for their vacation house on Lake Michigan (Maloney). JonBenet had fallen asleep in the back of the family vehicle, so Patsy took her upstairs and put her in bed. She and John went to bed a short time later.
Patsy Ramsey awoke around 5:00 a.m. on the morning of December 26th, and headed for the kitchen, as many of us do as a routine each day. She was shocked to find a two-and-a-half page ransom note on the counter explaining that JonBenet had been kidnapped. In the note, the criminals claimed to be “from a small foreign faction that respected John Ramsey’s business, but not the people in it.” They would give JonBenet back for an amount of $118,000 (Maloney). The note also said that John Ramsey could expect a phone call to his home in between 8-10 a.m. explaining the ransom instructions in a more precise way to him. Local authorities were anxious to tap this call, yet it never came. In their great anticipation of this phone call, they failed to seal off the Ramsey household as a crime scene. Friends of the family were in and out of the house throughout the entire day, which could have obviously resulted in evidence being destroyed or tampered with.
Later in the afternoon, John was instructed by authorities to go around his home looking for JonBenet. Ironically, Mr. Ramsey found his daughter’s body in the very first place he looked, down in the wine cellar of the house. Even more disturbing is the fact that he picked up the body and brought her back upstairs immediately, which would most definitely ruin a crime scene. He emerged from the basement with his little girl. Her arms were raised above her head and there was a string around her right wrist (Maloney). She had blue lips and was not breathing; the body was identified by John as being JonBenet.
The cord tied around her wrist did not indicate that her body had bound together. Police immediately speculated that she had strangely been tied up after her death. She had blood spots in the crotch area of her panties, but nothing on her skin. There were also dark fibers contained in her vaginal area which suggested the body had been wiped down by a cloth (Maloney). As stated above, it is extremely eerie that John Ramsey happened to find his daughter in the first place that he looked in the house just minutes after he was instructed by authorities to go look for her. There is much more evidence that points to the Ramseys as well. The body was removed from the house via search warrant instead of the consent of the parents, which is customary in this particular situation (Maloney).
After taking the body from the home, police immediately began a search of the house for hair fibers, pens, and the notepad which the ransom note was written on. Steve Thomas, a Boulder City detective in the case, believes that JonBenet Ramsey was most definitely killed by her mother. Thomas says that being exhausted from the grind of Christmas Day and an argument with JonBenet had left Patsy very agitated. Patsy frequently wanted her daughter to be dressed just like her, and this was something that the young child had gone against that day; she wanted to wear something different to the family friend’s Christmas party. After coming home from the party, JonBenet was hungry and ate some pineapple before she went to bed. Patsy checked on her in the middle of the night and discovered that she had wet her bed, and Thomas feels this is where the mother could have become very angry and snapped. JonBenet was possibly dragged into the bathroom and beaten up pretty badly. The eight-inch skull fracture on her head seems to suggest that her head was slammed against a very hard surface, presumably the edge of a tub (Maloney). It is this blow that initially knocked her unconscious and led to her eventual death. Patsy immediately realized the magnitude of what she had done, and was probably in a great state of panic by this point. She would have been much too scared to take JonBenet to the hospital at this time, knowing that if police got involved, they would be able to figure out what had happened pretty easily. Therefore, she moved the body into the basement and went about planning her “kidnapping” scene. She tied her daughter up and strangled her from behind with a piece of rope and a paintbrush, then covered the child in a white blanket and left her to die, moving on to the kitchen to write the ransom note. She used her own writing pad and a pen from a jar that she kept on the counter.
In her frantic state, she erred in what she wanted to say and had to start the note over once more. This is very interesting as it turned out to be important evidence. Police found the ransom note written on one of the Ramseys’ legal pads with one of their own pens, and the kidnapper had apparently left a “practice” note on another page, where it looked as if he had made errors and decided to start over. Even more alarming here are details in the note itself. An odd amount of $118,000 was demanded, and this just so happened to be strikingly close to an amount that John Ramsey had received from his company as a bonus in February of 2005 (Maloney). Also, the kidnapper advised Mr. Ramsey to use “that good southern charm of yours” in the way that he went about getting his daughter back. If the kidnapper claimed to be from a “small foreign faction,” what would he know about southern charm? This is something that cannot be explained. The note also said JonBenet would be killed if the Ramseys talked to anyone, yet Patsy had friends, family members, and even a minister in the home the day JonBenet was killed. Another interesting thing in the note is its declaration that the Ramseys would get JonBenet back quicker if they responded promptly to the kidnapper’s monetary demand. John did call his bank to get the $118,000, but the money was never received by him nor delivered to anyone (Maloney). These factors make the situation mind-boggling. John and Patsy did not specifically follow the demands of the ransom note, nor did they have any sense of urgency at the time particular aspects of the note such as getting the money.
As part of the kidnapping scene, Patsy placed a piece of duct tape over JonBenet’s mouth that had blood-filled mucus under it and showed a perfect outline of her lips (Maloney). This definitely means that the girl did not show any resistance when the tape was being placed on her mouth, meaning that she was most likely already dead at the time. Thomas believes the most important aspect of the entire situation is Patsy’s clothes. She was wearing the same clothes the next day as the night before, probably because her staging of the kidnapping had taken up so much of her time that she was unable to change them. This was found to be true; pictures from the party on Christmas evening showed Patsy Ramsey in a red turtleneck and black pants, the same thing she was wearing at the time the police showed up at the Ramsey household. Fibers from Patsy’s clothing were found on JonBenet’s body at the time of her autopsy (Maloney). All this evidence definitely shows Patsy Ramsey as a likely suspect.
There are other factors that show JonBenet may have been the subject of much abuse from her parents. Police received a 911 call from the Ramsey household on December 23, 1996, when the Ramseys were having their annual Christmas party for over 100 guests. Whoever called from the house that night hung up before the dispatcher could speak. Police called the home back within minutes and got a voicemail message, so the Boulder City Police Department sent an officer out to the home, but he came back empty-handed. With so many people at the home and the alcohol involved, it is very possible that anyone at the home could have dialed 911, but many experts who have studied this case from its beginning believe that JonBenet made this call (Maloney).
In 1997, a linguistics expert named Don Foster studied some samples of Patsy Ramsey’s handwriting and concluded that it was her who had written the ransom note. He took these findings to the Boulder District Attorney’s Office and explained the entire situation. He had determined that her spelling habits and grammar usage proved it was undoubtedly her, and gave the District Attorney’s office enough evidence for the Boulder grand jury to return on indictment on Patsy; for some reason, however, the District Attorney would not allow him to testify (Maloney).
The Ramseys have seemingly always been the most scrutinized in the investigation process. However, there are a few other suspects. These include all the employees of Access Graphics (John Ramsey’s company) and their spouses, everyone who was in the house when the 911 call came on December 23rd, Bill McReynolds, a man who played Santa Claus at the family party each year, and his wife, Janet. The final suspect was Randy Simons, a photographer for numerous beauty pageants (Maloney). This man had most likely spent a great deal of his time around JonBenet.
Another theory regarding the murder that has been discussed is the fact that someone could have entered the house from the outside, but the circumstances make this hard to believe as well. There were no footprints left in the snow outside of the house, yet the Ramseys claimed that the killer must have entered through a basement window at the bottom of the house that had broken latches. Upon investigation, police determined that the window had not been opened for some time because there were spider webs at its base. The killer also seemed to leave the ransom note in a convenient place where he knew Patsy Ramsey would find it, at the base of a back stairway. Unless he had come into the house beforehand and inspected the layout, there is no way he would have known this (Maloney). Also, why was the note written on one of the Ramseys notepads, with one of their pens? This definitely lacks credibility. Another interesting aspect about the ransom note is the fact that a “practice” note was found a few pages ahead of the real one. If you were a killer going into a house to kidnap somebody for ransom, you would simply not have time to sit and practice writing ransom notes for lengthy periods of time and going throughout the house while the family was fast asleep. It just does not make any sense. Most importantly is the situation with the ransom itself. If the kidnapper wanted the money, why no phone call to the Ramsey family? Ransom involves kidnapping the victim and holding them until the monetary demand is met. Since this is the case, why was the body left in the house? One would think a “kidnapper” would have at least taken it with him.
This theory was eventually determined false by the FBI, as the Boulder police submitted a report to the Child Abuse and Serial Killers Unit (CASKU). The CASKU said that they had never seen anything written as concisely as the Ramsey’s ransom note (Maloney). They believe that a real killer would not use such correct grammar. A “real” ransom note would contain short phrases such as “We have your kid” and “We’ll call you.” The FBI felt that the note was written in the house after the murder and indicated a state of panic in whoever wrote it, something else that easily points to Patsy Ramsey. Also, ransom notes are normally never handwritten so police would have a hard time figuring out its writer (Maloney). Why would one leave any traces of their identity? If someone besides the Ramseys really did kill this little girl, it seems that he wanted to be caught. There is far too much evidence left behind.
JonBenet’s autopsy determined that she died of strangulation and cranial damage. She had an eight-inch long skull fracture and a near square-inch piece of her skull was completely broken off (Maloney). The wound probably occurred with her head being slammed against a tub or some kind of other ceramic surface (Maloney). Other findings included a possible lengthy period of sexual abuse. Her vagina was badly inflamed and there was a hole in her hymen. There were also blood stains in her panties and around the vaginal area (Maloney). The Ramseys continue to deny these allegations to this day.
The most intriguing thing about the JonBenet Ramsey case is its uncertainty. There is so much speculation involved that many feel we will never know who committed these murders. In January of 2004, Colorado law enforcement sent in a sample of blood from JonBenet’s panties to the FBI’s Combined Index System which logs genetic profiles of criminal offenders (Maloney). This was gathered right after her body was found, but authorities never sent it in because they were sure that JonBenet was killed by one of her parents. Today, there is still no word on who may have been connected to this blood stain.
The Ramseys have remained the prime suspects in public eye for the last 10 years. Life is very hard for them, as can be expected for a family that lost such a beautiful child. They are continually scrutinized by the media. In 2001, they sued CourtTV for $70 million dollars. They claimed that a 1999 show on the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation named their son Burke as a prime suspect in the murder case (“Ramseys Sue CourtTV). They believe that the show made them look bad by describing them as a centerpiece of police investigation.
They also filed a suit against the New York Post in 2002, once again claiming defamation (“N.Y. Post to Get JonBenet Files”) As a result, the newspaper was awarded the rights to documents from their case to help in their defense.
Interesting current developments include John’s running for office in the Michigan House of Representatives (Lambert). This seems particularly odd considering the vast amount of negative media attention that the Ramsey family has received over the years. The Ramseys continue to state that they are just trying to “move on with their lives.” Interestingly enough, John Ramsey made this exact comment just days after he found his daughter’s body (Maloney). It seems as if there would be a little more time allowed for grieving.
In February of this year, the Ramseys met with the Boulder district attorney to look at more details of the case (“Justice for JonBenet”). The district office has received numerous tips and opinions from people throughout the years since the murder, and continues to work on the case. Just last month, a former chief investigator in the Ramsey case, Tom Bennett, regained his old job position and will be once again looking into the Ramsey case (Brennan). His primary job will be to continually look for new leads in the investigation. He hopes to find more information soon. Currently, there have still never been any arrests or convictions made in the Ramsey case.
Boulder authorities continue to look for solutions as the Ramseys maintain their innocence. They really have a bundle of things working against them, with the theories that Patsy wrote the letter and John sexually abused his daughter. It is hard to believe that nothing really substantial has been accomplished over the past ten years. We may never understand why JonBenet was killed and who did it. This is a very intriguing case and we can only hope that it can be solved one day. America wants answers, and one can be sure that the Ramsey family definitely needs them as well.
Published with permission of the author, Rob DuBard.