Revisiting the JonBenet Ramsey Case Almost Two Decades Later

Revisiting the JonBenet Ramsey Case Almost Two Decades Later

Revisiting the JonBenet Ramsey Case Almost Two Decades Later

The case of JonBenet Ramsey is receiving much attention recently in the wake of its 20th anniversary approaching in December. Many networks have conducted interviews including Dr. Phil who had Burke, JonBenet's brother, as a guest on his show (Part 1 airs today). There have been Dateline shows (September 9), and networks such as A&E and Investigation Discovery have aired recent documentaries. There is a new Lifetime movie set to air in November (there was an older Lifetime Movie made previously). Two decades later, this case is still getting major media attention. And its details, although so horrendous and heartbreaking, fascinate me. Mostly because I am haunted by the fact that this murder is still unsolved. I was a young child when the December 26, 1996 murder occurred and only vaguely remember it. I remember a lot of media coverage and tabloid photos at the grocery store checkout line. I was not privy to most of the details as I was only a young teenager. In recent weeks, I have researched a lot about the case, watched all the new and old informative shows, read books and articles. And I have begun to wish that I could actually solve this case myself! Background: JonBenet was a 6 year old beauty pageant winner. Her mom, Patsy, was a former Miss West Virginia who attended WVU. Her father, John, was a well-known businessman worth millions of dollars in 1996. The couple owned several homes. While residing in their Colorado home, on the evening of Christmas, they returned home from their friends' house and went to bed. Just before 6 am when Patsy awoke, she found a ransom note at the top of the steps. The note explained that the perpetrator(s) had JonBenet in their possession and stated that they wanted a sum of money before they would return her to the Ramseys. The note had specific instructions as to what the Ramseys could and could not do and it set forth a two hour window in which the kidnappers would call the Ramsey house. However, no call was ever made and hours after that time window passed, John Ramsey found his daughter dead in the cellar of their basement. She was covered in a white blanket. Her arms were bound over her head and her mouth was duct taped shut. She appeared to have been strangled. The autopsy later revealed that she had been the victim of blunt trauma to her head (no exterior signs present but her skull was fractured) that would have rendered her unconscious and eventually that alone would have killed her; although, the cause of death was stated as affixation from the strangulation. Theories: There are two schools of thought regarding what happened that night. No evidence has been strong enough one way or the other to indict someone for the murder. But those involved most heavily with the research of the case have come up with two main theories. Theory 1- An intruder did it:  This theory is based on the premise that an intruder came into the house sometime either when the Ramseys were gone at their friends' house on Christmas Day or after the Ramseys went to bed the night of December 25. The intruder abducted the little girl from her room and murdered her. Flaws with this theory/unanswered questions:  The ransom note: There is a ransom note that suggests that this was a kidnapping. So at what point did the kidnapping go wrong and this become a murder? The ransom note was unusual as ransom notes go. It was long and it requested an odd amount of money (odd because the amount was so low compared with other ransom notes and in light of John Ramsey’s financial success.) It was written on Patsy Ramsey’s notepad, and with her pen. There was another draft that had been started and not finished. This meant that the intruder took significant time to write this note without fear of being caught in the act. This supports the idea that the intruder may have entered the house while the Ramseys were at their friends’ house and wrote the note while he was alone and had more time; however, if this were true, why leave the ransom note to be found at all, once the kidnapping became a murder? No evidence of forced entry: There was no sign that a person broke into the home which meant that if someone did in fact enter the house, it had to be someone who had a key or they entered through an unlocked door or window (again luck that someone would find an unlocked point of entry, or planned by someone in the house, or someone who had been in the house before?) It is unlikely that the average person would have walked around the whole house looking for unlocked doors or windows as the house was very large and there would be more of a chance of being seen by a witness. Why leave the body in the house?: If this was supposed to be a kidnapping and the kidnappers wanted money, then why didn’t they take the body from the house? Once the body was found, and the Ramseys knew their daughter was dead, the alleged kidnappers had no chance to recover their requested money. No ransom call was ever made: There was never a call during the hours the ransom note alleged a call would be made. Critics believe this is because the ransom note was staged by someone inside the house who could not make that purported call, or because it was not a kidnapping, but in fact a murder. Theory 2 – A Ramsey did it (John, Patsy or Burke): Other theorists suggest that someone inside the house that night killed JonBenet and staged the whole thing as a cover-up. Those that think John killed his daughter believe that he had been sexual molesting her (autopsy suggested repeated vaginal trauma) and then murdered her. Those that think Patsy murdered her daughter think that she got angry with JonBenet for wetting the bed (something that she did frequently) and struck her over the head with an object knocking her unconscious. She then staged the rest of the crime to make it look like a murder by strangulation and wrote a fake ransom note. Still there are those that think the older brother, Burke (who was 9 at the time) was playing with JonBenet and got angry and hit her in the head and the parents staged the whole thing to protect him.*Theorists suggest that the December 25th death date that the Ramsey’s chose for JonBenet’s tombstone corroborates this theory because it insinuates that the Ramseys knew their daughter was dead before midnight and spent the whole night staging the cover-up. Which is also why Patsy was still wearing the same clothes as the night before.* Flaws with this theory/unanswered questions: Killer profile: There was no sign of abuse of JonBenet at any point prior to that night and the family did not fit the typical FBI profile of someone who would kill their child. Ransom note and murder weapons: Although the note had been written on Patsy’s pad and her handwriting could not be ruled out as a match to the ransom note’s handwriting, the other pages ripped out have never been recovered. Moreover, the use of Patsy’s paintbrush to make the garrote is undisputed, but the rest of the rope used to tie JonBenet’s hands or the rest of the duct tape roll was never recovered. Why a cover up at all: Had an accident happened, the parents could have just called for help like any other accident with the hopes that JonBenet would be ok, unless there was an intent to kill from the beginning. And there would be no need to stage a cover up for their son as he was only 9. Why make it look like a kidnapping after a murder took place? Why not just dispose of the body elsewhere? Why leave it in your house and then suggest a kidnapping? Although we don't have answers to a lot of the plaguing questions as to what happened to the beautiful little girl, there are a few things we do know: 1- The crime scene was handled poorly which has led to the extreme difficulty in indicting and convicting anyone for this crime. The crime scene was entirely understaffed: Most of the day only one police officer was stationed at the house. This is mostly attributed to the fact that it was Christmas. The crime scene was never blocked off: When the officer arrived, this was a kidnapping, so the house was never secured from entry and exit. People came in freely and moved about the house and touched things. The Ramseys called their friends over who came and even cleaned up the kitchen (which was later found to be detrimental because pineapple was found in JonBenet’s small intestine and there was a bowl of pineapple on the kitchen table. The Ramseys could not account for how the pineapple got on the table or in JonBenet’s stomach). This also meant that there would be several more sets of fingerprints inside the home that could not have been proven to have gotten there during the commission of the murder.  Disrupted DNA: John Ramsey moved the body when he found it. This contaminated the murder scene because once the body was moved, all the evidence left on JonBenet’s body was disturbed. Now John’s DNA would be on his daughter, as was Patsy’s as she supposedly hugged and cried on JonBenet’s dead body. So authorities couldn’t be sure that such evidence got there from commission of the crime or by moving and weeping over the body. 2- The likelihood of this crime ever being solved is low. Without a direct match to the DNA found (there was a small amount of DNA found on JonBenet’s leg later revealed to be the DNA of an unidentified male) or an explanation of its existence (someone explaining how it got there/was planted there), or without a confession, the world may never know who killed JonBenet Ramsey. Patsy, one of the people in the house that fateful night, and a person one theory points to as the murderer, has already passed away. Patsy died in 2006 of ovarian cancer, which leaves only John, JonBenet's father and Burke, JonBenet's brother and/or the alleged unknown killer left to come forth with a confession. 3- This crime and case would play out much differently in 2016 with the advances in technology and forensics. With computer generated handwriting analysis, the ransom note studies could be done much more thoroughly and objectively. The advances in DNA analysis are enormous and too many to mention. Authorities have recently used a new advancement called “touch DNA” that can now help widen their search by not just including suspects, but also those related to suspects when analyzing DNA samples. The ability to track a person’s movements based on GPS in their cell phone or car, could have possibly explained what happened to the duct tape and extra rope, had someone in the house gotten rid of them. Alibis could have been discredited or supported. The District Attorney in this case felt strongly that there was not enough evidence to indict the Ramseys for murder. He is quoted as saying that he didn’t want to be the reason that an innocent person was behind bars. Could it be that he is now the reason that a murderer walks free? A case, a murder, that has broken our hearts, has made us think the unthinkable about parents and what they could do to their child, has made us worry that this could happen to us, has made us endure agonizing photos of horrific things done to a beautiful little girl, has plagued our minds with theories and autopsy findings, has haunted Americans for almost two decades, and may never be solved. JonBenet’s death may never be avenged. Eventually the anniversaries won’t be celebrated. Documentaries won’t be made. But that little girl will still be dead. JonBenet would be 26 years old today, but we will always remember her as the blonde little girl whose life was ended way too soon. Was this murder a cover-up? Was it “the perfect murder?"  Was this murderer “too good to ever get caught?" Or has our very own justice system failed us?