I wanted to start off my murder mystery series with a case that has caught my attention time and time again.
The case of JonBenet Ramsey.
JonBenet Ramsey was a 6-year-old child beauty pageant queen, who was discovered murdered in the basement of her own home on December 26, 1996.
Ramsey was the daughter of a wealthy businessman, John Ramsey, and her mother Patsy Ramsey was a former beauty pageant queen herself, Miss West Virginia of 1977. So it’s clear to see that the family lived a comfortable, luxurious life with financial stability.
This case, which is still unsolved to this day remains quite popular amongst people. It was also one of the biggest police investigations in the late 90’s.
OKAY, let’s get into it.
The mother of JonBenet Ramsey, Patsy Ramsey had woken up during the early hours of the morning at around 5:30-5:45 am on December 26th, to discover a handwritten note on the bottom of the stairs. A ransom note. Within its 3 pages, was detailed a threat, demanding $118,000 for the safe and unharmed return of their daughter.
I will add the letter below so you can read it all:
(Also discovered, were several practice draft letters which were found written using the same notepad and pen. Later testing revealed no fingerprints left on either letter.)
Mrs Ramsey screamed and had proceeded to check on JonBenet in her room which was discovered empty. She later claims to go into Burke Ramsey’s (their son, JonBenet’s older brother) and saw him fast asleep in the room.
Arrival of the police
Despite warnings in the ransom to not call the police, Mrs Ramsey had called them at exactly 5:52 am. Shortly, almost immediately after, she had also called some family friends over.
Boulder Police Department Officers Karl Veitch and Rick French were reported to have responded to 911 call and were noted to have arrived shortly before 6 am. They had carried out a swift search around the house, looking for any other clues or indications of breaking and entering or another form of forced entries. There wasn’t much of a reason to carry out the search extensively as initially at the time, the law enforcement officers had no reason to believe the parents had any involvement and continued to treat them as victims.
Later that afternoon when suggested that another search take place in the house to see if anything had been changed or moved, it was apparent that Mr Ramsey (with his friend, that simply accompanied him) almost immediately got up and walked straight to the basement and shouted that he found JonBenet.
The young girl’s body was found dead wrapped in a white blanket in the basement; her skull fractured and was strangled with a garrote which was made from one of Patsy Ramsey’s paintbrushes. Her wrists had also been tied together over her head and her mouth was covered with duct tape.
Mr Ramsey carried JonBenet’s body upstairs and place her on the floor. She was then later moved again by Boulder Police Detective, Linda Arndt. Every time they moved the body, they were contaminating the crime scene and several people were walking in and around the room; making the evidence even more difficult to work with for the forensic team.
All members of the Ramsey family had later provided handwriting, hair and blood samples to the police. The parents were interviewed for over two hours and their son Burke had been interviewed within the first few weeks of JonBenet’s death.
A coroner’s report had concluded that she died from asphyxiation from strangulation and her death was classed as a homicide. She had also attained a skull fracture. There was no conventional evidence of rape, however, this was not entirely ruled out. A garrote, which was made using items found within the house (which was the mother’s paintbrush) was tied around her neck.
THAT IS ALL THE INFO (USEFUL) THAT IVE CONDENSED DOWN AND SUMMARISED.
NOW ONTO THEORIES/SUSPECTS/IMPORTANT NOTES
The phone call:
Patsy Ramsey called the police almost immediately after she found the note. If a random letter threatened to harm a loved one and explicitly stated to not involve the police, it seems kind of a rash choice to call them straight away. Saying this, I guess you don’t really know how you would act in that situation. Sometimes anxiety/panic takes over.
A documentary was released (you can watch it on youtube) where a team of experts analysed the call Patsy made. They slowed it down and essentially blew it up so they could break it down, millisecond by millisecond. The dispatcher who took the call was also interviewed and she said she had got an unnerving feeling about the situation. That something didn’t feel right. When Patsy made the call she was very panicked. However what she didn’t realise was, she didn’t quite end the call when she thought she had. Instead, the dispatcher was still on the line listening. The dispatcher claims that during her short conversation with Patsy, there was panic in her voice, however when she thought she ended the call, that immediately dropped. As though it was staged. As though she forcibly put on a fearful tone for the call. There were also 2 other undetected voices during the last few seconds of the call. One assumed to be John Ramsey, the other could only have been Burke Ramsey, as there was nobody else in the house. However, this conflicts what the Ramseys said, as they claimed when the call was made, Burke was still asleep in his room. Why would they lie about this?
The call made to the emergency dispatcher was also very short. She called, said what she needed to say and hung up. In that situation, it would seem, that staying on the line would provide more comfort, and ease during a time like that. You would want to stay on, getting some reassurance that someone was on their way. It seems odd, to me, that Patsy cut the phone so quickly. Also, an immediate change in tone seems very very odd to me.
There was an intruder:
This is one theory which was pursued by the District Attorney’s office. This was initially pursued because of a boot mark which was left in the basement where JonBenet was discovered. Suspects included a man named Bill McReynolds who was known in the town as the guy who played Santa Claus, and also another suspect was Michael Helgoth who had died in an apparent suicide not long after JonBenet’s death.
It was determined that one hundred burglaries had occurred in the neighbourhood the Ramseys lived in, in the few months before JonBenét’s murder. There were also reportedly 38 registered sex offenders living within two-miles from their home.
So this theory isn’t completely whack. JonBenet was a beautiful little girl, who was obviously well known for the pageants she took part in. It’s not a crazy idea to assume an older (creepy) man had taken a keen interest. But, it’s important to note that there was no sign of breaking and entering. There was no evidence to suggest someone has been in the house at all, apart from a slightly broken window in the basement, which, you couldn’t possibly get through without making a noise.
The family as suspects:
Of course, as with any deaths like this, it’s not uncommon (or unwise) to look at the family. The only people who were known to be in the house on the night of JonBenét’s death apart from herself was family: Burke, Patsy and John Ramsey. There were no signs of a forced entry, there were signs which would link to the notion that it was staged (such as the ransom note, the way the call was made) and the police generally found that the family were not very cooperative in helping them solve the death of their daughter. The Ramseys did, however, defend themselves and claimed that their reluctance to engage in a full investigation was because they feared it would take the attention away from actual key suspects.
I don’t know, to me, it seems logical to just engage fully. Especially if you have nothing to hide. Surely the process would be covered and addressed much quicker if they were to give their cooperation and thus allowing investigators to focus on other suspects.
A grand jury did vote to indict the parents in 1999. It cited “two counts each of child abuse” However, this was dropped due to insufficient evidence. On July 9, 2008, the District Attorney’s office revealed that newly developed DNA sampling and testing techniques have excluded the Ramsey family as suspects in the case.
A cover up:
There is a theory which suggests that Patsy Ramsey had hit JonBenet in a fit of anger after the young girl had wet the bed, and then strangled her to cover up what has already happened after assuming she was already dead.
This seems slightly, (un)realistic, but also not so much. How angry can you get at your young daughter for wetting the bed? Seriously. It doesn’t seem very convincing when you think about it. But sometimes there doesn’t need to be a logical reason. These things do unfortunately happen. On another note, if she did smack her daughter (for wetting the bed, or any other reason) there seems no logical reason to kill. Especially if she is still alive. As for assuming she was dead, could she not have seen any sign of life before ‘finishing the job’? A heart beat? Breathing?. It seems extreme.
The ransom letter seems so dodgy:
If someone were to break in and enter, how were they to know where to find the notebook and pen, and also go to the effort of putting them back in their original places. It doesn’t make sense to do so.
In a documentary version of this case, a group of investigators had timed themselves re-writing the ransom note to see how long it would take. It took around 21 minutes for them to copy the letter.
That was just to copy. Now imagine how long it would have taken to think of what to say, structure it and then write. Predictably much longer. Why would anyone, in that situation risk an unnecessary 20-30 minutes, especially as it would increase their chances of being caught? Makes no sense! The team investigating has also matched the style of writing to Patsy Ramsey, recognising that certain letters were written in the same way. It all seems so dodgy to me!
I will link the two part documentary on youtube here:
It’s a little long (but definitely worth watching). It’ll cover things in much more depth and fill you in on key points which I’ve addressed briefly (and/or missed).
THAT’S ALL FROM ME. I could go on and on about other key (odd) points, but I would turn this into a full essay (as if, it isn’t already). I’m also ending it here because I want to know what you think? Have you read/seen the documentary on this case? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS/THEORIES!
LIKE, and comment (or let me know via twitter @CultureEighteen) if you want me to do more of these, as I’m happy to take suggestions for cases too.