When six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey was found dead in the basement on Boxing Day by her father John Ramsey, she had been bludgeoned and strangled in her Colorado home.
While Santa Claus had gifted her a brand-new bicycle that year, JonBenet would never get the chance to ride it again.
Her body was hidden beneath a white blanket and she had a nylon cord around her neck.
Her wrists had been bound above her head and her mouth was covered by duct tape.
The previous day had been as exciting as any other Christmas for the Ramsey clan.
After trying out her bicycle for the first time, JonBenet and the rest of the family – John, his wife Patsy, and their son Burke, then nine – had gone for dinner at a friend’s home.
When the Ramseys returned home that evening, John carried a sleeping JonBenet up to her room and Patsy helped put her to bed.
But that was the last time they saw their daughter alive. The next morning, JonBenet was reported missing.
Eight hours later, her body was discovered in the basement. She had been murdered.
For the Boulder police department, suspicion immediately fell on the family. A ransom note found at the scene raised more questions than answers.
The three-page note – which was handwritten – claimed to be from a foreign faction that was demanding money for the return of the six-year-old.
The note asked for $118,000 to avoid harm befalling the child – the sum was the exact amount of John’s bonus that year.
In a twist, the pages used for the ransom note had been torn from a pad that Patsy kept by the telephone.
A jury voted in 1999 to charge John and Patsy with child abuse resulting in the death of their daughter – but the charges were never pursued and DNA evidence taken from JonBenet’s clothes later cleared them both.
The DNA came from an unknown male and could not be matched to anyone who had been near the scene or handled
JonBenet’s body. It was not a match to John, either.
In 2008, the district attorney issued an apology to John and Patsy – saying they were exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing in relation to the death of JonBenet.
Patsy died of ovarian cancer in 2006. John has since remarried and lives in western United States.
While John and Patsy faced their own battle with doubters, JonBenet’s brother Burke also came under suspicion in the murder case.
In a controversial CBS television show that aired in September 2016, forensic pathologist Dr Werner Spitz said there was reason to believe the then-nine-year-old struck JonBenet with a heavy flashlight and accidentally killed her.
Burke has since settled a $150 million defamation lawsuit in response to the claim.
In a rare interview – given on Dr Phil in September 2016 – Burke gave an insight into what happened on the morning that
his sister was found dead. ‘The first thing I remember
is my mum bursting in my room, really frantic, saying: “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” Running around my room – now I know looking for JonBenet,’ Burke recalled.
‘The next thing I remember is a police officer coming into my room and shining a flashlight.’
The software engineer subsequently came under fire for appearing to smile as he recollected the events of that fateful morning.
Burke also told the show that his unwillingness to be in the public eye came from the chaos in the aftermath of his sister’s death.
‘For a long time, the media basically made our lives crazy. It’s hard to miss the cameras and news trucks in your front yard. And we’d go to the supermarket sometimes and there’d be a tabloid newspaper with my picture, JonBenet’s picture, plastered on the front. They would follow us around,’ he said.
THE FALSE LEADS
JonBenet’s parents always maintained a stranger had killed their little girl, and in 2006 it seemed they may be proved right when a man confessed.
A 41-year-old teacher named John Mark Karr was arrested in Thailand after saying he loved JonBenet, was with her the night she died, and that her death was accidental.
But quickly his ‘confession’ failed to ring true.
Karr claimed to have drugged JonBenet, but an autopsy failed to find any drugs in her system.
He also couldn’t explain how he had managed to gain access to the Ramsey family home.
Most compellingly, DNA evidence did not connect Karr to the crime scene, and so he wasn’t charged.
But in a bizarre interview that aired on the 2016 US TV show Investigation Discovery’s series JonBenet: An American Murder Mystery, Karr, then 51, stuck to his story.
‘Nobody wanted that little girl to die that night – nobody. Her death was an accident. I was with her when she died. But I was not the person who caused it,’ he said, explaining ‘panic’ had ensued after her death.
‘How she was found, that’s not how she died. Where she was found in that basement is not where she died,’ he added.
Karr also said JonBenet’s body was ‘tampered with in a bid to cover up who the killer was’.
‘Something happened to her [and I] had to take care of it,’ he told the program.
‘I have always been able to fix
things. Nobody came in there and did a paedo- erotic thing to that little girl, but it was made
to look as though it was done that way.’
Karr – who later made headlines after identifying as a female – also claimed the kidnap letter found at the Ramsey house was fake and simply there to make her death look like
a ‘botched kidnapping’.
THAT RANSOM NOTE
The issue of the ransom note remains under scrutiny.
Penned on pages torn from the pad Patsy Ramsey kept by the telephone, it was handwritten and one expert has claimed it is ‘highly probable’ Patsy wrote the note herself.
In an interview with US news show 20/20, expert Cina Wong said there were more than 200 similarities in the writing of the ransom note and 100 samples of Patsy’s penmanship. The note was long and rambling, and claimed to come from a ‘small foreign faction’.
‘Mr. Ramsey, Listen carefully! We are a group of individuals that represent a small foreign faction. We respect your business, but not the country it serves.
‘At this time, we have your daughter in our possession. She is safe and unharmed and if you want her to see 1997, you must
follow our instructions to the letter,’ it read.
‘You will withdraw $118,000 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 an earlier pickup of
‘Any deviation of my instructions will result in the immediate execution of your daughter. You will also be denied her remains for a proper burial. The two gentlemen watching over your daughter do not particularly like you so I advise you not to provoke them.
‘Speaking to anyone about your situation, such as police or FBI 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 can try to deceive us, but be warned we are familiar with law enforcement countermeasures and tactics.
‘You stand a 99% chance of killing your daughter if you try to outsmart 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’s up to you now John! Victory! S.B.T.C.’