JonBenet Ramsey is the victim of an unsolved murder case which is particularly haunting. The beauty queen was just a child when she was initially reported missing, and was found dead some hours later. Although there have been a wide range of theories about who it was that killed her, no one has ever been brought to justice, and there is not enough evidence to convict any particular person even today.
JonBenet’s killing touched the hearts of a lot of people, and struck fear too. This was a seemingly perfect little girl whose life was taken from within her own home, which left a lot of parents feeling that they needed to make their homes more secure to protect their children. It was also particularly difficult to deal with because of the fact that her killer was never caught. Whoever did it could still be out there, roaming the streets – and maybe even looking for another victim. While no other deaths have been linked to the same perpetrator, that doesn’t mean that they haven’t passed under the radar.
Today, JonBenet’s case is still a chilling one. While more evidence has come out over the years, we are still no closer to getting answers about what happened to this girl in 1996. The case remains as an open investigation with the Boulder Police Department, and while she was certainly murdered by someone, we just don’t know who that was or why. Here are some more chilling facts about the death of a pageant queen.
15. She Was Just Six
It’s easy to talk about JonBenet and forget just how young she was, especially given the pageant photographs which showed her all dolled up in makeup and fancy costumes. But this little girl was just 6 years old when she was murdered. The details of her death are shocking: she had been given a blow to the head which fractured her skull, and had then been strangled with a makeshift garrotte around her neck. These two injuries combined were enough to kill her, according to the autopsy report. The fact that such a young victim could be subjected to such a violent end, with no chance of defending herself, is truly chilling. The crime was also carried out during the night, after JonBenet had been put to bed and was supposed to be peacefully sleeping. There’s no wonder that parents across the US, and further afield, shuddered at the thought of this awful crime.
14. She Was Found In The Basement
One of the shocking elements of this case is the fact that her body was found in the basement, but only 8 hours after she was reported missing. Think about what that means: her parents first had to discover that she was not in bed (after finding a ransom note on their kitchen staircase), and then look around the house for her. After this, they called the police and reported that she was missing. The police came quickly, with two officers arriving within 3 minutes of the call. They made a search of the premises and determined that there was no sign of a break-in. John Ramsey, her father, started to make arrangements to pay the ransom. Fast-forward almost 8 hours, and John was told to search his house to look for anything out of the ordinary. That’s when he found her body in the basement. Was she always there? Did the killer return under a police presence to dump it? How was it possible for her to be in the basement for 8 hours before being found?
13. Maybe It Was Burke
Her older brother, Burke, was 9 years old at the time. That didn’t stop him from being one of the suspects in the murder. A leading theory states that Burke could have hit his sister in a rage, and accidentally killed her. Realizing what he had done and not wanting him to get into trouble – thereby causing them to lose both children at once – the parents staged the kidnapping. They even finished JonBenet off with the garrotte, perhaps believing that she was already dead at the time. Their intention may have been to cover the truth with confusing evidence. They then sent Burke off to his bedroom with instructions not to “wake up” until the morning, so that he was not a suspect. Of course, this has never been proven in any way, and even the investigating officers said that Burke seemed like a normal happy and healthy child.
12. The Ransom Note
One of the weirdest pieces of evidence in the whole case is the ransom note that was left in the kitchen. First off, it was written on a notepad and with a pen belonging to the Ramseys, which indicates it was written in the house. But it was two and a half pages long, far longer than you would expect from a ransom note of any kind – let alone one written under the time pressure of actually being inside the house. It also demanded $118,000 for JonBenet’s return, almost exactly what her father had been given as a bonus that year. There were no fingerprints, and overall, the police considered that it had been staged. Handwriting expert Cina Wong analyzed the note for 3 weeks and came back with the belief that Patsy Ramsey, the mother, had written it. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation believed the same. However, it was never proven that Patsy had anything to do with it. It’s also odd that the author says they will not deliver JonBenet’s body if they are not paid, and yet she was in the house.
11. A Grand Jury Blamed The Parents
In 1998, a grand jury was convened to consider whether the Ramseys should be charged in relation to the case. They wanted to figure out whether they had placed their daughter at risk in a way that led to her death, and whether they had obstructed an investigation of murder. They considered facts such as the parents’ refusal to cooperate with police early in the investigation, saying that they did not want to be interviewed. The grand jury at the time actually did believe that the Ramseys should be charged, but the district attorney did not believe he had enough evidence to turn it into a criminal conviction. It was believed that the grand jury could not come to a conclusion until years later, in 2013. Unsealed court documents in that year revealed the truth. By this stage, however, the statute of limitations on the charges had expired, so JonBenet’s mother and father could never be charged.
10. New DNA Evidence Introduces Doubt
At the time of the crime, DNA testing was not sufficiently advanced enough to come up with any samples to use as evidence. However, in the years since, some advances have been made. In December 2003, forensic investigators looked at the underwear that JonBenet was wearing and managed to discover a mixed blood sample. Although they ran this DNA through the Combined DNA Index System, also known as CODIS, it did not match any of the 1.6 million profiles stored there. All they could say for sure was that it belonged to an unknown male. Another exciting breakthrough was made in October 2016, reigniting some interest in the case. DNA testing advancements again allowed for more thorough analysis, and it was found that the DNA actually contains genetic markers from two different individuals other than JonBenet. That makes it possible that two people were involved in her kidnapping and murder, both of them as yet unknown.
9. They Shouldn’t Have Called The Police
One chilling detail about JonBenet’s death is to do with the ransom note. If it was real, you would expect that her parents would follow it to the letter in order to secure their daughter’s safety. If it was fake, you would think that they would write down logical things that would dictate their next steps. For example, if you wrote a fake ransom note telling yourself not to go to the police, your next action would be to call the police many hours later and pretend you had been too afraid to do so beforehand. But this isn’t what happened. The note told the Ramseys specifically that “Speaking to anyone about your situation, such as Police, F.B.I., etc., will result in your daughter being beheaded”. And yet, the first thing that they did after reading the note was to call the police. With this knowledge in hand, it’s perhaps no surprise at all that JonBenet’s body turned up within the next day.
8. Crucial Evidence Was Destroyed
As the case unfolded, a lot of critical evidence may have been lost or destroyed. At first, the police treated it as a kidnapping and cordoned off JonBenet’s bedroom to preserve evidence there. They did not repeat this anywhere else in the house, which meant that all other areas were free to access for anyone in the home – including the friends, neighbours, and relatives who came to help with the search efforts. This means that the kitchen, a scene of crucial evidence, was totally contaminated. Friends of the family even cleaned the kitchen surfaces, so there was never any chance of finding evidence related to the ransom note. Whether this was done on purpose to avoid discovery that the note was faked, or whether it was an honest mistake, we will never know. Either way, the result is that some evidence was lost for good before it could be tested.
7. Her Clothing Was Changed
This fact is particularly chilling if you believe that a kidnapper (or two) really did come and steal JonBenet out of her bedroom. Patsy knew the pyjamas that her daughter was wearing when she put her to bed – after all, she had helped her dress and seen them with her own eyes. That’s why it was so shocking when the body was found. Patsy stated that her daughter was now wearing different clothes. She had somehow been dressed in white leggings and a shirt. It stands to reason that the girl was either goaded into changing her clothes, or had them changed for her, by her killer or killers. Why did they want her to get dressed? This seems to support the kidnap and ransom theory: perhaps the kidnappers wanted her to be dressed in more appropriate outdoor clothing so that she wouldn’t catch cold, before accidentally killing her.
6. The Possibility Of Assault
One of the more horrific details is that there is some potential evidence that this 6-year-old was assaulted before she was killed. Without going into too much detail, it seems that she may not have been raped, at least not in the conventional sense. There was no semen on or around her body, but there was some evidence of tampering with her body. Most notably, there was some kind of injury to her private parts, which appeared to have been wiped clean with a cloth. The fact that JonBenet was a beauty queen is something that has attracted a lot of scrutiny. Could it be that the killers took her because they actually had an interest in this little girl? Having seen her in pageants, did they develop a sick desire for her that they just needed to fulfill, at all costs? It hardly bears thinking about, at such a young age.
5. Where Did She Get The Pineapple?
There was a very odd detail revealed in the autopsy, which doesn’t seem to add up to what the family has said about the case. She appeared to have eaten something a few hours before her death, described as a “vegetable or fruit material which may represent pineapple”. Now, photographs from the day of her death reveal that there was a bowl of pineapple on the kitchen table, with a spoon in it. Patsy and John both maintain that they don’t remember putting a bowl of pineapple on the table, or feeding any of it to JonBenet. Stranger still, Burke’s fingerprints were found on the bowl – but as he was supposed to be asleep right the way through the events of the disappearance and even while the police were in the home, how could that be the case? Clearly, something very strange happened in connection with that bowl of pineapple. If there was more evidence connected with it, it could even crack the whole case.
4. The Ring Of Danger
It turns out that JonBenet Ramsey lived in what could be described as a ring of danger, without ever knowing it. Within a 2 mile radius of their home, there were a total of 38 convicted and registered pedophiles or similar offenders. That’s a huge amount to have in the local area, and when you add the fact that JonBenet was a known and celebrated pageant girl, it could go some way to explaining the case. There are even a couple of prior offenders who have been singled out as potential suspects, though of course the existence of DNA evidence seems to rule them out – being known to police would suggest that their DNA is already on file. Before she died, JonBenet had won several beauty titles, such as America’s Royale Miss, National Tiny Miss Beauty, Little Miss Colorado, Little Miss Charlevoix, and Colorado State All-Star Kids Cover Girl.
3. The Red Herring Of The Garrotte
One of the aspects of the case which requires some thought is the fact that she was hit over the head and then strangled with the garrotte afterwards. Most theories suggest that the killer may have wanted to kill her with the blow to the head, before realizing it could potentially be very messy. They then strangled her to avoid any DNA evidence getting onto their own clothing. The other theory goes that after being thought dead from the head wound, someone could have strangled her to provide a red herring. This would be an attempt to cover up what actually happened in the circumstances of her death. Could it be that other parts of the case are red herrings too? Many people believe that the ransom note was a fake, for example. What about her clothing change? Did any such thing take place? And how about the mystery of the pineapple? If one part of the murder was staged, other parts could have been as well, which complicates things hugely.
2. The Area Was Rife With Break-Ins
Although they were not by any means poor, it seems that the Ramseys did not choose a good neighbourhood to live in. Investigators found that there were more than 100 burglaries in the neighbourhood in the months leading up to JonBenet’s death. This raises another possibility for the murder; was it a break-in gone wrong? Picture the scene, and some of it makes sense. A couple of petty criminals, possibly high, break in to the Ramsey home, trying to sneak around while everyone is asleep. They discover JonBenet and hatch a madcap ransom plan. Tragically, it goes wrong when one of the robbers happens to accidentally kill her – by dropping her onto something, or trying to keep her quiet, for example. Then they simply sneak back in to put the body into the basement, using the same broken window that got them in in the first place. It’s a plausible theory, but the criminals would be very lucky to get away with it in these circumstances.
1. The Christmas Angel
Finally, a chilling detail about the case, and why it was so haunting for many. Not only did the killer take away the beautiful young daughter of this family, but they chose to do it at a time when family means all the more. It was the 26th of December, at nearly 6am, when Patsy called police to tell them that she had found a ransom note and that her daughter was missing. This means that JonBenet was taken and killed sometime after being put to bed on Christmas Day. What should have been a time of joyous festivities was turned into a horrible ordeal. While it would of course be awful to lose a child at any time of year, somehow it is even worse to think of the joy they must have shared in opening presents together and eating their Christmas meal – only for it all to be snatched away forever just a few hours later.
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