At the time of her death, JonBenét Ramsey was a well-decorated beauty pageant competitor. Her death shook and captivated the nation. Despite speculation over the years, there has never been a definitive answer on who killed JonBenét Ramsey:
On the morning of December 26th, 1996, Patsy Ramsey claimed to discover a ransom note for her 6-year-old daughter, JonBenét Ramsey, on the back staircase inside the house. This prompted her to call the police to report her daughter missing.
Bizarrely, JonBenét's body was discovered by her father 8 hours later in the utility room located in their basement. She was found with duct tape over her mouth and a smooth cord around her neck.
It is widely reported that the crime scene was heavily compromised by people arriving at the scene. The police later claimed they had not searched the house because there was no reason to believe JonBenét was in the house.
Her death was ruled a homicide. The autopsy found that JonBenét was bludgeoned to death while the country coroner ruled that she died from asphyxiation caused by being strangled.
A paintbrush from Patsy’s hobby kit was used to tightened the rope that strangled her. Additionally, DNA that belonged to a single unidentified man was found on her longjohns and underwear.
There were also two sets of unidentified footprints at the scene as well as a rope found near JonBenét’s bedroom that did not belong to her family.
If somebody broke into the house, they did so cleanly. There were no footprints in the snow outside the house or signs of forced entry.
The ransom note requested 118,000 dollars in exchange for JonBenét. The exchange would take place the next day, December 27th, between 8 and 10 AM.
The letter was signed S.B.T.C, initials that still remain a mystery.
A few things stood out about the ransom note. The first was how specific the amount was since it was close to the amount John Ramsey received as a bonus that year.
However, the most chilling fact about the note was that it was written with pen and paper from inside the house, which brought a lot of suspicion onto the integrity of the note.
Another strange fact was that a practice note was written, a part of which was later found.
Lastly, there were spelling errors on words thought to be easy like, "possession." Yet, some wondered how words such as, "attaché" were spelled correctly.
Some believed that it added up to the letter being a hoax, and with the lack of evidence of an intruder, this case becomes more puzzling. Let's get into the suspects:
JonBenét's parents and brother were the first suspects. In the early stages of the case, they were under heavy scrutiny given the suspicions of the ransom note's authenticity and the little evidence to suggest an intruder.
The actual person responsible for the murder varies depending on who is theorizing. A recent television program claimed that police speculated that Patsy accidentally killed her daughter.
But handwriting analysis ruled out John Ramsey as a suspect and Patsy inconclusive. Investigators believed that the evidence was more consistent with child abduction and murder by an intruder.
In 2013, it came to light that in 1999 a grand jury had voted to indict JonBenét's parents on charges of child abuse resulting in death. However, Alex Hunter, Boulder's District Attorney, did not sign the indictment because there wasn't enough evidence to support the charges.
The entire family was exonerated due to the fact that DNA at the crime scene did not match.
Another suspect was a local man, Bill McReynolds, who visited the house two days before JonBenét's murder. His own daughter was kidnapped 22 years before the murder, and his wife had written a play about a child being molested and then murdered in a basement.
According to the Denver Post, McReynolds felt close to JonBenét:
He even brought a vial of glitter gifted to him by JonBenét into heart surgery and asked his wife to mix the glitter with his ashes if he were to die.
Which brings us to our next suspect, Gary Oliva, who lived a few blocks away at the time of the murder. In 2000, he was arrested on unrelated drug charges but was found carrying a photo of JonBenét in his backpack.
He explained why he had the photo to The Denver Post:
A friend of Gary Oliva's, Michael Vail, revealed to InTouch Magazine that Gary called him a day after the murder and said, "I hurt a little girl. I hurt a little girl." Oliva also revealed that he hurt the little girl in Boulder, Colorado.
Records showed that no other girl was reported harmed that night.
Vail also revealed that the strangulation method used on JonBenét was also allegedly used by Oliva when he attempted to strangle his mother.
Nonetheless, Gary Oliva's DNA did not match the DNA found at the crime scene.
The final suspect was John Mark Karr, who was not a suspect until 2006.
He confessed to the murder via email to journalist and professor, Michael Tracy. Tracy emailed Karr back and forth for four years in order to gain Karr's trust.
Tracey said this of the experience:
In his emails, Karr used similar wording as the ransom note. At one point, he called Pasty Ramsey by her nickname, Neddie. He would eventually write that he was in love with JonBenét and confess to hitting her in the head with a flashlight.
And on August 16, 2008, with the help from British Intelligence, Royal Thai Authorities, and the U.S. Department Homeland Security, investigators were able to track down Karr. They located him in Bangkok, Thailand where he traveled from the U.S. to escape child pornography charges.
A few months after his confession, Boulder County district issued an apology to the Ramsey family for the suspicion they lived with.
Karr's DNA did not match the DNA at the scene and he was not charged for the murder.
However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security continued to investigate Karr. Former Boulder police chief and lead investigator on the case, Mark Beckner said in a Reddit AMA:
But in a recent CBS program, DNA expert Dr. Henry Lee studied the DNA from the JonBenét scene. He concluded that JonBenét's underwear may have held DNA from the manufacturing process and proved this by testing an unopened bag of underwear. The CBS program concluded that the crime scene DNA was fallacious, meaning that any of the listed suspects could possibly be the killer.
In the end, nobody knows what truly happened to JonBenét Ramsey. The odd details of the case will forever cloud the truth and the case will tragically remain...unsolved.