So today’s post is the first of my new Crime Series, all about crimes, criminals, evidence, court cases and everything else involved. These posts will be posted hopefully every Friday or every other Friday depending on how busy I am with my work, but they will be a lot more frequent than I have been posting. So today I am starting with JonBenét Ramsey, really hope you find it as interesting reading as I did researching!
JonBenét Patricia Ramsey was born on August 6th 1990 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA to her parents John and Patsy Ramsey. She had an older brother called Burke Ramsey. JonBenét was an American Child Beauty Queen who was regularly entered into child beauty pageants by her mother Patsy Ramsey who was a former beauty queen herself.
JonBenét was killed on either the 25th or 26th of December 1996, aged 6 years old, the police are unsure of the exact date. The official cause of death was asphyxia by strangulation and craniocerebral trauma, which is a traumatic brain injury. They believe there was a blunt forced trauma to the head which caused a broken skull and then she was strangled by a garrote (a wire/chord) which was found tied around her neck.
On the 25th of Decmber around 10pm the Ramsey family return home from a Christmas dinner/party at a friends house. JonBenét fell asleep in the car on the way home so was taken straight to bed. This is all we know in the timeline of events, until the next morning at 5:52am when Patsy Ramsey, JonBenét’s mother calls 911. The following conversation happened:
911: What’s going on ma’am?
Patsy: 755 15th street.
911: What’s going on there ma’am?
Patsy: We have a kidnapping. Hurry, please!
911: Explain to me what’s going on. Okay?
Patsy: There… We have a… There’s a note left and our daughter’s gone.
911: A note was left and your daughter is gone?
911: How old is your daughter?
Patsy: She’s 6 years old. She’s blonde, 6 years old.
911: How long ago was this?
Patsy: I don’t know, I just got the note and my daughter’s gone.
911: Does it say who took her?
911: Does it say who took her?
Patsy: No! I don’t know. There’s a… There’s a ransom note here.
911: It’s a ransom note?
Patsy: It say’s SBTC. Victory…… Please.
911: Okay, what’s your name? Are you Kath…?
Patsy: Patsy Ramsey, I’m the mother. Oh my god. Please.
911: Okay, I’m sending an officer over okay?
911: Do you know how long she’s been gone?
Patsy: No I don’t. Please, we just got up and she’s not here. Oh my god, please.
911: Okay, calm…
Patsy: Please send somebody.
911: I am honey.
911: Take a deep breath and…
Patsy: Please hurry, hurry, hurry.
911: Patsy? Patsy? Patsy? Patsy?
You can listen to the call here, if you wish to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFMrNtTPaSY
The weird thing about the phonecall is the fact that at the end of the call when Patsy thought she had ended the call, you can hear her speaking, which for us is completely impossible to hear what she is saying or how she is saying it, however the police enhanced the audio and said that the tone in which Patsy was speaking completely changed once she thought she was no longer on the phone to 911. Kimberly Archuleta was the 911 operator on the phone and she said that Patsy immediately changed once she stopped speaking with her. She also said that she heard Patsy say ‘Okay we’ve called the police, what do we do now?’ There is also enhanced audio of the last 6 seconds of the call, in which police stated you could hear 3 voices, Patsy, John and Burke. Which is strange as the parents had said Burke was asleep at this time and had been the whole time. Apparently in the enhanced audio you can also hear Burke saying ‘What did you find?’ which is a strange thing for a 9 year old to be saying.
At 5:59am, just three minutes after the 911 call ended the Boulder Police arrived at JonBenét’s house. The family had also invited all of their friends and family around to the house. The strange thing is that police allowed this knowing it was a potential crime scene but did nothing to protect any evidence there may have been which is probably why nearly 22 years later, nobody has been caught for this crime. A lot of the evidence was contaminated due to the police allowing all of the friends and family in the crime scene.
When police arrived the first thing they did was search the house for any sign of a forced entry, which they didn’t. One officer named Rick French went to the basement door but when he seen it was secured by a wooden latch that was still intact he turned away and didn’t enter the basement, which turned out to be a critical error.
The police then decided to look over the ransom note as at this point they still believed this was a kidnapping. There were so many weird things about the ransom note. A lot of it does not make sense and that is one of the reasons that people believe Patsy had actually wrote it herself. It was left on their stairs and was two and a half pages long. The FBI actually told the police that it was very unusual for such a note to be written at the crime scene. In a CBS Documentary they timed 4 different people writing out the exact note and it took no less than 20 minutes, on top of that the 4 people already knew what they were writing so did it a lot quicker than the person who wrote the original and would have been making it up as they wrote it. They also wrote a draft before the final letter and they also used Patsy’s pen and notebook and after writing the note they placed the notebook and the pen back exactly where the Ramsey’s normally kept them, which is really strange considering the body was in the house at the time and they could have been easily caught.
The ransom note asked for $118,000 which is a weird amount as it is suspiciously close to the amount that John had received as a bonus that year from his work, so this would suggest it was someone either in the family or someone very close to the family who would have known this figure otherwise why would they ask for that specific amount of money? The ransom note also said to not call the police, which some people found strange that the first thing the family did was call the police as oppose to following the instructions to get their daughter back. The ransom note also had some really weird lines in it, starting off by saying that they were a group of individuals who represented a foreign faction which is a really strange thing to start a ransom note off with, belittling themselves oppose to asserting their authority and power as someone who is in charge of this situation. The other strange thing about this was the foreign part. Throughout the note, there were some complicated words that were spelt correctly but then some of the more simpler words were spelt incorrectly. Forensic and writing analysis professionals whose expertise is note/hand writing said it is as though the person writing it tried to come across as though their native language wasn’t English and they had wrote things like that on purpose. They also said that it comes across as though the person writing it has purposely tried to change their handwriting. At first there was a lot of effort put into changing the way in which they wrote, but as the note went on it became sloppy and the writing kept changing throughout. There were also some lines throughout the note which were from popular movies, which is strange. The police believed that the note was staged because it did not have any finger prints on and there was also a practice draft written with the pen and notepad from the Ramsey’s house.The professional forensics also said that it seems as though it was wrote by a female as there were a lot of maternal language throughout it, which is another main reason people think that Patsy wrote it. This is also why the police made Patsy and John give samples of their own handwriting to compare it to the ransom note. John was immediately ruled out of writing the note, however Patsy was undetermined as to if she had or hadn’t wrote the note as there was a lot of similarities between the way the ransom note was written and the way Patsy wrote, which is why a lot of people then started to believe it was her. A Colorado Bureau of Investigation report stated that ‘there are indications that the author of the ransom note is Patricia Ramsey’ however they could not definitively prove it. It is also strange to note that the ransom note was written whilst the dead body was in the house, I feel as though personally, in that situation surely the family would have looked around the house? Why would someone spend so much time writing a ransom note and the draft note whilst the body was in the house knowing someone could have caught them so easily?
At this time a forensics team were dispatched to the house. The police initially thought that JonBenét had been kidnapped, so therefore the only room in the house that was cordoned off to prevent contamination was her bedroom. No other room in the house was protected from contamination of evidence, which I believe is very costly in this case, as you’ll soon find out. Victim advocates also arrived at the house, as well as more friends and family. Visitors were picking things up, cleaning surfaces and walking around, potentially destroying any evidence in the house. John then made arrangements to pay the ransom, so at 8am Detective Linda Arndt arrived at the house to await the kidnappers instructions, however there was never an attempt to claim the ransom money.
At 1pm, the police then suggested John and his friend Fleet White went and searched the house one more time to see if ‘anything seemed amiss’. The first place John and Fleet searched was the basement. John opened the wooden latch that the Officer French had looked at and he found JonBenét’s body inside. When he found the body she had a nylon cord around her neck and wrists, duct tape over her mouth and her torso was covered by a white blanket. The strange thing about this was the fact that her hands were tied on top of her jumper so if she were alive when this happened she could have easily gotten out of it, which suggests she was already dead when her hands were tied, which is a weird thing for a killer to do after she is already dead. This is another reason as to why people believe it was just a cover up. John picked her up in a blanket and took her into the lounge and lay her down on the floor. Which as previously mentioned is huge contamination of evidence because so many friends and family had walked through the lounge, he had also completely removed her from the crime scene before it could be investigated by the forensics team, meaning all of the critical forensic evidence was disturbed. To me this is strange because if you can see your daughter is dead, surely you would do anything in your power to ensure the evidence isn’t contaminated so the police can find the killer? Someone then later put another blanket over her, which again is another massive contamination of evidence. I feel like the police handled the whole thing so badly and maybe if they had been more forceful and dealt with it in a more professional manor maybe the killer would have been caught and the case wouldn’t still be open almost 22 years later.
Just to note, 2 hours after the body was found, the Ramsey’s hired a lawyer, also once the body was found, John and Patsy stopped co-operating with the police, they refused do any police interviews however they did agree to a TV interview, they also didn’t tell the police or their lawyer about this. It is also useful to note that they did not actually do a police interview until three weeks after the murder, which is very strange as they were at the crime scene and were the last to see her alive and three weeks is a very long time to not be interviewed.
When JonBenét’s body was examined, the amount of DNA evidence found was pretty overwhelming, they found traces of two males and one females DNA under her fingernails, but it was too small and badly degraded to determine if it was blood, skin or tissue. They also found male DNA on her leggings and in her underwear. On the duct tape they also found fibre from Patsy’s jumper. However there was so much that was undetermined because none of the DNA evidence that was found was actually a match to any of the family or anyone on the polices suspect list. They also said that the DNA on the leggings could have been from the factory in which it was made and the Ramsey’s just didn’t wash the clothes before JonBenét wore them. They also think that the three different DNA samples found on her jumper could have been from one person, but it was so undetermined that DNA basically just didn’t help in any single way in this case.
JonBenét’s autopsy revealed that she had been killed by strangulation and a skull fracture. The official cause of death being ‘asphyxia by strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma’. Although there was no evidence of rape, sexual assault was not ruled out. There was no semen found, however there was evidence that there had been a vaginal injury and when the autopsy was formed, it appeared that her vaginal area had been wiped clean with a cloth. At this point, JonBenét’s death was ruled a homicide (murder).
The autopsy also revealed a ‘vegetable or fruit material which may represent pineapple’ which JonBenét had eaten a few hours before her death which was undigested in her stomach. Which is strange as her parents told police she had fell asleep in the car journey home so therefore she wouldn’t have had pineapple within the few hours before her death. Police photographs taken in the home on the day that JonBenét’s was found showed a bowl of pineapple on the kitchen table with a spoon. However, both John and Patsy said they did not put the bowl on the table or feed the pineapple to JonBenét. Police reported that they found Burke’s fingerprints on the bowl. The Ramsey’s have always maintained that Burke slept through the entire thing until he was woken up hours after the police had arrived. However this is the second piece of evidence to suggest he was actually awake at some point throughout the whole thing. Firstly the three voices on the 911 call and now the fingerprints on the bowl on the kitchen table.
In December 2003 forensic investigators extracted enough material from a mixed blood sample found on JonBenét’s underwear to establish a DNA profile. The DNA belonged to an unknown male, so this DNA was submitted to the FBI’s CODIS (combined DNA index system) which is a database that contains more than 1.6 million DNA profiles, however the sample didn’t match any profile on their database. In 2010, the case was reopened, new interviews were conducted and the latest DNA technology was used in the investigation. ABC News reported that there was no new evidence found. In September 2016, it was then reported that the investigation continues to be an active homicide case. In October 2016, new forensic analysis revealed that the original DNA actually contained genetic markers from two individuals.
An investigation took place focusing on John and Patsy but there were also over 1600 people of interest for this case. Throughout the initial investigation there were some critical errors including the contamination of evidence – previously reported, lack of experienced staff, the oversharing of evidence with the Ramsey’s and the delayed informal interviews with the parents.
The first theory I am going to mention is a really silly one, so I won’t be going into it, but many people believe that JonBenét is actually Katy Perry because she looks like her and they believe she wanted to become famous so she reinvented herself. Which I do not believe at all.
Although the police suspected the Ramsey’s of the murder, they followed leads for intruders due to an unidentified boot mark left in the basement where JonBenét’s body was found. The suspects early in this investigation included the Ramsey’s neighbour Bill McReynolds who played Santa Clause for the family, the former family housekeeper Linda Hoffmann-Pugh and a man named Michael Helgoth who apparently committed suicide two months after JonBenét’s death. Hundreds of DNA tests were carried out to find a match to the DNA they recovered from her autopsy, to no avail. The evidence was assessed and Detective Lou Smit who had came out of retirement early in 1997 to assist with this case came up with the theory that someone broke into the house through a broken window in the basement, they then used a stun gun on JonBenét and took her down to the basement where she was killed and a ransom note was left. His theory was supported by a former FBI Agent called John E. Douglas who was actually hired by the Ramsey family. However something to note is that in the smashed window there was a spiders web in the bottom corner and this was undisturbed, so surely if someone had came in through the window and left through the window it would have been disturbed somehow?
Firstly I am going to discuss Michael Helgoth, so the police strongly suspected him due to the fact that he admitted to the murder on recording to a co-worker. He later apparently committed suicide two months after the murder, however some people believe it was not suicide and it was actually a murder as he had an accomplice in the JonBenét murder and they didn’t want him to speak out.
Secondly onto Bill McReynolds who Patsy hired to play Santa Clause in 1995 and 1996. It is highly likely that he was only questioned due to interacting with JonBenét in the days leading to her death. Both Bill and his partner Janet submitted hair, handwriting and blood samples and were cleared of any involvement in this crime, even though John and Patsy have always referred to him as a suspect even in their book ‘The Death of Innocence’ where they stated that John was highly suspicious of him.
Now onto Linda Hoffmann-Pugh, she was the former housekeeper for the Ramsey’s. Patsy said that she remembers her mother Nedra Paugh saying that Linda had once said ‘JonBenét is so pretty; aren’t you afraid that someone might kidnap her?’ However it turns out she was never really a suspect even though Patsy wrote in their book that she believed she was and that she thought at the time ‘if it’s Linda, it’s okay because she is a good, sweet person. She is just upset, she made need the money but she won’t hurt JonBenét’. Linda Hoffmann-Pugh later brought a law suit against the Ramsey’s for falsely accusing her in their book. She said she had never made the comment to Patsy’s mother and she believed that Patsy had killed her own daughter and wrote the ransom note to cover it up and John knew all about it and was helping her cover it up.
Also a person to note is John Mark Karr who was an elementary school teacher, he was arrested on August 15th 2006 when he falsely confessed to the murder. He made claims that he had drugged, sexually assaulted and accidentally killed her. He only made claims that were basic facts that were publicly known and he failed to provide any convincing details. The claims that he had drugged JonBenét were also doubted as the autopsy indicated no drugs were found in her body. No DNA evidence from the scene matched to Karr. There was also supposedly some photographic evidence that he was in Georgia at the time so it would have been impossible to have committed the crime.
Another theory is that due to JonBenét’s beauty pageant experience, she could have attracted the attention of child pornographers and paedophiles, where an attempted kidnapping had actually gone wrong and she had ended up being accidentally killed. This theory is supported by the fact that there had been more than 100 burglaries in the Ramsey’s neighbourhood in the months leading to the death. There were also 38 registered sex offenders living within a two mile radius of their home. A person to mention is Gary Howard Oliva who was identified as a suspect in October 2002 in an episode of ’48 Hours Investigates’. He was a arrested for sexual exploitation in 2016 and is a registered sex offender which supports this theory, however there is no actual evidence to support it.
Now onto family member theories. Many people believe that somebody in the Ramsey family is responsible for the death of JonBenét. As previously mentioned, the police firstly focused their attention on John andd Patsy. From their prospective, they didn’t see any evidence of a forced entry, they believed the evidence like the ransom note was staged and they also believe that they did not co-operate in helping them solve the murder of their daughter. The Ramsey’s have always denied involvement and have said that they were only reluctant in helping the police as they thought all fingers would be pointed at them and the police wouldn’t focus on the intruder who had actually committed the crime.
One theory is that Patsy had got mad and hit JonBenét when she wet the bed and after thinking she was already dead she strangled her to cover it up. She had no known history of uncontrollable anger. Burke, JonBenét’s brother also said that they didn’t get spanked and their parents had never laid a hand on either of them.
Onto Burke himself, he was nine years old at the time of the death and he was interviewed by investigators at least three times. A child psychologist said that the first two interviews did not raise any concerns about Burke and that it appeared the Ramsey’s had ‘healthy, caring family relationships’. Burke was never classed as a suspect by investigators as they reiterated many times. However one theory is that Burke was eating the pineapple that was found in the kitchen and then JonBenét went up to him and stole some pineapple out of the bowl which made Burke mad so he hit her on the head with a flash light. This is supported by the fact that police believe the blunt force trauma was caused by a flash light that they found, but something strange about this is nobody in or out of the Ramsey family claimed the flash light was theirs so it is literally just a random flash light that nobody owns. This is also supported by the fact that a year before, Burke got mad at JonBenét and hit her with a golf club which left a scar on her face meaning it is not out of character to act out and hit his sister when he got mad. Within the Burke theory there are two linking theories, one is that the hit to the head with the flash light actually killed JonBenét and the asphyxiation was staged. The second theory is that the head trauma knocked her out but her parents thought she was dead so they strangled her and that killed her. This theory is believed because people think that their parents didn’t want to lose both of their children and this is why they helped to stage the rest of the murder. Another supporting factor is that when JonBenét’s body was investigated they found two dots on her neck which were believed to have been made by a taser however when investigating this and trying to recreate these marks with a taser they couldn’t, however the dots did match up to a toy train set that Burke had and was found near the body. Some people believe that he used the train to prod her to try and wake her up after he had hit her. Another piece of evidence against him is a more recent interview he did, his first one, with Dr Phil, where he is just smiling throughout the whole thing, making people ask the question why would you be smiling when you’re talking about your sisters death? People believe he was smiling because he knows he did it and he has gotten away with it. However other people believe he was smiling because he felt uncomfortable and awkward as this was his first interview. You can see more on that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89zlpxJB6fs
For me, personally I believe that it is really strange that somebody would show up at someone’s house without any weapons, go through a window, without disturbing the spider web, go upstairs, kidnap a child, take her downstairs without her making any noise, kill her and then without panicking that you could be caught, you go back upstairs, find a notebook and a pen, practice a ransom note, then write it fully and then leave the notebook and the pen exactly where you had found them before going back downstairs, putting a blanket over the dead bodies torso and then leaving back through the broken window without getting caught on the broken glass or without disturbing the spiders web. In my opinion, I think the killer was in the house the whole time whether that be the mom, dad or brother. I think something definitely suspicious happened with Burke, why would his parents say he was asleep the whole time but there is evidence to suggest he wasn’t? I just think there is too much evidence against it being an intruder.
There is so much more to this case than I have included and honestly I could talk for hours about it but I have put as much information as I can so you can all get an overview of the case. To this day, this case still has not been solved, almost 22 years later. What do you think? Do you agree with any of the theories? Or do you have your own theory maybe? Let me know!
Thank you for reading!