The Christmas 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey has riveted America for nearly a decade. This past summer, the arrest of John Mark Karr briefly made it appear as though the mystery had been solved. But that was not the case.
Correspondent Erin Moriarty takes a new look at this true crime mystery and talks to JonBenet's father John, who breaks his silence for the first time since his wife Patsy died in June and Karr was arrested several weeks later.
Last summer, as John Mark Karr was paraded in front of the press, it seemed the decade-old mystery finally had an ending. "I was with Jon Benet when she died," Karr said. "I loved JonBenet and she died accidentally."
But there's more to the story than anyone expected: JonBenet's father, John Ramsey, helped investigators catch the man he believed killed his daughter.
"I said, 'If you want me to go somewhere and meet him, I'll do it,' you know. 'Just tell me what you need me to do,'" he tells Moriarty.
But the latest development in the case would never have happened without journalism professor Michael Tracey. It was Tracey who endured receiving four years worth of e-mails and chilling phone calls, leading detectives around the globe to John Mark Karr.
"I wasn't doing this as a journalist, as a scholar, I was doing this as someone who is extremely concerned about what I was reading and extremely concerned about what might happen to some other kids," Tracey says.
Until his interview with 48 Hours, Tracey has never talked about his unexpected role in the hunt for the killer of JonBenet.
Asked what it was like to get those e-mails, Tracey says, "This is the worst experience of my life by far. It was horrible."
"You are reading and hearing a truly dark side of the human psyche. And having to pretend it's okay, that I wasn't going to sit in judgment, because otherwise the communication would have stopped," he says.
Tracey is not only a professor, he's a crusader, who has spent the last eight years trying to solve Boulder's most notorious crime. It's a killing so infamous that the victim is known simply by her first name: JonBenet. Infamous too are her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, tainted by public perception that they were somehow involved.
"Was there ever a moment from the very beginning that you ever questioned her, or that she questioned you?" Moriarty asks John Ramsey.
"Oh, no, no. Absolutely not," he replies.
"But you didn't know what had happened to your daughter," Moriarty remarks.
"But I knew Patsy. And she loved our children dearly. She loved my children dearly. She couldn't have been a better mother. I would have believed the pope murdered JonBenet before I'd have believed Patsy did it," he says.
It's hard to believe that nearly ten years have passed since six-year-old JonBenet was murdered just after Christmas. She was initially reported missing on the morning of Dec. 26th, 1996. That same day, her body was found in the basement by her father; JonBenet had been strangled and bludgeoned to death.
"Even I was convinced in the beginning that the Ramseys, that one of the Ramseys, was most probably the person who committed this crime," says assistant district attorney Trip Demuth, who was on the case the day it began.
"The evidence that points to the Ramseys I think, you know, is the fact that they were in the house at the time of the murder," he says.
And that fueled speculation that one of them wrote the bizarre three-page note found at the scene. It was written on a pad that came from the house and demanded a ransom that was close to the bonus John Ramsey had received that year: $118,000.
"We should have just stood right up there in the beginning and said, 'Okay, charge me.You think i'm guilty? Charge me, or clear me,'" Ramsey says.
No charges were filed and investigators never even publicly called them "suspects." Instead, the Ramseys were labeled with a phrase that was both vague and damning: "They do remain under an umbrella of suspicion but we are not ready to name any suspects," an official said at the time.
John Ramsey wonders what that meant. "Do you have a lot of evidence? Do you have no evidence? Do you not like the way we part our hair? What exactly does umbrella of suspicion mean? It means nothing," he says.
"People would scream at me, say 'Of course they're involved, she looks guilty.' And I'm thinking, 'What does guilt look like? What do you mean she looks guilty?' I've had people literally frothing at the mouth, and that intrigued me. 'Cause what I could not understand was, how come everyone knows the Ramseys are guilty? On the basis of what?" Michael Tracey recalls.
And that's how his crusade began. If the Ramseys had been convicted by the press, he thought the media could also prove them innocent. In 1998, Tracey collaborated with a British documentary team and began producing films, with unprecedented access to the couple.
Asked by Tracey whether they had anything to do with their daughter's death, Patsy Ramsey said, "How do you say no any more clearly than no?"
Tracey's cameras also captured a side of the Ramseys the public never saw, private moments, like when Patsy played the last song JonBenet learned before she was killed.