JonBenet Ramsey: The unsolved murder that haunts America
It’s been nearly 20 years since 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey was murdered inside her Colorado home. The case remains unsolved, and a fresh investigation airs on CBS later this month.
Why do so many mysteries remain?
From a mysterious ransom note to bizarre confessions to pop-star conspiracy theories, here are the biggest mysteries that still remain about the little girl’s brutal death.
What took so long to find her?
The day after Christmas 1996, JonBenet’s parents, John and Patsy, said they discovered a strange ransom note in their kitchen, and JonBenet was gone. Police searched the house, including the basement, but found so signs of a break-in.
That afternoon, John Ramsey found his daughter’s body in that same basement. The room is reconstructed here as part of a CBS docu-series airing Sept. 18.
Who wrote the ransom note?
The three-page note remains a source of bafflement for police and media.
State investigators have voiced suspicion that Patsy, her mother, wrote the note, but she denied that allegation, and no one has ever been definitively identified as the writer. This is how the note looked, according to a reconstruction from the CBS docu-series.
Whose DNA was left at the scene?
Early in the investigation, police found male DNA in a drop of blood on JonBenet’s underwear and determined it was not from anyone in her family.
How was the crime scene bungled?
Police have come under scrutiny for not properly securing the Ramsey home in the early hours of the investigation.
“I wish we would have done a much better job of securing and controlling the crime scene on day one,” former Boulder, Colorado police chief Mark Beckner said in 2015.
Here, investigators re-examine the case for the CBS docu-series.
What's Katy Perry got do with all this?
As the investigation has heated and cooled, bizarre new conspiracy theories have emerged as well. The most popular: That singer Katy Perry (pictured here) is, somehow, actually the ‘murdered’ beauty queen.
Why did Patsy defy the ransom note?
The ransom note threatened to “behead” JonBenet if her parents called the police. Yet that’s exactly what Patsy said she did upon finding the note on a stairway in her home on Dec. 26, 1996.
Why did this man confess?
In 2006, John Mark Karr, a teacher obsessed with the little girl’s slaying, made a detailed confession to the crime. But authorities later found no DNA link between Karr and the slaying, and he was never charged.
Did an intruder do it?
The Ramseys insisted that an unknown intruder killed their child. Some investigators agree, pointing to evidence of unidentified DNA found at the scene.
Here, an investigator re-examines the case for the CBS docu-series.
Did someone break in, or not?
But other officials close to the investigation don’t seem to hold the same opinion.
“Most investigators do not believe there was a legitimate point of entry,” Beckner has said. “It is unknown how an intruder may have gotten in.”
Here, two investigators examine a replica for the CBS docu-series.
Why were the parents so silent?
An investigator who worked the JonBenet case has said that the parents did not give formal statements on the morning of their daughter’s death, and that they stonewalled police for months after that.
Why were the parents released so soon?
“We also should have separated John and Patsy and gotten full statements from them that day,” Beckner has said.
“Letting them go was a big mistake, as they soon lawyered up and we did not get to formally interview them again until May of 1997, five months after their daughter was murdered.”
Who gave JonBenet pineapple?
Investigators have said they found undigested pineapple in JonBenet’s stomach, but Patsy at the time denied having fed it to her child and it’s still unclear who gave it to her.
Why did the note demand odd ransom?
The ransom note asked for exactly $118,000 for the safe return of JonBenet. One possible explanation: Earlier that year, John Ramsey had recently received a pay bonus for close to that amount.
Why did it take so long to clear parents?
Despite that early DNA evidence pointing to an intruder, it wasn’t until 2003 that investigators formally cleared the Ramsey family, citing new “touch DNA” evidence.
That evidence also showed signs of an unknown DNA profile on JonBenet’s underwear.
What happened with the grand jury?
In 1999, a grand jury voted to indict both Ramsey parents for the crime. But the district attorney declined to sign the indictment, citing thin evidence, and instead said no further court action would be taken. That decision only came to light in 2013.