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A Kidnap Gone Wrong or a Huge Cover Up?

What happened on Christmas Eve became one of the most iconic and unsolved crimes in contemporary history.

By Victoria VelkovaPublished 3 months ago 22 min read
“I want to be a doctor or a nurse to help people get well.” — JonBenét Ramsey.

It was Christmas 1996 when Patsy and John Ramsey called 911 to report that their daughter, JonBenét, had gone missing.

The 24-hour news cycle was not as quick at the time of this case, and because it was the week between Christmas and New Year's, stories were famously sluggish to break. But, in the case of a young, white pageant girl from an affluent family, the news was swiftly picked up by the day's news channels and quickly spread to all corners of the world. What happened next became one of the most renowned and unsolved cases in contemporary history.

The Ramsey Family

JonBenét, John, Patsy, Burke

Patsy Ramsey, who was born Patricia Paugh in 1956, was a former pageant contestant who won Miss West Virginia in 1977. Patsy earned a B.A. in Journalism from West Virginia University in 1978. Patsy married John two years later, and their son, Burke, was born in 1987.

Patsy's 13-year-old brother, John Ramsey, was born in Nebraska in 1943. He entered the Navy in 1966 as a Civil Engineer Corps officer, serving in the Philippines and Atlanta. John had three grown-up children with his ex-wife before meeting Patsy. When John had an affair with a coworker, the marriage dissolved. Beth, John's 22-year-old daughter, was killed in an car accident in Chicago in 1992.

Ramsey founded the Advanced Product Group in 1989, which eventually combined with several other firms to establish Access Graphics, a computer services firm that became a part of aerospace, defense, and technology behemoth Lockheed Martin. John was appointed CEO and President of Access Graphics.

In 1991, after the birth of JonBenét, the family relocated to Boulder, Colorado, for John's job. The family had two private aircraft, a boat, and a Michigan vacation property. Their net worth was reported to be $6.4 million in 1999.

The Kidnapping

The Ramseys had spent the evening at the house of their local friends, Fleet and Priscilla White, before returning home around 10 p.m., when JonBenét was put to bed.

The family rose at 5.30 a.m. on December 26th to take a private jet to their second home in Michigan. Patsy proceeded to make breakfast for the family when she discovered a ransom note sent to John and demanded $118,000 for the safe return of his daughter, JonBenét. It further stated that the Ramseys should not contact the police and that they will contact them between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. that day.

Patsy dialed 911 immediately after discovering her finding and was connected to dispatcher Kimberly Archuleta. Archuleta then took the information of the incident and despatched cops to their location.

Patsy clearly wanted to hang up the phone based on the 911 call. The phone stayed connected, though, and Archuleta continued to listen.

Due to the Christmas break, seasoned officers were not at the Ramsey residence, allowing less experienced cops to cope with the alleged kidnapping. Meanwhile, the Ramseys enlisted the assistance of their friends, the Whites, in their quest for JonBenét. They came shortly after the cops and were permitted to enter the residence. John left the living room at 7.30 a.m. to fetch the ransom money for the kidnappers.

The police locked JonBenét's bedroom at 10 a.m. to protect it from contamination, and the FBI arrived at the same time to wiretap Ramsey's phone. The window of time the kidnappers stated they would call had passed by this point. The FBI then departed the area, but not before leaving an additional officer with the Ramseys. Boulder Police Department Detective Linda Arndt advised that John keep himself busy by examining the home.

Sometime after 1 pm, John and Fleet White discovered JonBenét in the basement. She was wrapped in a blanket, with duct tape over her lips and a garrotte fastened around her neck with the help of a paintbrush. JonBenét, six years old, had died.

He brought her corpse upstairs and set her down on the floor. The cops then took her corpse to a sofa, where she stayed until the Coroner arrived at 8 p.m.

The Coroner determined that JonBenét died as a result of ligature strangulation and craniocerebral damage. She had abrasions on her neck, cheek, legs, and other portions of her body. She also saw that JonBenét's underwear was stained with blood.

Their home

The Ramseys' Boulder home was a 7,000-square-foot, four-story structure with five bedrooms, numerous stairs, and a massive basement that extended beneath the house.

The basement was divided into a number of smaller rooms. The term "trainer" refers to the process of creating a new train set from scratch. It was also used for storage, with old paint cans, arts and crafts, and decorations stored within. To the northwest of the basement, there was a chamber with a window and a previously damaged windowpane. Because John frequently locked himself out of the house, and this was an easy way in, the pane was never repaired. Police suspect the kidnappers got entrance to the residence through the window. A suitcase was placed beneath the window, which was supposed to have aided the attackers in their escape.

JonBenét was discovered on the other side of the basement in a chamber used as a wine cellar. This chamber had no windows and only one door in and out.

The Murder

JonBenét was strangled and struck in the head with an unknown instrument. While the murder weapon was never discovered, a few artifacts have been brought forward for discussion. Later in the search, a metal baseball bat was discovered near the butler door, although this might have been planted there by one of the property's employees. Yet, carpet fibers from the basement were discovered on the bat. Another suspect object is the flashlight on the kitchen counter, the head of which matched the form of the injury on JonBenét's skull.

The Suspects

Many people have confessed to the murder of JonBenét Ramsey throughout the years.

Gary Olivia is a convicted child molester who is presently serving a ten-year prison sentence in Colorado for possessing child pornography. On December 26th, he phoned a former classmate and apologized for hurting a little child. The friend said:

"I tried to get further information from him. I phoned the Boulder Police Department right away and told them all I knew about Gary and what he had told me only days before. They never got back to me. Three months later, I phoned the police again to inquire about the status of Gary's inquiry, but I was sent to a police answering system set up for information on the JonBenét case. I left a message on the recorded line, but I never received a response from the investigators."

John Karr, a teacher residing in Thailand, was another suspect. Karr admitted to murdering JonBenét in 2006, and he was also facing child pornography charges in US at the time. He was returned to the United States, although there was no evidence tying him to the crime. It was then revealed that if he hadn't confessed, he may have ended himself in a Thai jail notorious for its awful circumstances.

While information may still be phoned into the Boulder police department, the case of JonBenét Ramsey's murder remains unresolved. Almost 20 years have passed, and there appears to be no definitive conclusion to her death.

Or is there?

The theories

When it comes to JonBenét's death, many hypotheses point to her family. The following is a list of resources to help you with your research.

John claims he transported JonBenét from the car to her bedroom the night before, but there was no DNA on her clothing from him or anybody else in the family. When the police were still hunting for JonBenét, Detective Arndt reported he was acting oddly and even took the time to check his mail. Arndt instructed John to re-search the house from top to bottom in order to give him something to do. Instead, he started at the bottom of the house, where he and Fleet White discovered JonBenét's body. In the same interview, Arndt remembers mentally counting the rounds remained in her revolver, preparing to discharge them, since she was certain John was the murderer.

According to Fleet White, before turning on the light to see JonBenét in the wine cellar, John cried out to him. Because that room has already been examined, Fleet White should be skeptical.

"In almost every staged murder case I've seen, the culprit manipulates the arrival of friends or other family members, who are then placed in a scenario where they either discover the body or are with the perp when the body is discovered." – Ron Walker, an FBI agent present at the scene.

Other ideas point to Burke's brother. Patsy may have brought JonBenét to the restroom before putting her to bed, and then JonBenét returned downstairs to have a snack, where her brother was already eating. A piece of the undigested fruit was discovered in JonBenét's stomach during the autopsy, and there was a bowl of pineapple on the kitchen table with Burke's fingerprints on it. Perhaps she grabbed a slice of pineapple from Burke's dish, and he reacted angrily.

Patsy was preparing her daughter JonBenét for pageantry, and she wanted her to not just compete but but win. Patsy even bleached JonBenét's hair, according to a neighbor who used to photograph the family. The mother was so preoccupied with pageantry that it consumed all of her time. Burke was suddenly being denied attention. Burke had smacked his sister in the face with a golf club during an emotional outburst when JonBenét was younger, necessitating cosmetic surgery. JonBenét went to the doctor 37 times that year.

Patsy, on the other hand, may have snapped. Patsy stated she would still wake up in the middle of the night with wet sheets if JonBenét soiled the bed. The maid once discovered a grapefruit-sized feces ball in JonBenét's bed. Patsy may have inadvertently injured her daughter for another bedwetting incident, not realizing the extent of the damage she had caused. Officers saw she was dressed in the same clothing she had worn the night before, which was uncommon for the pageant queen. Patsy's craft paintbrush was also used to fasten the garrotte around JonBenét's neck.

Fleet White, who was there when JonBenét was discovered, writes an open letter to the Ramseys in which he criticizes the family and the inquiry.

"When JonBenét Ramsey was slain in Boulder about twenty months ago, her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, quickly recruited famed Democrat criminal defense attorneys from the legal firm of Haddon, Morgan and Foreman. This company and its partners have strong professional, political, and personal links to prosecutors, the legal and judicial communities in Denver and Boulder, state lawmakers, and high-ranking officials of Colorado government, including Governor Roy Romer. Since then, the inquiry into her death has been marred by uncertainty and delays."

While he did not accuse the Ramseys of being involved in the case, he was very critical of how the Ramseys impacted the outcome of the family's depiction in the media and with the law.

"While it is unlikely that Ramsey defense attorneys corrupted the district attorney, it is certain that the district attorney and his prosecutors were greatly influenced by their metro area district attorney advisers, as well as defense attorneys' chummy persuasiveness and threats of retaliation for anyone daring to jeopardize the civil rights of their victim clients."

The Ramseys did not talk to authorities for nearly 100 days, although they did give their first interview to CNN on January 1, 1997, less than a week after JonBenét's death.

According to Steve Thomas, a Boulder police officer who was working on the case at the time, the family and District Attorney Alex Hunter denied established practices. This includes refusing to sign search warrants for bank and phone information and providing copies of police reports to the Ramseys prior to their formal interviews.

Thomas also indicated that he spoke with a member of the Grand Jury who was engaged in the vote to indict the Ramseys in connection with JonBenét's murder, and that they had voted to indict the Ramseys. Yet, D.A. Alex Hunter told the media that the Grand Jury decided there wasn't enough evidence and that the Ramseys were not under investigation. In contrast to Sid Wells' murder in 1983, Alex Hunter fought for a Grand Jury in the JonBenét Ramsey case.

Thomas eventually left the police department due to his dissatisfaction with the handling of the family and evidence in this case.

On July 9, 2008, the Ramseys were exonerated of any participation.

"I am profoundly sorry to the degree that we may have contributed in any way to the public view that you were implicated in this crime." – Mary Lacy, District Attorney in Boulder.

The Note

The ransom letter was roughly 370 words in length and was written on three pages on a legal pad with a Sharpie pen, both of which were determined to emanate from the Ramsey's home—claiming to be authored by individuals in a "tiny foreign faction" and signed "Victory! S.B.T.C".

The memo has received the greatest criticism in the case, owing to its length as well as its substance. Three specialists recreated the three-page ransom letter in a 2016 CBS program, The Case Of: Jonbenét Ramsey, and it took them all over 20 minutes merely to replicate the language. It means the kidnappers would have spent at least 20 minutes at Ramsey's house composing the letter. They also returned the pad and Sharpie pen to their original locations, as the stationery belonged to the Ramseys. There were visible indentations on the pad where other ransom notes had been attempted and discarded.

During the CBS show, forensic linguist James Fitzgerald examined the message and built a profile of the author. Notwithstanding the fact that the letter was written by a "tiny foreign party," the author's writing talent was excellent. He deduced that the author's native language was English after accurately spelling several difficult terms. He also assumed the writer was over 30 because there was no slang in the message. He also thought the author was female. He cited six examples of maternalistic language used throughout the message, "when you return home", and "do not particularly like you". Many identical statements were in Ramsey's Christmas newsletter.

Fitzgerald criticized the phrase "tiny foreign group" as being harmful to the message since it reduces the kidnappers' power. The letter also included other movie lines, including ones from Dirty Harry and Speed.

The amount of money demanded by the kidnappers is also accurate. The author requested $118,000, which was the same amount as John's yearly bonus that year. The kidnappers appeared to have done their homework; they knew how to get into the property and where to find JonBenét in the house, so they should have realized that the Ramseys might collect additional money.

The kidnappers promised to call between 8 and 10 a.m. on the 26th, but they never did. This was not acknowledged by the parents at the time, which Detective Arndt considered strange. The message also instructed the Ramseys not to call the police, which they promptly did.

The ransom note was signed "Victory! S.B.T.C," and it has spawned an incredible amount of ideas. Others believe it is an abbreviation for "Saved By The Cross," a religious phrase alluding to Christ's sacrifice on the cross as the reason we have triumph over death. It might simply be a random sentence made up by the kidnappers.

The Basement

The basement shows no traces of forced entry. The glass had dust and spiderwebs that had been left undisturbed. The makers of the CBS documentary created basement and kitchen duplicates of Ramsey's residence. One of the hosts attempted to crawl through the window without disturbing the debris, which was difficult due to the renovation. There were no fingerprints detected on or near the location, either.

There was also a suitcase beneath the window, which was unusually put there. There had minimal detritus on it, and there was contradictory evidence that JonBenét had fibres from the luggage on her body.

The Autopsy

At the autopsy, the Coroner discovered unusual markings on JonBenét's torso that seemed to be taser marks. There is speculation that JonBenét's assailant stunned her in order to restrain her, although no taser was ever discovered. Nonetheless, the distance of the markers was compared to a section of railway track from the basement set, and this suited the two designs nicely.

The Coroner also discovered blood in JonBenét's undergarments. It's not the first time this has happened. There was indications that JonBenét's hymenal opening was larger than normal, which might indicate sexual assault. Bedwetting and soiling, both of which JonBenét suffered, are also alleged signs of sexual abuse. But, Dr Henry Lee, a forensic scientist, checked a pair of store-bought underpants and found DNA trace evidence. This demonstrated that the DNA detected on JonBenét's underwear may have originated during the production process rather than from anything more nefarious.

The murder weapon

Because JonBenét's head injury did not break the skin, the Coroner was unaware of the serious blow to her head until an internal check took place. The head wound was very identical to a flashlight located on Ramsey's kitchen counter.

There was also the baseball bat case, however John Ramsey was convinced that the bat did not belong to his family, despite the fact that it was discovered on their property. The evidence excludes out an accidental fall causing such an injury, given the damage required a lot of force.

Witness reports

Numerous of the Ramseys' neighbors have reported lights on in the house on Christmas Eve and early the next day. A missing safety light was also reported on the premises. Between midnight and 2 a.m., another neighbor heard a scream. Further neighborhood reports may be found here; there are other, varying accounts.

The police

JonBenét's death was Boulder's first homicide that year. Officers that arrived at JonBenét's residence on the morning of his abduction were fresh to the department. It took four hours for the authorities to shut off JonBenét's bedroom, and when the Whites arrived to assist with the search, they were let into the house without consideration for the contamination of the scene. Friends and a victim's advocacy organization kept themselves occupied by tidying and cleaning up the house, making themselves useful while eliminating any evidence that may have aided police.

John Ramsey had already pulled the tape over JonBenét's lips and attempted to loosen her wrist cuffs when she was carried up from the basement. An officer then transferred JonBenét from the floor to a sofa, making the corpse move twice before the Coroner and forensics came. The police were powerless to intervene, and the case was doomed from the outset.

Alternative suspects

There are a large number of suspects in this case due to the large number of persons involved. They include anything from the family to Santa Claus.

"Ninja Man" – Nine months after JonBenét's death, a 14-year-old girl named "Amy" was sexually attacked in her house while her parents were sleeping. Amy went to the same dancing school as JonBenét and participated in a number of public events in Boulder. He entered and exited Amy's residence quietly.

"He looked like a ghost. The word on the street is that Amy is pregnant.

The problem with this idea is that paedophiles seldom shift their age range emphasis, yet the two girls were eight years apart in age. Amy's case likewise had no ransom letter.

"Santa Bill" – William McReynolds had portrayed Santa numerous times at the Ramsey's Christmas parties, the most recent on December 23rd, a few days before JonBenét was discovered dead. McReynolds was also one of five persons nominated by the Ramseys for additional inquiry. McReynolds was too interested in JonBenét and even attempted to organize a Christmas Day visit with her. He once stated:

"All I carried with me for good luck when I underwent heart surgery was [JonBenét's] star dust... Her murder was more difficult for me than my operation. She had a significant impact on me. I felt a strong connection to that little kid. I don't have any other children with whom I have this unique bond, not even my own children or grandkids... My wife has been requested to combine the star dust JonBenét gave me with my ashes. We'll walk up behind the hut and let it blow away in the wind."

Bill McReynolds subsequently left Boulder with his wife and died a few years later.

Linda Hoffman-Pugh, the Ramseys' housekeeper, and her husband both worked for them. According to one scenario, Linda lured JonBenét down to the basement in an effort to obtain ransom money after the Ramseys declined the loan request. The Ramseys' route and the layout of the home were known to the Pughs, and they had access. They would have also discovered the broken window in the basement, and they both had a cause to be in the home if they were discovered.

An outsider, Lou Smith, Homicide Detective on the JonBenét case, feels it was a botched kidnapping.

"I assume he intended to remove her out of [the] house. There is some indication that he attempted to place her in a suitcase. Perhaps he couldn't get the luggage through the window and then himself out. Maybe he went inside the window and couldn't get the luggage out. So I'm not sure why he went to that basement room, fashioned a garrotte out of something right there in plain sight, and brutally murdered JonBenét. Maybe she knew him. Maybe she yelled. Something compelled this man to brutally murder JonBenét."

Since they had decorated the inside and outside of their home to appear like a gingerbread house, the Ramseys had an open house for two days around Christmas. Between 1,500 and 2,000 persons accessed the property, and 38 sex offenders resided within a few miles of Ramsey's home at the time.

"People in Boulder have no cause to fear that someone is prowling the streets searching for someone to attack," said Mayor Durgin on January 3, 1997.

Because of the anomalies in JonBenét's case, Boulder Mayor Leslie Durgin thought the city was secure. "There were no evident traces of forced entry in the residence," she claimed. She also stated that it looked that someone was familiar with the house.

The Ramseys' home was large, so the kidnapper would have required specific directions to get JonBenét from her bedroom to the basement. Only someone who was familiar with the house would have been able to execute this successfully.

In the case of JonBenét Ramsey, after 24 years, there are several ideas, suspects, murder weapons, and bits of evidence that go nowhere. There are also numerous outstanding uncertainties in this case, such as whether the strangling or the head injuries occurred first. Why didn't District Attorney Alex Hunter assist the inquiry rather than obstruct it?

Boulder police claim having questioned over 600 persons, examined over 140 probable suspects, and documented approximately 1400 pieces of evidence as of 2001. So, why isn't it resolved?

At least one person has died as a result of the events over the past several days. Others believe it was the work of an opportunistic sexual predator, while others believe it was the consequence of a fatal accident.

The family returned to Atlanta, Georgia, when JonBenét died. Burke went to Purdue University, worked in the IT business, and now leads a tranquil life. Following Patsy's death from ovarian cancer in 2006, John Ramsey remarried and now lives in Michigan with his third wife.

Due to the multitude of ideas, persons involved, and poor police activity at the site, it seems doubtful that this case will ever be solved. After all this time, whatever the truth is, it will most likely die with the person or individuals who perpetrated it.


About 25 years after her kidnapping and murder, beauty pageant queen JonBenét Ramsey may be the next victim whose ancestors' DNA will be used in her case.

Roscoe J. Clark and Derek Brommerich of Radar Online think they have uncovered a suspect in the case. The guys, who are not affiliated with the authorities and instead operate an internet community dedicated to JonBenét's murder, traveled to Colorado to collect DNA from someone they believe is a suspect.

The DNA was collected from a discarded cigarette butt and was sent to Genesee County Under Sheriff Michael Angus, who forwarded it to the FBI.

"This might be the breakthrough everyone has been waiting for throughout the previous 24 years and it's based on actual facts and forensic science. "I'm quite certain we have the proper suspect, and we cannot rule this individual out," Roscoe J. Clark told Radar Online.

If this unidentified suspect did really murder JonBenét Ramsey, it will put to rest long-held claims that her brother, Burke, murdered his younger sister by mistake.

There has also been another update. According to TikTok user sydbroadbent, she recently attended a seminar with retired psychologist and criminal profiler John Philpin, who subsequently revealed unpublished facts concerning JonBenét's case.

According to the four-part video, which has since been seen over 200,000 times, the mother argues that eight-year-old Burke was unable to strangle his younger sister owing to a lack of strength.

Philpin believes an intruder is to blame for JonBenét's death, and it all comes down to the ransom sum.

Anybody who entered the house could see John Ramsey's bank statement on his desk. As a result, an intruder may have spotted the Ramseys' extra money and demanded it based on this letter.

Philpin also appears to be referring to tampering. When JonBenét went missing, her parents got a large number of visitors, muddying the crime scene.

So, given this new knowledge, do we believe JonBenét Ramsey was murdered by an intruder, was it an inside job, or are Clark and Brommerich on the correct track?

Despite the outcome, John Ramsey has now petitioned for his daughter's case to be reopened and more DNA testing to begin. "It's a petition to hopefully get the state of Colorado to intercede and have the objects from the crime scene that should have been tested for DNA that haven't been tested," he told Fox News. "It's going to require a lot of support to get things rolling," he continued.

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About the Creator

Victoria Velkova

With a passion for words and a love of storytelling.

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