The Tragic Murder of JonBenét Ramsey

The mysterious, tragic murder and unsolved mystery of young JonBenét Ramsey.

It’s been nearly 21 years ever since JonBenét Ramsey was murdered on December 25, 1996. To this day, people are still questioning the unsolved murder case of this young girl. While there's multiple evidence in the murder scene, none of them seem to be connected with each other — resulting to different suspects. With this, the question continues to haunt us: Who murdered JonBenét Ramsey?

JonBenét was a six-year-old southern young girl who was born on August 6, 1990 in Atlanta, Georgia. She enjoyed the spotlight as a beauty pageant star who's won five high-profile competitions. It appears that she gained her talent from her mother, Patsy Ramsey, who was a formerbeauty queen herself (Miss West Virginia of 1977).

JonBenét only had one brother, Burke Ramsey, who was nine years old during the time of her murder. Their father, John Ramsey, a big shot socialite and a wealthy businessman, provided his family with a comfortable lifestyle to live happily in Boulder, Colorado.

Sounds like an ordinary, happy family, right?

So, how did a family as perfect as the Ramsey's fall into a horrible incident such as a murder case? Why, out of everyone in the family, was JonBenét the one brutally killed? We can ask questions all day, but for now, let's dive right in and explore this truly interesting and bewildering unsolved murder case of JonBenét Ramsey.

Ransom Note

On December 26, 1996, Patsy Ramsey called the police at 5:52 AM to report that her daughter was missing after she discovered a ransom note that was placed on the back staircase in their home. The ransom note concerned her six-year-old daughter, demanding $118,000 in exchange for JonBenét.

The note was lengthy and consisted of specific details about the kidnapper(s). It's still confusing why the kidnappers would thoroughly explain themselves -- what kidnapper wants to be known? The writer of the ransom note mentioned that if the exchange wasn't done, then they would behead JonBenét. The letter was signed by S.B.T.C. — initials that remain a mystery to this day. Did I mention that the note was more like an essay? As a kidnapper, who has the time to write so much?

"Somebody asked me later what was the worst moment in all of this, and that was the worst moment. Was suddenly realizing that someone had your daughter, your child. And has taken her. And she was gone and we didn't know where she was," John Ramsey said during an interview with CBS in 1999.
"And, you know, I was just frantic on the phone, you know, they've kidnapped our daughter, our daughter's been kidnapped," Patsy Ramsey added during the interview.

The Murder of JonBenét Ramsey

JonBenét's body was found less than eight hours later in the basement of the Ramsey home. She was found by her father with duct tape around her mouth and a cord wrapped around her neck. After being reported about JonBenét being missing and the ransom note, the police didn't bother searching the house, because they didn't believe that JonBenét was in the house from the start — since the note stated that she was kidnapped. Meanwhile, the murder of JonBenét Ramsey occurred while all three of the family members were in the house...

"There was a white blanket and her... her eyes were closed," John said. "I feared the worst but yet I'd found her. And she was back in our safe protection again. And um, I, er, I, I don't know, you, you, I was just coming through this panic emotion, all I could do was scream."

How did none of the family members hear the intruder breaking into their house, leaving the ransom note on the stairs, taking their daughter from her room, and dragging her to the basement to be brutally murdered? Does it seem as strange to you as it does to me? Who knows what the Ramsey family was doing during the tragic moment.


During an autopsy on JonBenét's body, they discovered that she was beaten and strangled to death. Also, a paintbrush from Patsy's hobby kit was used to tighten the cord around JonBenét's neck to strangle her.

There was also DNA evidence on both JonBenét's underwear and long johns, connected to one unidentified suspect that was compared to the FBI's data of convicted violent offenders in 2004, yet was not found within the 1.5 million samples.

In addition, there were two sets of unidentified footprints at the scene and a rope close by JonBenét's bedroom that did not belong to anyone in the Ramsey family. But, until 2006, the rope had never been bothered to be tested.

Even if someone happened to break into the house, they did a pretty amazing job not placing their footprints in the snow (the murder of JonBenét Ramsey occurred in December) outside of the Ramsey household or even forced entry anywhere in the house.

Are you confused yet? You should be, but there's much more to this bizarre murder case. Even though the police found evidence, almost none of it links to other pieces. It's as though the murderer had been planning this for a long period of time and managed to execute it perfectly.

Suspects #1-3

The Ramsey family quickly became suspects after investigators realized how fake the ransom note seemed and the lack of evidence of an intruder. Some speculated that Patsy accidentally killed JonBenét and others say that Burke accidentally killed his sister.

"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 JonBenét before I'd have believed Patsy did it," John said during another interview with CBS in 2006 — the same year Patsy died from ovarian cancer.

As for the handwriting, John is out and ruled over Patsy as inconclusive for the note. While the letter did ask for $118,000 in exchange for their daughter, that specific amount of money was close to the amount John received for a bonus that same year. The amount of money does seem oddly specific. And if it's related to the bonus John received, then what does that mean?

In addition to that, the note was written with pen and paper that was retrieved from inside the Ramsey house. Meaning that the murderer might have entered the house, wrote the note inside, and then killed JonBenét after writing the ransom letter. And the murder of JonBenét Ramsey was all happening as the family members were home.

An analysis of the notepad showed that there was a practice letter and a practice note was found. There were spelling errors in the ransom note where simple words were misspelled and difficult words were spelled correctly — leaving the letter as a complete joke.

"They totally focused on our family to the exclusion of other leads, real facts, and real evidence," John said.

Back in 1999, the grand jury of the case had voted to indict JonBenét's parents on charges of child abuse and resulting in death. However, the Boulder District Attorney at the time, Alex Hunter, didn't sign the indictment, because there wasn't enough evidence to support the charges. Also, the DNA evidence in the crime scene from the murder of JonBenét Ramsey didn't belong to any of the Ramsey family members.

Suspect #4

Local man Bill McReynolds visited the house just two days before the murder of JonBenét Ramsey. It was also stated that McReynolds dressed up as Santa Claus. In 1974, his own daughter was kidnapped — just after JonBenét's murder 22 years later. Aside from that, McReynolds' wife even wrote a play based on a child getting molested and then murdered in a basement — coincidence?

According to the Denver Post, Bill felt emotionally close to JonBenét — even mentioning to his wife that if he were to die, he wanted his ashes to be mixed in with the glitter JonBenét gifted him when he was dressed as Santa. Yet, the police only viewed McReynolds as a friendly old man with nothing concrete to pin him as the murderer.

Suspect #5

Gary Oliva lived just a few blocks away from the Ramseys at the time of the murder of JonBenét Ramsey. In 2016, Oliva was arrested for child pornography, and in 2000 he was arrested on unrelated drug charges and was found carrying a photo of JonBenét in his backpack.

He stated that JonBenét's murder touched him deeply and that he thought "she was an exceptional girl." He also believed that he needed to "build a form of monument or a shrine to remember her."

Oliva's high school friend Michael Vail revealed in an interview with In Touch magazine that Oliva called him a day after the murder of JonBenét saying that he "hurt a little girl."

Vail also revealed the location of where Oliva was during the time of the call — Boulder, Colorado. If this is true, records show that no other girl, other than JonBenét, was harmed around that area that night. What are the odds that Vail confessed his actions during the same time JonBenét was murdered?

Also, the type of strangulation on JonBenét was similar to the strangulation Oliva attempted on his own mother with a telephone cord. Despite all of this, Oliva wasn't a match to the DNA from the crime scene of the murder of JonBenét Ramsey, leaving him as not a suspect for the murderer.

Then which little girl did he really "hurt?"

Suspect #6

John Mark Karr was a divorced father and an elementary school teacher who wasn't a suspect until 2006 when he confessed to the murder of JonBenét Ramsey in an email to journalism professor Michael Tracey. After that one email, Tracey emailed Karr back and forth for four years in order to gain his trust.

Through the emails, Karr used similar wording as the ransom note and even once used Patsy's mother's nickname "Neddie" in an email in which he could have never known that was her nickname. A few of the emails stated that he was in love with JonBenét and even confessed to hitting her in the head with a flashlight.

"He referred to Patsy's mother's nickname: Neddie. And that was unusual that someone would know that. I went to a book that we'd written about it. To see if we ever mentioned that in the book. And we had not," John Ramsey recalled. "That added fuel to the fire in my mind."

On August 16, 2008, with the help of British Intelligence, the Royal Thai Authorities, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, they were able to track down and locate Karr in Bangkok, Thailand, where he traveled from the U.S. to escape child pornography charges in California.

A few months after the confession, Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy issued a formal apology to John Ramsey for suspecting his family for the murder of JonBenét Ramsey.

Aside from that, Karr was left as not a suspect for the murder, because his DNA wasn't found in the crime scene either. Yet Homeland Security will continue to keep an eye on him, because he always maintained that he didn't act alone.

Going back to the scene, there were two sets of mysterious footprints. But the lead investigator on the murder of JonBenét Ramsey case and former Boulder police chief Mark Beckner mentioned that Karr wasn't even in Colorado during the time, but in Georgia. His confessions didn't match the evidence at the scene.

Unresolved Case

DNA expert Dr. Henry Lee — famed for his work on the O.J. Simpson case — studied the DNA from the murder of JonBenét Ramsey crime scene and discovered that the DNA found in her underwear may have been from the manufacturing process; he even tested it with an unopened bag of underwear which had similar DNA. This shows that the evidence from the crime scene is labeled as fake, which leads to the notion that any of the suspects can be the true murderer. In the end, JonBenét's murder case is one of the most famously unsolved mysteries — and probably will be forever.

Jacqueline Hanikeh
Jacqueline Hanikeh
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