NBC’s Dateline: Who Killed JonBenet? brought the 20-year-old unsolved murder of beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey to a new generation. The case against family members was presented as was evidence that seems to support the “intruder theory.” Officials are hoping that bringing the facts to the public through last night’s show and other programs about the case that will air later this month will lead them to the identification of JonBenet’s killer.
JonBenet was found dead in the basement of the Ramsey home on the night after Christmas in 1996. Because there was no evidence of forced entry and because her parents and brother were in the home all night on the night she disappeared, her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, were suspects. JonBenet was found wrapped in a blanket, and her favorite Barbie nightgown was nearby, facts that investigators say indicates that her murderer was someone close to her, someone she knew and cared about and seemed to care about her. She was in a room that the family referred to as “the wine cellar” in the basement, a room that only someone who was familiar with the basement would think to take JonBenet.
Friends of the Ramseys continue to insist that it’s impossible that anyone in the family murdered JonBenet. By all accounts, they were a close family and devout Christians. They have always insisted that none of them had anything to do with the murder. There are some who were part of the investigation who believe this and think that an intruder broke into the home of JonBenet and her family and killed her. Here is some of the evidence and the theories about what it means.
The first person outside of the Ramseys who was made aware that something horrible had happened to JonBenet on December 26, 1996, was a 9-1-1 operator. She spoke about the call in the Dateline special and recalled the frantic state of Patsy Ramsey. As reported by Us Weekly, she stated that she remembers trying to calm her and then hearing Mrs. Ramsey hang up the phone, except that it didn’t hang up all the way. The 9-1-1 operator was able to hear what was going on at the other end of the line for a little longer and described what she heard – a third voice.
“The third voice was a male voice. … I knew there was a third distinct voice.”
Some believe that the third voice was JonBenet’s brother, Burke. Former district attorney Bob Grant responded to that suggestion.
“Some say it’s [JonBenét’s brother] Burke. Some say, ‘I don’t know.’ Some say it may not even be a voice. It’s a piece of evidence that has a number of different conclusions.”
This evidence raises interest because John and Patsy Ramsey always maintained that Burke was asleep in his room during the phone call Patsy made to 9-1-1 about JonBenet’s disappearance and that he remained asleep for a long time after the phone call. In a taped police interview that was included in the Dateline special, Burke says that wasn’t completely true. He claims that both his mother and his father came into his room that morning and he was awake but kept his eyes closed because he wanted to try to get back to sleep. He also says that the first thing he remembers hearing that morning was his parents saying something about calling the police.
When police arrived at the Ramsey home, they examined a ransom letter that JonBenet’s mother said she found that morning. It was what prompted her call to 9-1-1. The letter was written on a pad of paper and with a pen that were in the Ramsey home. It was nearly three pages long and told the Ramseys that the kidnappers required $118,000 in order to return JonBenet to them safe and unharmed. The letter raised some red flags for a number of reasons. One was the amount requested by the kidnappers. John Ramsey had just received a bonus at work. The amount of the bonus was a little over $118,000. This was another indication that the guilty party was someone who knew the Ramseys well. The language in the letter didn’t seem to fit with what is typically seen in a ransom letter, and investigators believed that it was staged. They estimated that a two-and-a-half page letter would take about 20 minutes to write. That would mean that the kidnapper was in the house for 20 minutes with the entire Ramsey family in the house. This would be a big risk for JonBenet’s killer.
At one point, when a detective was in the Ramsey home, she suggested to John Ramsey and a family friend who was there that they search the house to see if they could find anything. JonBenet’s father went directly to the basement, directly to the room where her body was found. This raised another red flag for investigators as people don’t usually start in the basement and because the “wine cellar” where she was found was not an easily found location in the basement. He carried the body of JonBenet up the stairs to investigators instead of calling them down to the crime scene. This allowed for contamination of the crime scene.
There was also evidence that JonBenet had been sexually abused, and investigators learned that she had begun wetting the bed in the weeks prior to her death. They were not able to identify who the DNA found on her body belonged to, and speculation that her abuser killed her arose.
There are a couple of theories about what happened that night. One is that it was a kidnapping gone wrong. A suitcase was also found near JonBenet’s body. Some say that the guilty party intended to put her in the suitcase and escape through a nearby broken window. When they discovered that her body wouldn’t fit in the suitcase, they abandoned that idea and killed her. Others say that some accident happened that night. An accident that involved some other member of the Ramsey family. And either JonBenet died as a result of the accident or in an attempt to cover up the accident, she died.
No one in the Ramsey family was ever charged with any crime related to the murder of JonBenet. Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer in 2006.
There is much more to this case. You can view the Dateline episode below. A&E aired a documentary on September 5. A three-part Dr. Phil interview with Burke Ramsey will air on September 12, 13, and 19. A docuseries titled JonBenet: An American Murder Mystery will show on Investigation Discovery in three parts that are scheduled for September 12, 13, and 14. CBS will air its own docuseries titled The Case of: Jon Benet Ramsey in three parts on September 18, 19, and 25. And Lifetime will show a scripted drama about the case in November. It’s titled Who Killed JonBenet.
[Photo by Barry Williams/Getty Images]