It’s been 25 years this past Christmas that JonBenet Ramsey, only 6, was brutally murdered by someone. We may never know who. Unless someone confesses with concrete evidence only law enforcement knows, we won’t believe them. It wasn’t the parents, that I know of, even though I first thought they did it.
I had been working at the Americus Times-Recorder when I got a call either in late December or early January about a luncheon at the Kiwanis Club the last Friday of the month of January. The man on the other end said it John and Patsy Ramsey who were going to be speaking. For a minute I thought it was a sick joke. But as I was later told, a family friend of theirs lived at a nearby assisted living center and would often play the piano for the Kiwanis which I’m guessing is how it was set up.
And when I saw the Ramsey, I was cordial and introduced myself but I didn’t really think much of them. I’m a reporter. We’re supposed to be objective. Many reporters have sat down and had pleasant chats with supposed mass murderers and terrorists. JonBenet had been dead about five years then. You never do get over the death of someone but the pain and hurt lessens over time.
Did I think they did it? Then, why yes. There was something about them, mainly about Patsy Ramsey. I think she knew the big questions would be asked. They were there promoting some organization or something for child abuse or battered children. I really forgot. It seemed a little tasteless at the time but later I realized that it was wrong for me to think it.
I do not think they had anything to do with the death of their daughter. It took working for two newspapers and covering too many cases, including violence against children, to realize that the Ramseys weren’t acting like guilty parents. I also remember something John Walsh said after he had been informed they had found the decapitated head of his son, Adam, also 6 at the time of his death. Walsh said he went ballistic and it took medical professionals to give him a sedative to calm him down.
Then, it clicked. All that early footage of Patsy we had seen, she was sedated. She was in mourning. Her daughter had been killed. People were pointing a finger at her. If she wasn’t medicating herself with alcohol, then she was using a professional. Valium and xanax was still easier to obtain in the late 1990s than it is now.
Also, the case didn’t make sense. I’ve covered cases in which parents have beaten their children to death. The one image you’ll never get out of your mind is autopsy photos of an 18-month-old or a grandmother crying in your face because someone decided to use their 5-year-old grandson as a punching bag. But people who commit acts of violence on children try their damnedest to make it look like an accident happen.
If either John or Patsy were responsible, why go to such outrageous lengths to fake a kidnapping with a fake ransom note? Why leave the body down in the basement when you know that’s the one place authorities will check?
Of course, everyone says if it wasn’t the parents, it had to be the other child, Burke. Well, not exactly. A 6-year-old might keep quiet if a strange man or adult had taken them. But they would scream bloody murder (for lack of a better phrase) if an older sibling was doing something wrong. Burke was less than four years older than her. She would screamed so loud if he had done something to harm her. Also, a boy who is not even 10, wouldn’t have the strength to carry her body.
I have two theories about what happened. One, the killer actually intended to kidnap JonBenet at her home. They crept in while the Ramseys were gone. Remember they had just hosted a TV crew to do a taping through their house for the Christmas season a few weeks earlier. Any creep with a VCR could’ve recorded it and studied the layout.
The mid-1990s was a different time. We were still teaching people about Stranger Danger rather than telling them most pedophiles and kidnappings happen by people they know or feel comfortable around. If JonBenent had done some pageants, it could’ve been a breeding ground for pedophiles. Remember this was before Dance Moms and Toddlers and Tiaras exposed just how awful these events are. What anger we gave the Ramseys wasn’t near as bad as what we’ve seen on those shows. And the 1990s was the decade where everyone had to have glamour shots. You’d see people who weren’t even 10 looking like they were 27.
Of course, this brings up a lot of questions. Why would a pedophile sneak into a home and wait for the family to come back? What were they going to do if they didn’t come home? How would they know what room was JonBenet’s?
The only credence I think to the attempted kidnapping is the ransom letter left on the staircase. It’s too detailed. A kidnapper wouldn’t leave a letter like that unless they had no intention of every returning JonBenet. Look at the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping. Or the case involving Ariel Castro in Cleveland, Ohio where he had kidnapped three women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, and held them captive for 10 years. Steven Stayner was kidnapped at age 7 and lived with his abuser for the next seven years. There’s so many other kidnapping cases to mention here.
The ransom was a red herring. It was intended to point the authorities in every different direction than the one they should be looking. But then again, if a pedophile just wants to snatch some kid, they’ll do it when they’re vulnerable and alone. Why risk John, Patsy or even Burke finding them?
That leads me to my second theory, it was just some burglary gone wrong. Again, it could’ve just been someone who say that taped segment and scoped out the Ramsey’s house. When they arrived back home, the burglar went into panic mode and hid in the basement. As they all went to bed, the burglar tried to leave, but JonBenet got up in the middle of the night and went to get something to eat or a drink of water and encountered the burglar, who knocked her out with the flashlight.
But that leaves the biggest question? Why not just leave? A kid’s seen you. Why not run out the front door? Why try to go out through the basement? And why leave a detailed letter that must’ve taken quite some time to write. Why use items found in the house to strangle her to death?
Could it have been a burglary and kidnapping that both ended badly? We’ll never know.
And we’ll never know because of how badly the Boulder, Colo. police handle the situation. This is something Patsy said during that Kiwanis Club meeting that the authorities mishandled the case. Naturally, I just thought this was just shifted the blame until I reviewed it more. While the FBI were notified, once JonBenet’s body was found, it became a local case. The Denver Police Department offered assistance but Boulder refused.
By the time the Ramseys notified police and they responded, they reported many family friends had already gathered at the house. Right then and there, the crime scene is tampered. Also, the police arrived in marked cars, which is a no-no on kidnapping cases. Also, since it was right after Christmas, lesser experience police were on the case. So, an inexperienced officer or investigator is at a house where Boulder movers and shakers have gathered to offer sympathy.
The number one thing any cop or law officer should have done is ordered everyone out of the house. But an officer is worried about retribution from bureaucrats. By clearing everyone out, the authorities would do a clear sweep of the house with forensics to see if JonBenet was hiding somewhere. That didn’t happen. They had friends check.
The police was doing damage control. They had to make the public lean on the Ramseys. I have never seen a murder case covered with so much information being released to the public so fast. Details are always left out in press releases and media reports because they don’t want crazy people seeking attention bothering their investigations.
What they wanted to do was to have John finger Patsy. In America, married couples can’t be forced to testify against each other. They can choose to testify on their own. If they went to trial with charges against John and/or Patsy, the defense could just eat up how the case was handled.
Remember, America had been divided over what happened during the O.J. Simpson trial. If people believed the LAPD bungled a murder investigation, then what’s to say they wouldn’t think the same about a college town like Boulder. We had been fooled by O.J. We had also been initially fooled by Susan Smith, who murdered her two sons. The 1990s were about media sensations. We just knew damn well one or both the parents had done it.
And there was a lot of things there to make us believe they had done it. You’d hear stories about how Patsy wore the same clothes she had the day before. Well, she probably needed something quickly to change into out of her night clothes. They said she was fake crying, but how can we believe that’s true?
Another thing people don’t factor in to the case was the University of Colorado was just down the road. Do you think a lot of parents are going to let their co-ed children return after Christmas break if there is a child killer on the loose? The myth is that college campuses are safe but sexual assault is common. When I was attended Georgia Southern University circa 2000, there was a serial rapists reported. At the same time, I was there, they did Upward Bound and one parent more or less expected those at the school to babysit and pamper their child. With Georgia Southwestern State University located at Americus, a parent wrote a letter to the editor to the paper accusing the college president of promoting fornication and premarital sex by having co-ed dormitories.
If a few hundred parents refused to allow their kids to return to school, that could hurt the college and local economy. Boulder is about 30 miles away from Denver but that doesn’t mean there’s not crime. A lot of smaller towns and cities try to promote themselves that way. I’m just wondering why it’s so hard for people to entertain the notion that a stranger or someone outside the family circle could’ve committed this violent act.
We teach kids not to talk to strangers and sometimes the strangers are dangerous. News reports indicate they’re testing kits and DNA. John, Patsy and Burke have all been cleared by DNA. Patsy died in June of 2006 of ovarian cancer. Not long after that, John Mark Karr, a child predator, falsely lied about being responsible.
But we’ll never really know. And if they ever do arrest a suspect and bring them to trial, a good defense lawyer will argue how the police got it wrong before. A lot of murders go unsolved or never adjudicated.
JonBenet Ramsey’s murder will more than likely join the Zodiac Killings and the killing of Elizabeth Short “The Black Dahlia” among many high-profile killings that law enforcement and prosecutors couldn’t solve. It’s not connecting A to B. It’s connecting A to B to C to D.
What do you think? Please comment.