JonBenét Ramsey was born on August 6, 1990, in Atlanta, Georgia. The daughter of a socialite and a wealthy businessman, she was a 6-year-old beauty queen who was found murdered in her Boulder, Colorado, home on December 26, 1996. Still unsolved, the murder led to one of the most publicized police investigations of the 1990s. In 2008, new “touch” DNA technology led the Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy to issue a formal letter exonerating the Ramsey family from any involvement in JonBenét’s murder; however, recent 2016 evidence suggests that the DNA evidence is actually a mixture of DNA and more testing is expected to take place. To date, no one has ever been charged for her murder and the investigation remains open over two decades after her death.
JonBenét’s Short Life
Named after her father, John Bennett, and her mother, Patricia, JonBenét Patricia Ramsey was born on August 6, 1990, in Atlanta, Georgia. The youngest of two children, she was a true southern girl who enjoyed the spotlight. By age 6, she had already garnered five pageantry titles: Little Miss Colorado, Little Miss Charlevoix, Colorado State All-Star Kids Cover Girl, America's Royale Miss, and National Tiny Miss Beauty. This kindergartener’s sparkling smile, glowing blonde hair, and countless glittery costumes made her the center of attention. Her father, a multi-millionaire businessman, and her mother, who was also a former beauty queen (Miss Virginia of 1977), doted on their daughter in every way they could. Their luxurious home was plush with everything JonBenét needed to live a happy life.
On the morning of December 26, 1996, Patsy Ramsey called the police after finding a 3-page ransom note demanding $118,000 for her daughter's safe return. The girl's body, however, was discovered in the basement later that afternoon. JonBenét’s skull had been fractured, she had been sexually assaulted, and she was strangled with a garrote made from one of Patsy’s paintbrushes. According to the coroner’s report, JonBenét’s official cause of death was asphyxia by strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma and her death was classified as a homicide.
What followed was what some say were unforgivable errors by the Boulder Police Department. The crime scene was compromised when John Ramsey brought his daughter upstairs; the Ramseys were not immediately and separately interviewed.
For the next four years, the investigation came up short, with the Ramseys themselves as lead suspects. The evidence, though circumstantial, made the Ramseys appear guilty in the eyes of the public: The ransom note was extremely long, cryptic, unusually specific, and written on paper belonging to the Ramseys; fiber found on the duct tape used to bind the child was consistent with that found on Patsy's clothing; there were inconsistencies in their stories and the Ramseys appeared blameworthy in many media interviews.
In December 1999, the Boulder grand jury voted to indict John and Patsy Ramsey for their alleged role in their daughter’s murder; however, Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter decided not to file charges against them. The Ramsey family moved back to Atlanta, Georgia, and published a memoir, The Death of Innocence, in 2001 to counter the media persecution they felt had ruined their lives. Patsy died a few years later of ovarian cancer at the age of 49. John claims he has lost his entire family fortune after being a multi-millionaire in the 1990s. In 2016, JonBenét’s brother Burke made a surprising appearance on The Dr. Phil Show, breaking his 20-year silence about the case but bringing no new evidence to the story.
Countless books, documentaries, and true crime shows have featured their own theories about JonBenét’s murder. The mom, the dad, the brother, the convicted child sex offender (Gary Oliva), the electrician (Michael Helgoth), the school teacher (John Mark Karr), the housekeeper (Linda Hoffman-Pugh), and the town Santa (Bill McReynolds) have all fallen under suspicion—at least by media and news outlets—but none have been charged.
In July 2008, new "touch DNA" technology seemed to exonerate all members of JonBenét’s family in the 1996 killing. Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy formally apologized in a letter to John Ramsey for the cloud of suspicion his family had lived under for nearly 12 years. However, recent 2016 evidence suggests that the DNA evidence is actually a mixture of DNA and more testing is expected.
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