“Is there anything about the JonBenet Ramsey case that isn’t weird and disturbing?” –Rachel Sklar
JonBenet Ramsey’s death shocked, horrified, and enthralled the United States. She was only six years old when her body was found in her Boulder Colorado home just after Christmas, and her case was one of the most publicized murder cases in the 90s. While it’s been over 20 years since her death, Ramsey’s murder remains unsolved. Here are 42 interesting facts about the JonBenét Ramsey case.
42. False Confession.
In 2006, the first suspect for the Ramsey case was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand. John Mark Karr admitted to assaulting and accidentally murdering Ramsey. However, the case had to be dropped as Karr’s DNA did not match the DNA found at the crime scene, and police quickly found evidence that placed him in Georgia at the time of the murder. The lead investigator for the Ramsey case, Mark Beckner, found it embarrassing that the Boulder DA jumped at the chance for Karr’s confession.
41. Bad Santa
At one point even the town Santa came under investigation in the Ramsey case. Bill McReynolds, the Santa in question, and his wife Janet became suspects in the investigation when it came to light that Bill had given JonBenet a card that said “You will receive a special gift after Christmas.” To make suspicions worse, the McReynolds had lost their daughter 22 years earlier, also on December 26th. Even creepier? Janet had written a play that was suspiciously similar to the Ramsey case. Neither of the McReynolds’ DNA matched what was found at the crime scene.
While popular theories often point to one of the Ramsey family members being the killer, there are a few suspects who have rather suspicious ties to the case. One such suspect is Gary Oliva, who had allegedly claimed to hurt a little girl not long after JonBenet’s death, and had tried to strangle his mother in an eerily similar fashion to how JonBenet had been strangled. Nonetheless, Oliva’s DNA did not match the DNA found at the crime scene.
39. In the Family?
Every member of Ramsey’s close family has been a suspect of the investigation. Ramsey’s parents were “under an umbrella of suspicion” from the Boulder police department. All of the Ramsey family remain the subject of public speculation and suspicion in this case.
38. Leave Nothing but Footprints
A still unidentified boot print was found at the Ramsey home. Officials suspected it belonged to Michael Helgoth. The electrician was supposedly in a dispute with JonBenet’s parents, which could have offered motive for murder. Helgoth committed suicide before the police could question him, but we do know his DNA was not the DNA found at the crime scene.
37. Mommy Dearest
Despite being publicly exonerated, JonBenet’s mother is still a popular suspect among armchair detectives. One theory speculates that her mother beat her for wetting the bed, and staged the kidnapping to try and cover it up.
36. Inhuman Killer
One of the strange theories about who killed JonBenet is the theory that a wild animal did it. Animal hair was found on her clothes, and on the duct tape that had been covering her mouth. Still, proponents of this theory have yet to explain how the animal wrote the ransom note.
35. The Jury Votes to Indict
JonBenet’s parents, Patsy and John Ramsey, were indicted by a grand jury in 1999 on charges of child abuse resulting in death. However, no official charges were filed against the parents because the DA refused to sign off on it; there was insufficient evidence.
34. We’re Sorry
In 2008, the Boulder DA wrote an apology to JonBenet’s father, as none of the family’s DNA matches what was found at the crime scene. The DA wanted to apologize for what the Ramsey family had gone through, since they were the lead suspects in this case for over a decade.
33. One Case Closed
In 2016, Burke Ramsey, brother of JonBenet, successfully sued CBS and the production company behind a documentary miniseries that accused him of murdering his sister. Be careful before pointing fingers on this case!
32. Who’s DNA is it?
The police still haven’t been able to identify the blood that was found in Ramsey’s underwear, or definitively answer if it even got there the night of the murder. All they know is that it’s male DNA, and the suspect is unrelated to the Ramseys.
31. Nothing’s Clear
While most forensic evidence points to strangulation being the cause of JonBenet’s death, experts aren’t even sure on that. Crucially, John Ramsey removed the duct tape from his daughter’s mouth, an act that prevented full forensic analysis of the crime scene. Forensic experts say that could have played a part in her death, but now we’ll never be sure.
30. High Profile Murder Experts
Both the forensic expert Henry Lee and DNA expert Barry Scheck worked on another high profile 90s case: Both men were experts for the O.J. Simpson trial.
29. Midnight Snack
Despite the fact that JonBenet’s parents said they put their daughter to bed right when they got home, the coroner’s report said there was pineapple in her stomach. That, combined with the fact that a bowl of pineapple was found in the Ramseys’ kitchen, suggests that JonBenet ate after the family had come home for the night.
A flashlight found in the Ramseys’ kitchen might have been the weapon that caused JonBenet’s skull fracture. While it was wiped clean of any fingerprints or DNA, the police still took it in as evidence.
27. Web of Intrigue
While a broken window in the basement lends credence to the theory that an intruder broke into the house and murdered JonBenet, a spider web was found outside the window, suggesting it hadn’t been broken recently. JonBenet’s father admitted he’d broken the window when he locked himself out of the house some time before.
26. Conspiracy Theory
Far and away one of the best, most bizarre conspiracy theories surrounding this puzzling case was that pop singer Katy Perry is actually JonBenet Ramsey. A Youtuber noted similar facial features on JonBenet and Perry as “proof” that the singer is actually Ramsey. Considering Perry is a whole six years older than Ramsey, I’m going to have to say this myth is busted.
25. What’s DNA Evidence Got To Do With It?
Beckner believes that DNA doesn’t exonerate any of the suspects. As Beckner said,“Exonerating anyone based on a small piece of evidence that has not yet been proven to even be connected to the crime is absurd in my opinion. You must look at any case in the totality of all the evidence, circumstances, statements, etc. in coming to conclusions.”
24. Can’t Trust This!
While studies show a whopping 85% of Americans and 90% to 94% of jurors find DNA evidence to be very reliable, DNA might not be as reliable as it seems. Forensic scientists rarely find a 100% match, and crime scene samples are often poor samples to begin with. Furthermore, it’s impossible to tell how DNA travels. It’s possible our DNA can wind up places we’ve never even been!
23. Was She Abused?
Beckner has revealed that, to his mind at least, there was evidence that pointed to Ramsey being abused prior to her murder.
22. Staging a Scene
The police also believe that the crime scene was staged to make it appear like it was an assault and kidnapping gone wrong.
21. Cast a Wide Net
Over 400 people have been investigated by the Boulder Police for this case.
20. You Can’t Trust Anyone
The police believed that JonBenet knew her killer, which was why the killer was able to lead her from bed. While this may be surprising, it shouldn’t be. According to research by the Justice Department, at the time JonBenet was killed, between 73% to 79% of crime was committed by people the victims knew.
19. Rest in Peace
JonBenet was buried beside her half-sister Elizabeth Ramsey, who died in a car crash, and later her mother, who died of Ovarian cancer.
18. Two Can’t Keep a Secret
JonBenet’s brother Burke was initially interviewed by police when he was only nine years old. In the interview, Burke exhibited strange behavior and anxiety. The doctor who interviewed him, however, noted that some of his behavior might be due to the fact that his family was in such a high state of stress. The most eerie line from the interview was when the doctor asked if Burke had any secrets, to which he replied, “probably, if I did, I wouldn’t tell you, because then it wouldn’t be a secret.”
17. A Case of Mistakes
The crime scene was mishandled by the Boulder police department. It wasn’t closed off, and people who weren’t part of the police department, most notably the family, were allowed to move around it. This caused the evidence to be compromised.
16. Lost and Found
JonBenet’s father and a friend were the ones who tragically found her body in the basement. About finding the body, her father said, “it was a rush of relief, I thought, God, I found my child. And then I pretty quickly realized that she may not be alive.”
15. Mistake After Mistake
The Boulder PD did a quick search of the Ramsey home when the parents called the police after finding the ransom note. Police officer Rick French even went down to the basement, but didn’t go into the room where her body was. This mistake is what lead to Ramsey’s father discovering her body and contaminating the crime scene. According to police reports, French simply decided not to go into the room where Ramsey’s body was.
14. You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit!
Two police detectives quit over the Ramsey case. Detective Lou Smit, a homicide detective, quit because the Boulder PD ignored the idea that an intruder had killed JonBenet. Meanwhile, detective Steve Thomas quit because the Boulder PD wouldn’t investigate the parents. I guess it’s true what they say, you can’t make everyone happy.
13. No Apology Necessary
In 2006, Jack Shafer wrote an article for Slate magazine that said the press didn’t need to apologize for its intensive, sensationalized coverage of the Ramsey case. Shafer wrote, “The riotous coverage of the endless murder investigation won’t be recorded as journalism’s finest hour, but the story deserved the punishing scrutiny the press gave it.” Hey, without that scrutiny of the press, this article wouldn’t exist!
12. Weird Letter
With so much mystery surrounding this case, even the ransom note is a mystery. Two and a half pages and written at the scene of the crime, it was left with JonBenet already dead. This is unlike any other ransom note authorities, including the FBI, have ever seen. Most ransom notes aren’t so long, they aren’t written at scene of the crime, and they aren’t left when the victim has already been killed. All of that makes for one weird ransom letter.
11. What’s in the Note?
The ransom that was asked for was to the amount of $118,000, which was almost exactly the bonus JonBenet’s father had just gotten from work. Police speculate that the note had to be written by someone who had knowledge of the Ramseys to know to list that amount exactly.
10. Test Taking
The ransom note was analyzed by handwriting experts who tested it against JonBenet’s father and mother. While her father was cleared by the experts, JonBenet’s mother’s sample was determined as “inconclusive.”
9. Threatening letter
The ransom note threatened specifically to behead JonBenet if the money wasn’t delivered to the kidnappers.
8. Practice Makes Perfect
In the documentary JonBenet Ramsey Case facts forensic scientist Henry Lee alleges that the killer practiced writing the two and a half page ransom note. Seems like an odd time to be worried about penmanship.
7. Who’s Got the Time?
In that same documentary, The Case of: Jonbenét Ramsey, the team wrote out the two and half page ransom note and timed it. They found out that it would take over 21 minutes to have written the note. That’s a long 21 minutes when you’re trying to evade getting caught red-handed.
6. Oh, Don’t You Be My Neighbor
The Ramsey family had a whopping 38 registered sexual offenders in their neighborhood.
5. Birds of a Feather
JonBenet’s father briefly dated Beth Twitty, the mother of Natalee Holloway. Perhaps the pair had a lot in common. Twitty was the mother in another case where a young girl was put in the media spotlight due to tragedy. Holloway, like Ramsey, was a case of media spectacle when she disappeared in Aruba in 2005.
4. Reward Offered
Months after JonBenet’s death, her parents offered a $100,000 reward for any information about Ramsey’s killer.
3. It Takes Two
Thanks to DNA tests in 2016, the police now suspect there was not one, but two assailants who attacked JonBenet, deepening the mystery even further. Although DNA cannot be the beginning and end point of the investigation, this new information may totally change the way law enforcement approaches the cold case.
2. Over 20 Years Later and Still Going Strong
The Boulder Police department is still looking for the person who murdered JonBenet. In a video in 2016, the current Police Chief Greg Testa said, “Our goal continues to be an arrest and successful prosecution… We have not and will not given up.”
1. Did You Hear That?
Some people report hearing voices in the background at the end of Patsy Ramsey’s 911 call. They think the voices are a male and a female voice saying “we’re not speaking to you,” “help me, Jesus. Help me, Jesus” and “Well, what did you find.” Beckner confirmed in a Reddit AMA that he heard two voices saying these phrases in the audio recording of the 911 call.