JonBenét Patricia Ramsey was a six-year-old girl from Boulder, Colorado who was notoriously murdered in her home sometime between the night and morning of December 25-26th in 1996. The case was intensely followed by media due to the suspicious nature and bizarre circumstances surrounding her murder and the subsequent investigation. The following are 48 facts about the Ramsey family, JonBenét’s life, her death, and the overall case surrounding one of the most tragic and disturbing unsolved cases ever to take place in the United States.
1. JonBenét’s first name is what is know as a “portmanteau” given that her name is a combination of her father’s first and middle name, creating a completely new name.
2. JonBenét was a decorated beauty pageant contestant winning titles such as Little Miss Colorado, Little Miss Charlevoix, Colorado State All-Star Kids Cover Girl, America’s Royale Miss, and National Tiny Miss Beauty.
3. Investigators found 38 registered sex offenders within a 1.8 mile radius of the Ramsey’s Boulder, Colorado home.
4. Jon Bennett Ramsey, JonBenét’s father, was the President and Chief Executive Officer of Access Graphics, a computer services company. In 1996, the same year as JonBenét’s murder, Access Graphics grossed over $1 billion, and he was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Boulder Chamber of Commerce.
5. Although JonBenét’s half brother from her father’s first marriage spent half of Christmas day with the Ramseys, her parents Patsy and John and 9-year-old brother Burke are the only people known to have been in the family home the night of her murder.
6. At 5:52 AM on the morning of December 26th, 1996, Patsy called 911 to report her daughter was missing after finding a two page ransom note on the back staircase of the family house, allegedly to be from someone who had kidnapped JonBenét in the middle of the night.
7. There was a phone call prior to Patsy’s from the Ramsey household to 911, but whoever made that phone call immediately hung up.
8. The ransom note is a point of suspicion for many people, given that it was proven to have been written in the Ramsey household, a “practice” ransom letter was found, and several handwriting analysis experts have determined it was very probable that Patsy herself wrote the letter.
9. The letter reads as follows:
Listen carefully! We are a group of individuals that represent a small foreign faction. We do respect your bussiness [sic] but not the country that it serves. At this time we have your daughter in our posession [sic]. She is safe and unharmed and if you want her to see 1997, you must follow our instructions to the letter.
You will withdraw $118,000.00 from your account. $100,000 will be in $100 bills and the remaining $18,000 in $20 bills. Make sure that you bring an adequate size attache to the bank. When you get home you will put the money in a brown paper bag. I will call you between 8 and 10 am tomorrow to instruct you on delivery. The delivery will be exhausting so I advise you to be rested. If we monitor you getting the money early, we might call you early to arrange an earlier delivery of the money and hence a [sic] earlier delivery pick-up of your daughter.
Any deviation of my instructions will result in the immediate execution of your daughter. You will also be denied her remains for proper burial. The two gentlemen watching over your daughter do not particularly like you so I advise you not to provoke them. Speaking to anyone about your situation, such as Police, F.B.I., etc., will result in your daughter being beheaded. If we catch you talking to a stray dog, she dies. If you alert bank authorities, she dies. If the money is in any way marked or tampered with, she dies. You will be scanned for electronic devices and if any are found, she dies. You can try to deceive us but be warned that we are familiar with law enforcement countermeasures and tactics. You stand a 99% chance of killing your daughter if you try to out smart [sic] us. Follow our instructions and you stand a 100% chance of getting her back.
You and your family are under constant scrutiny as well as the authorities. Don’t try to grow a brain John. You are not the only fat cat around so don’t think that killing will be difficult. Don’t underestimate us John. Use that good southern common sense of yours. It is up to you now John!
10. Another point of suspicion in regards to the ransom letter is the specificity of the amount of money. It was almost the exact amount of what John Ramsey’s Christmas bonus had been that year.
11. Despite being instructed not to contact anyone in the ransom letter, Patsy called the authorities as well and friends and family to alert them to her daughter’s disappearance.
12. When police entered the house they did a cursory search, but after failing to find any sign of a break in, struggle, or forced entry, only sectioned of JonBenét’s room and treated the scene as a kidnapping.
13. Because the murder took place during Christmas, there were fewer police available to take statements from the Ramsey family and to secure the house. This lead to JonBenét’s room not being properly sectioned off, friends and family coming and going from the house contaminating the scene, and other missteps that basically made any DNA evidence unusable.
14. During a 2015 Reddit AMA, former Police Chief Mark Beckner said, “As for the police department in general, I wish we would have done a much better job of securing and controlling the crime scene on day one…We also should have separated John and Patsy and gotten full statements from them that day.”
15. At 1 PM Boulder Police Detective Linda Arndt suggested that John Ramsey and his friend Fleet White search through the house to see if they could spot if “anything seemed amiss.” While looking through the basement, the two men discovered the body of JonBenét.
15. JonBenét was bound by her wrists and ankles with a nylon cord, had duct tape over her mouth, and was covered in a white blanket. John Ramsey immediately carried her upstairs and Detective Arndt moved her into the living room.
16. Patsy claimed the clothes JonBenét was found in (white t-shirt and leggings) were not what she had put her daughter to bed wearing the night before.
18. The autopsy report showed that JoneBenét had been killed by strangulation (likely with the nylon cord wrapped around her neck) and also had a skull fracture. Her vaginal area had been wiped down, but there wasn’t any physical evidence of “conventional rape.” There was some sort of undigested fruit, thought to potentially be pineapple, in her stomach that had been consumed just a few hours before she died.
19. In photographs taken of the Ramsey household, there was a bowl of pineapple with a spoon on the kitchen table. The bowl and the spoon were covered in 9-year-old Burke’s fingerprints. Both John and Patsy said they had no memory of putting pineapple out for either of their children, and adamantly maintained that Burke had been asleep the entire night and woke up several hours after they called the police to report JonBenét missing.
20. After calling 911, Patsy thought she had hung up the phone but it was actually still on the line for a few seconds and voices were audible.
21. On the 911 call voices can be heard in the background during those seconds when the phone was not actually hung up. Some speculate that they can hear Patsy saying, “Help me Jesus,” or “What did you do?” and man, maybe John Ramsey, saying, “We’re not speaking to you.”
22. Kimberly Archuleta, the 911 dispatcher who took Patsy Ramsey’s call, was not questioned by the police.
23. Burke Ramsey, when questioned by the police about what happened to JonBenét, maintained (both as a child and to this day) that he was in bed when the 911 call was made.
25. A window in the basement was found to be broken, however it didn’t seem likely to be an actual, feasible point of entry for a break in. The window remained quite dirty (an intruder would have likely wiped most of the debris away while sliding through), it wasn’t actually found to be open at the time of investigation (reports vary on this), and a spider web in the corner was completely undisturbed.
26. It was however reported that there were “two sets of unidentifiable footprints” and a “palm print on the cellar door” in the basement where JonBenét’s body was found.
27. In 1999 there was an indictment against the Ramseys for two counts of child neglect that resulted in the death of JonBenét. However, District Attorney Alex Hunter refused to sign off on the documents stating lack of evidence, and therefore they were never actually indicted and/or prosecuted.
28. There was (and continues to be) wild speculation that JonBenét had been sexually abused/assaulted, both during her life and during her murder. When she was around 3 years old she was brought to the doctor for vaginal irritation, but her parents and the doctor stated that was simply from an allergic reaction to bubble bath. JonBenét was also a known bedwetter, which can be a sign of trauma and abuse in children. Lastly, although no seminal fluid was found there did appear to be vaginal trauma on her body during the autopsy. All of this has lead to the speculation that there was a sexual component to the crime.
29. In 2003 investigators found DNA evidence from a droplet of blood that was found in/on JonBenét’s underwear. The DNA was from an unknown male, not related to the Ramseys. While the DNA has been put into the FBI database so far it has lead to no new leads and no new developments.
30. One of the popular suspects was the “Santa Claus” suspect. A man named Bill McReynolds, who played Santa Claus along with his wife, Janet, who played Mrs. Claus, was at the Ramsey home just two days before JonBenét’s death. McReynolds described feeling very close to JonBenét and allegedly gave her a card that said, “You will receive a special gift after Christmas.” Mrs. McReynolds also wrote a play about a child who is murdered and their body is discovered in a basement. But despite these coincidences, as chilling as they may be, no other evidence was found to tie McReynolds to the case. McReynolds died at age 72 of a heart attack in 2002.
31. Lou Smit, a detective who came out of retirement to assist the District Attorney’s office with the case in early 1997, has stated that one of his main suspects is Gary Oliva. Oliva, a registered sex offender, was found with a photo of JonBenét in his backpack when he was arrested on drug charges in 2000. Oliva said of the photograph, “I feel she was an exceptional girl whose death was an exceptional loss. I felt the need to build a monument, a shrine, to remember this little girl.”
32. Michael Vail, a friend of Oliva’s, came forward to In Touch magazine with the information that just a day after the 1996 murder Oliva called him in distress saying, “I hurt a little girl, I hurt a little girl.” However, the DNA evidence was not a match to Oliva’s.
33. In 2006 at the age of 49, Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer. She was buried at St. James Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia, next to JonBenét.
34. 10 years after the murder, John Mark Karr confessed via email to murdering JonBenét to a journalism professor named Michael Tracey. Tracey had been emailing with Karr for over 4 years in order to gain his trust.
35. In the emails sent to Tracey, Karr used vernacular similar to that which was used in the ransom note left at the Ramsey house. He also called Patsy by a nickname, “Neddie”, that it was strange he would even have knowledge of. Eventually, Karr confessed to being in love with JonBenét and that on that night in December, he hit her over the head with a flashlight.
36. In a conversation with Tracey about the murder Karr said,
“I guess I might have just kind of had like a nervous breakdown at that point, I think I must have. I think I must have had really something kind of clicked in my head and I kind of lost it, really lost it. I mean, I just started really feeling strange and I just kept looking up at her.
And then all of sudden it was like now she was dead and she once was this little girl, but now she was like a holy deity; she was just like a goddess at that point.
She was beyond a child; she was just like when Jesus died on the cross… and when Jesus died on the cross he transcended from being a man to being something immortal, and that’s what she became to me.
I don’t give damn if anyone understand it or not….
I just looked up at her I though I just want to worship her…she’s my goddess…”
37. On August 16, 2008, with the assistance of British Intelligence and the Royal Thai Authorities, the US Department of Homeland Security was able to locate Karr in Bangkok where he had traveled to avoid child pornography charges from the state of California.
38. A few months after Karr’s confession, Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy issued a formal apology to John Ramsey and his family saying, “No one in the Ramsey family is considered a suspect.”
39. Despite his confession, Karr’s DNA did not match the DNA found at the scene of the crime, and he was never charged.
40. Furthermore, Former Police Chief Mark Beckner said of Karr and Mary Lacy, “My gut reaction was that Mary Lacy did not know the facts of the case and was making a big mistake. His confession, once they shared it with us, did not match the evidence at the scene. After she asked for our help in proving he did it, we knew in about 18 hours he was not the guy. We were able to confirm he was not even in Colorado at the time by just doing some routine checking and then obtained photos of him in Georgia at the time.”
41. In the CBS documentary special The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, DNA specialist Dr. Henry Lee revisited the DNA found on JonBenét’s underwear. Lee concluded that it was highly possible that the DNA found was transfer DNA from the manufacturer, and proved this by testing an unopened bag of underwear that ended up also containing trace DNA. This meant that the DNA evidence wasn’t conclusive, and any prior suspects could in fact be JonBenét’s killer despite previously being ruled out when they were not a DNA match.
42. A popular theory is that Patsy Ramsey, known to be a strict mother, accidentally killed JonBenét while reprimanding her for wetting the bed. This, coupled with the fact that several experts say that the ransom note was written by a woman, lead people to assume Patsy’s guilt.
43. Another theory, greatly reinforced by the CBS special, says that Burke Ramsey killed JonBenét for eating some of his pineapple, and that Patsy and John worked together to stage the kidnapping/murder scene to keep their son out of trouble. Burke was known to show hostility towards his sister (housekeepers reported that he defecated in her bed and rubbed feces on her Christmas presents and bedroom walls), so this with the pineapple bowl being covered in his fingerprints, JonBenét having undigested pineapple in her system, and his bizarre testimonials where he is seen smiling and seems like he’s reciting a script lead people to the conclusion that Burke killed his little sister in 1996. In December 2016 following the special, Burke filed a lawsuit against CBS for $750 million, alleging defamation.
44. On top of his confession to Michael Tracey, John Mark Karr has maintained that while he was present when JonBenét died, he did not act alone and wasn’t solely responsible for her murder. Karr claims that he knows who this killer is, but that he staged the crime scene in order to throw the police off the trail. This “real killer” has never been identifed by Karr or anyone else.
45. A particularly bizarre internet conspiracy theory is that the popstar Katy Perry is actually JonBenét Ramsey. Stemming from a 2014 YouTube video (now removed), the theory states that the similarities in their facial structure proves Perry is actually JonBenét and claims that the Ramseys staged the murder and cover up so that JonBenét/Katy could become famous.
46. A man named Michael Helgoth worked near the Ramsey home and allegedly told a friend on the night of the murder that he would be making “between $50,000 and $80,000 that night.” Helgoth had a history of sexual abuse and violence, but two days after the DA announced they had narrowed down a list of suspects, Helgoth committed suicide.
47. In December of 2016 authorities in Colorado revealed they would be using new DNA technology on the evidence found in the JonBenét Ramsey case. However, they cautioned that this would likely not reveal anything new and that in order to make a strong case, “new results [would only be significant] if they can be matched with other evidence authorities already have.”
48. Current Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett claims he’s very certain he knows who killed JonBenét and that, “If we can ever file a case in open court, I’ll tell the world.”