The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey
September 30, 2016
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Almost 20 years ago, famed 6 year old beauty pageant star JonBenét Ramsey’s body was found in the basement of her family home on December 26th 1996, hours after the girl’s mother called 911 to report that her daughter had gone missing. A ransom note was left demanding money, and inside the house her body was discovered. An autopsy determined that she had died of asphyxiation caused by strangulation, and her death was ruled a homicide.
In 1999, a grand jury in the case voted to indict the girls’ parents, John and Patsy, on charges of child abuse resulting in death and being accessories to a crime. However, the district attorney claimed lack of evidence to charge the parents for the murder of JonBenét.
Then, in 2008, a newly appointed district attorney said that new DNA evidence cleared the parents and their son, Burke, in the death. This news came too late for Patsy, however, as she passed away from ovarian cancer two years prior.
The family has always held their innocence, claiming that an intruder kidnapped their daughter, left the note, and then killed her in the basement. There is also a belief that this intruder was obsessed with child beauty-pageant winners, and sexually assaulted the girl as well, since the DNA found in her underwear didn’t match with any family members.
Legally to this day, the case is still cold. There have been no arrests made or any suspects being interviewed. But recently, a team of investigators assembled for the two-part documentary on CBS, “The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey.” This team includes New Haven’s famed criminalist Dr. Henry Lee, who’s previous forensic work includes the JFK assassination and the O.J. Simpson trial. With retired FBI profiler Jim Clemente and criminal behavioral analyst Laura Richards at the helm, the team re-examined evidence from the nearly two-decade-old case that seemed to indicate JonBenét was killed by someone in her immediate family.
When asked by The Hartford Courant why he believes there’s so much attention to this case, Dr. Lee explained, “JonBenét at that time was not yet 7 years old, a beautiful young girl with a lot of future. Somehow that night, something happened. You have a so-called kidnapping note left on the staircase. That three-page note doesn’t really make any sense. In my career I have investigated hundreds of kidnapping cases and read a lot of kidnapping notes I never had one that was three pages, with so much detail. Also, the investigator found two pages of a practice note in the garbage can. And even later, they traced the paper to a pad in the house and to a Magic Marker located in the house. So that made kidnapping sort of a stretch. Then another theory says JonBenét Ramsey was killed by a sex offender. There is no indication of a sexual assault, being that there’s no semen evidence. That makes that theory inconsistent. And no one knows whether it was family, friends or relative. Each type of theory has some issues and conflicts. So that’s why, after 20 years, there is still has a lot of public interest. They’re basically interested in what happened with that little girl.”
So what conclusion did this team of investigators come to? Apart from any other theory, it was an accidental death caused by her older 9 year old brother, Burke, when he hit her on the head with a large flashlight after she stole a piece of pineapple from him. This incident caused her initial brain death, followed by the parents tying JonBenét up and strangling her before wrapping her body in sheets, and putting her in the basement. They then followed that with the 911 call, and writing the ransom letter, all to protect their son.
“I think in the end this was about two parents (who) deeply cared for the daughter they lost,” FBI profiler Clemente said, “and wanted to protect the child they had remaining.” Both Burke, now 29, and his father, John, have still adamantly denied any wrongdoing or involvement in causing JonBenét’s death.
In a recent Dr. Phil interview, Burke claims he stayed in his room because he likes to avoid conflict and is “not the worried type” during the alleged kidnapping and homicide. He also said the handwriting on the ransom note was “too sloppy” to be his mother’s, who pushed him to take pride in his penmanship. He then told Dr. Phil that it was “probably some pedophile” from a beauty pageant who killed his sister, not him or his parents.
However, forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz, from the panel on the CBS special said, “If you really, really use your free time to think about this case, you cannot come to a different conclusion. It’s the boy who did it.”
That conclusion didn’t stop Burke from now hiring a lawyer to sue CBS over the special, accusing the network of alleged “lies, misrepresentations, distortions, and omissions” in the series, as a “false and unprofessional television attack” for “its desire to match or surpass the ratings and profits achieved by other networks in recent true crime series.” CBS then said in a statement that they “stand by the broadcast and will do so in court.”
Since they’re acting as private citizens, The Case Of’s experts don’t have the authority to take their case any further; it will be up to law enforcement to determine the reliability of their hypotheses, and to pursue any legal action to follow.