But while Marilyn’s tragic life ended at 36, JonBenet Ramsey never even saw her 7th birthday. And no one calls her death a suicide.
Early on the morning of December 26th, 1996 Patsy Ramsey says she descended the staircase of her Boulder, Colorado home and found a ransom note, demanding precisely $118,000 for the return of her daughter. A check of her daughter’s bedroom, and yes, the girl had vanished.
Authorities were called to the scene. For hours there was little they could do except ask questions, comfort the Ramseys, and gather limited physical evidence. Then, around mid-day, a detective asked John Ramsey to search all levels of his multi-story, seven-thousand square foot home. From a small, remote room in the basement he returned upstairs, carrying the lifeless form of his daughter in his arms.
She had not been kidnapped, but murdered. Later the cause of death would be determined as asphyxiation, combined with blunt trauma to the cranium. Who would do that to a six-year-old child, in her own home, the morning after Christmas?
The answer to that question rocked Boulder, and the United States. Even foreign correspondents flooded into the country.
The Ramsey family felt not only stunned by grief, but also felt themselves the uncomfortable focus of police questioning. They lawyered up, quickly, with high-powered legal talent. Against law enforcement advice and wishes, they left town to bury JonBenet in Georgia.
Even befoe they left, their lawyers made it clear the Ramseys were only available for police questions submitted to them in writing. Law enforcement professionals were astonished at the firewall the Ramsey’s were able to build around themselves, with a murder under their roof, when they were the last to see JonBenet before the crime.
Their lawyers even asked for, and sometimes received, notes on the details of the investigation, from a friendly District Attorney’s Office.
Numerous possible suspects, many supplied by the Ramseys, were investigated through thousands of hours of police time. An elderly man recovering from surgery, Bill McReynolds, came to feel as persecuted as a witch at an inquisition, because he had dazzled children including JonBenet with his portrayals of Santa Claus. But all leads came up empty—neither McReynolds or anyone else in the police line of sight could have committed the crime. But hundreds were aware of the Ramseys, who threw large parties, and the little girl–the potential suspect list would thus be huge.
No one has ever been indicted for JonBenet’s murder, and at this late date no one is likely to. Some investigators believe that a violent pedophile, an intruder that night years ago, is out there still. Others in law enforcement, the majority, think the Ramseys got away with murder. Murder in a figurative sense, for walling themselves off from a legitimate investigation, and perhaps in the literal sense as well. After ten years of grief and miserable fame, Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer in 2006. John lives on, perennially and indignantly proclaiming the innocence of his family and the incompetence of Boulder police in not finding the real killer.
JonBenet’s older brother, Burke, is an adult now. At the time of the tragedy his parents asserted he slept through all events and knew nothing of interest. But did he really? Although we find it garbled and inconclusive, some analyses of the 911 call–morning of the 26th of December–think his voice is heard in the background, that in fact he’d been awake. And both he and his sister had received care from child psychologists for behaviors, such as bed wetting and soiling, that raise the red flags of dysfunctional family life. We will probably never know what if anything Burke knows, any more than the secrets that Patsy Ramsey took to her grave.
Nonetheless, the JonBenét Ramsey murder haunts us, and like a prism reveals the colors of a dozen intriguing questions, each of which splits off into the shades of a dozen more. MindOverMystery explores this story, the most tragic of stories.
We open the File.. Whatever happened to JonBenet Ramsey?