Almost twenty-five years later, the case of JonBenét Ramsey still remains unsolved, though it has not been forgotten.
JonBenét Patricia Ramsey was an American child beauty queen, born on August 6th, 1990. She was murdered at the age of six on December 25 in her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado.
The police were called to the home initially for a kidnapping, as the family had woken up to find that their daughter was not in her bed. After police arrived, JonBenét’s father, John Ramsey, found her body in the basement of the home just seven hours after they reported her missing.
JonBenét had sustained a broken skull from a blow to the head, and had been strangled with a rope and homemade garrote. The autopsy report stated that her official cause of death was “asphyxia by strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma.” Her death was ruled a homicide.
The murder generated nationwide public and media interest, especially because JonBenét’s mother, Patsy Ramsey (a former beauty queen), had entered her daughter in several child beauty pageants.
The crime remains an open investigation with the Boulder Police Department, and is still unsolved to this day.
After the death of Lou Smit, a former police detective who dedicated his life to solving JonBenét Ramsey’s murder and proving her family’s innocence, his granddaughters Lexi Marra and Jessa Van Der Woerd are carrying on his legacy.
“First and foremost, we wanted to continue our grandpa’s legacy,” Lexi said about their efforts to crack the case. “That was one thing he asked for before he died. He wants the case to remain alive.”
“In order to put this case to rest, it’s finding out who did it and also putting all of the misconceptions and myths about the case to rest,” Jessa added.
While no real progress has been made yet, they are keeping the case alive with their podcast, The Victim’s Shoes, which focuses on JonBenét’s Dec. 25, 1996 murder and the endless speculation and theories surrounding it.
There are several other shows and documentaries that have come out recently, focusing on JonBenét, including a new documentary entitled JonBenét Ramsey: What Really Happened? The documentary is currently streaming on Discovery+ and includes previously unreleased audio from Lou Smit.
ABC’s 20/20 devoted an episode on January 15th, 2021 to the JonBenét Ramsey case as well, and featured Lou Smit’s granddaughters.
Since the beginning, there have been eight suspects in the murder case.
- The ransom note was written on Patsy Ramsey’s stationary, with her pen.
- The rope tied around JonBenét’s neck was tightened using a paintbrush from Patsy’s paint kit as a homemade garrote
Rolling Stone writes: “Though both she and her husband John were formally exonerated in 2008 thanks to developments in DNA technology, many still suspect that the former Miss West Virginia accidentally murdered her six-year-old child in a fit of rage over a bed-wetting accident then covered it up post haste.”
- The first police officer on the scene, Linda Ardndt, sent John Ramsey and his neighbor Fleet White to search the house. Even though he was told to leave any evidence where he found it, he did the opposite. Ramsey went straight into the basement, an area of the home that was unused, found his daughter’s body, picked her up, carried her upstairs, removed a piece of tape from her mouth, put her down, and covered her up with a throw blanket, completely destroying evidence.
- Another detective at the scene claimed to have overheard Ramsey making plans for the family to fly to Atlanta just hours after his daughter was murdered.
- There have been some accusations of sexual abuse, though no evidence has ever been found to substantiate the allegations.
- Werner Spitz, a famous forensic investigator, performed a review of JonBenét’s autopsy, concluding that the “perfectly rectangular defect” likely came from a blow to her head with the blunt, heavy flashlight seen on the kitchen counter in the crime scene photos. Tying this information in with the “pineapple scenario,” the evidence points to Burke Ramsey. The pineapple scenario is a theory people have suggested in which JonBenét took a slice of fruit from her brother’s late-night snack that was sitting on the dining room table, and he struck her with the nearby flashlight in a fit of rage. An undigested piece of pineapple was found in JonBenét’s stomach during the autopsy.
- The marks on JonBenét’s back, which many people including Lou Smit have said came from a stun gun, also match perfectly with the edges of one of Burke’s toy train tracks. Spitz suggests that Burke may have poked his sister with one after hitting her to see if she would wake up.
Gary Oliva, 32, a known sex offender, had been living in the area on and off.
- When he was arrested on drug charges in 2000, a magazine cutout of JonBenét was found in his backpack.
- Oliva’s high school friend, Michael Vail, claimed that not long after JonBenét’s murder, Oliva had called him, distraught, confessing to have “hurt a little girl. I hurt a little girl.”
- Vail also noted that the knots used in making the garrote that strangled JonBenét were similar to the ones Oliva used when he tried to choke his mother with a telephone cord in the past. “My blood ran cold when I read that,” recalled Vail of his troubled childhood friend.
- At the time of his initial arrest, Oliva was in possession of a stun gun.
- Michael Helgoth, a local electrician who worked in a nearby auto salvage yard, had an alleged property dispute with the Ramseys.
- A boot print similar to his was found near the Ramsey’s home.
- Soon after authorities started looking in to the boot print, and two days after the Boulder DA announced they were zeroing in on a new suspect, he committed suicide.
- Out of nowhere in 2006, a former teacher, John Mark Karr, confessed to the strangulation of JonBenét, giving graphic, sexual details.
- The highly disturbed man was then arrested in Thailand where he had been hiding from child pornography charges in the United States.
Rolling Stone reported on the bizarre story, writing:
“The now 51-year-old initially brought himself into the mess by reaching out to a University of Colorado Boulder professor named Michael Tracey over email in regards to a documentary Tracey was making on the case. Once those e-mails took a disturbing turn – revealing the grown man’s sexual fascination with JonBenét – Tracey reported Karr to the police who arrested him in Bangkok as a possible suspect. He was immediately flown to Boulder for questioning, but was ultimately cleared after his DNA failed to match the profile of an unknown male found on the waistband of JonBenét’s long-johns.
However, he was ultimately dismissed as a suspect altogether and written off as a pedophile who was after notoriety and fame. Officials also failed to verify that he was ever in Boulder. According to a 2010 report by the Daily Beast, the one-time suspect is now living a new identity – and a new gender – in the Pacific Northwest.”
Linda-Hoffman-Pugh had been the family’s housekeeper, and her husband Mervin was their handyman. On several occasions, Hoffman-Pugh has accused Patsy Ramsey of her daughter’s murder.
- She had a key to the home.
- Hoffman-Pugh had allegedly asked the family for a loan of several thousand dollars, claiming she was struggling for money. The Ramseys had declined.
- Many have theorized that, because the loan was denied, she lured the little girl into the basement to trick the parents into giving her ransom money.
- The amount of the ransom ($118,000) was the exact amount of John Ramsey’s pay stub for a recent holiday bonus, which she could have seen in her daily housekeeping duties.
The Town “Santa”
Bill McReynolds was a close friend of the Ramsey family who had dressed as Santa Claus at one of Patsy’s famous Christmas parties the week before the murder.
- Many have claimed that McReynolds paid too much attention to JonBenét.
- He arranged a secret visit with her on Christmas, dressed as Santa.
- Supposedly, JonBenét gave him a vial of gold glitter, which he took with him everywhere, even bringing it into heart surgery. He even asked his wife to mix the glitter with his ashes when he dies.
There are still many questions that are unanswered surrounding JonBenét Ramsey’s murder, and many things about the incident just don’t add up. There is not a single suspect that fits all of the evidence, and the key piece of evidence, DNA on the waistband of JonBenét’s long johns, doesn’t match any of the known suspects. Was this just a random stranger that broke in, committed the abhorrent act, then slipped out? Is the DNA completely unrelated to the murder, and one of these suspects is actually guilty? How did JonBenét’s dad know to go straight to the basement, the only unused room in the house, to find his daughter’s body? And why did he mess with the crime scene so badly?
The biggest question is: will this murder ever be solved?