JonBenét: An American Obsession Intro
Reexamining the murder that has captivated the nation for three decades
It was a murder that defied belief.
On Boxing Day, 1996, in a sprawling home in a quaint corner of Boulder Colorado, the details of a child gruesomely murdered in the basement of her own home would come to light in the early hours of December 26th.
Her death would rattle the nation and send shockwaves through the tight-knit community where John Ramsey, a successful businessman, and his wife Patsy, a devoted homemaker, had established themselves as enviable figures in town. They were members of a popular church, owned a lavish home in a highly desirable area with a thriving (nearly billion-dollar) business, and two beautiful children they boasted about in annual Christmas card ‘brag letters’ sent to highlight the achievements of their nine-year-old son Burke, an avid sailer and enthused cub scout, and JonBenét, his angelic six-year-old sister who had made a name for herself as a photogenic and charismatic staple on the beauty pageant circuit in Colorado.
From a local's perspective, the Ramseys were a picture-perfect family defined by affluence and success, admired for their wealth, status, and philanthropy.
But beneath the veneer lurked dark secrets and hidden traumas.
As the investigation waged on, theories continued to abound, and accusations continued to shift, turning the sleepy town of Boulder into a full blown media circus, and thrusting the Ramseys into the national spotlight as the main suspects in their daughter’s homicide.
JonBenet's murder shattered the illusion of their idyllic existence when suspicion of their involvement cast a pall over their lives and reputations; their every move was scrutinized and analyzed by the media and public (equally transfixed by this small-town horror.) And as more shocking details emerged, it triggered frenzied speculation about what really happened that fateful night. From the bizarre ransom note left at the scene, to the suspicious behavior of the Ramseys in the days and months following the murder, the case - from the start - was riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions that fueled endless speculation and obsessive conjecture.
Despite the best efforts of the investigators involved, the truth behind JonBenét's murder (the most profitable murder story in American history) has remained elusive, sparking endless investigations, documentaries, and books seeking to unravel the mystery behind this obsession in the American psyche.
Three decades later, the case continues to be pitched as an unsolved murder with countless theories and suspects still floated in the public consciousness. From the Ramseys to a mysterious intruder, the list of potential culprits has become an obsessive debate, even though ample evidence points in one direction.
Over the past two months, I've been talking to a woman who wants to end conflicting theories and confusion. This person - who has dedicated tireless efforts to breaking down the evidence alongside an online true-crime group - will remain anonymous in reference, but comes armed with knowledge gleaned from several vital sources attached to the case: behavioral specialists, close friends of the Ramseys, and lead investigators (to name a few.)
In a series of phone calls, over many hours these past few weeks, she has broken down the case for me compellingly and convincingly.
Now, with her help, I am going to do it here for you.
Most portions will be free, but some for paid subscribers.
“Children are murdered every day,” says Harold Schechter, a true-crime author. “It’s the story, the characters, the setting. The JonBenet case has a lot of the elements of the closed-room mystery: Everybody’s home, no apparent break-in. In general, true crime speaks to these very dark places in our heads that none of us would consciously admit to.”
“This case keeps on coming back,” says Lawrence Schiller, author of “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncensored Story of the JonBenet Murder and the Grand Jury’s Search for the Final Truth.”
“It’s like going to the beach. The tide goes out and it goes back in and the police are hoping the next time it comes in, they may catch who did it.”
“There's one clear reason why the case has remained such an object of fascination: Nobody has ever been convicted of murdering Ramsey. But there are many unsolved crimes in the world, and usually, when it becomes clear that a resolution is not forthcoming, public interest peters out rather than increases. Clearly, something in the JonBenét case strikes deep within human psychology. But why is that?” - JR Thorpe
The story — because it is dense with so many angles to examine — will be broken down into a short series to recap major aspects of the case and provide background to aid and explain some of the theories presented.
At the end of this series, I will be sharing an interview (podcast) with this person to succinctly break down the inconsistencies, misconceptions, overlooked facts, and damming evidence she believes has essentially solved the case.
This series will conclude with a redirect to her site where readers can submit questions she will answer with recorded audio responses.
Her intentions are simply to bring mass awareness to what she believes is obvious - but continually overlooked because of layered corruption and media profit.
Points the series will address :
Patsy Ramsey’s pageantry obsession
A brief dive into the family’s backstory and dynamics
Convenient community connections
The enhanced 911 call
The 48 hours following her death
The Ramsey’s resistance with local law enforcement
Burke’s hidden history of violent outbursts
How the murder affected close friends of the family
False accusations & damaged reputations
Sealed psychological records
Red flags in the ransom note
Issues with the ‘intruder theory’
The suitcase in the basement
Details of the murder scene + a weapon “designed for a small hand”
Theories of abuse
Forensic evidence / coroner findings
Inconsistent and changing stories about the hours leading up to JB’s murder
Hired PR and staged photos of the family after the murder
Corrupt DA antics
Indictments overlooked / overruled
Media profit as motivating factor in the case remaining “unsolved”
I AM SO INVESTED IN THIS! So glad you’re exploring it and unpacking it for us! Can’t wait to read.
Ok I’m literally parked one block away from JonBenet’s house as I read this. As a native of the area, and a student at the University in Boulder at the time that this happened (and still live nearby), this story has never been far from my mind.