Who Killed Jon Benet Ramsey? Essay, Research Paper
WHO KILLED JON BENET RAMSEY?
The brutal murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey on Christmas night in 1996 shocked America to its core. Just as the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and murder seven decades earlier had seared the nation?s consciousness, this murder ? of a beautiful and talented child in a wealthy Boulder, Colorado home –renewed every parent?s worst nightmare. It has been nearly three years since this violent crime occurred and no one has been brought to justice.
At 6:48 p.m., Dec. 23, 1996, a 911 call was placed from the Ramsey home to the Boulder Police Department. The call was terminated before a police dispatcher could speak to the caller. Six minutes later the police called the Ramsey home, but got a voice-mail message, so a police officer was dispatched to the house. No police report was filed, so one must presume the officer was told that the call was in error, and was satisfied with the explanation. At the time of that call, the Ramsey?s were having their annual Christmas party, complete with a Santa who passed out presents to neighborhood children. With so many people in attendance, anyone could have inadvertently dialed 911 ? but in retrospect, self-styled experts on the case conclude too easily that JonBenet made the call.
Two days later, all four Ramseys went to the home of Fleet White, Jr., and Priscilla White for Christmas dinner. Ramsey and White, a retired oil executive, were best friends. The White?s 6-year-old daughter was JonBenet?s best friend. Both families were prominent in Boulder.
At the time of that Christmas dinner, things were beginning to look up for the Ramseys. For all their wealth, they?d had their share of misfortune. Patsy had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1994, and for a time had been bald because of chemotherapy. In January 1992, John Ramsey?s daughter, Elizabeth Ramsey (from a previous marriage) was killed in a car wreck. So, as the Ramseys sat down to dinner at Fleet White?s house on Christmas, they were privileged in many ways, but had also known their share of adversity. The Ramseys arrived home about 10 o? clock that night and her father put JonBenet to bed.
Shortly after 5:45 am on the morning of December 26, 1996, Patsy phoned the Boulder police in a panic about a ransom note she says she found on a staircase leading to the kitchen. The note demanded $118,000 for the return of JonBenet. Police arrived at the Ramsey home to monitor incoming phone calls. A cursory search of the house was made, including the basement. One small storeroom in the basement was skipped when John Ramsey reportedly said it had been painted shut.
The police left a few hours later to obtain a warrant to search the house for evidence of a break-in. When they returned, they were surprised to find what appeared to be a young child lying under the Christmas tree. It was JonBenet. She appeared to be dead, and appeared to have been dead for a period of time.
John Ramsey told Detective Arndt that he had found JonBenet in the wine cellar in the basement, underneath a blanket, with a piece of tape covering her mouth. John Ramsey had removed the tape from her mouth before he carried JonBenet upstairs to the first floor. There appeared to be a piece of cord loosely tied around JonBenet?s right wrist. There were bloodstains in the crotch of her panties, but not on her skin. In addition, there were dark fibers on her skin, in the vaginal area, that caused police to believe her body had been wiped down with a cloth. Apparently, during the police’s absence John Ramsey and a family friend searched the house themselves.
Fingers of suspicion were pointed quickly in the direction of John Ramsey. The foregoing search warrant affidavit was filed the same day JonBenet?s body was found, and the resulting search warrant was the instrument by which her body was removed from the house (normally a body would be removed with consent). In addition to the body, the police wanted to search for fibers and any other evidence that might lead to solving the crime.
Historically, when a murder occurs in the home ? absent clear evidence of an intruder ? the police focus on the family members. The police began to suspect that someone in the house was the author of the ransom note. That suspicion was quickly bolstered when police discovered a note pad in the Ramsey house that not only was the source of the ransom note, but contained a “practice note” similar to the one given police by Patsy Ramsey.
JonBenet?s murder ? particularly as the days went by and no arrests were forthcoming — quickly became a national obsession, featured day after day on network news, television tabloid programs, talk radio, newspapers and magazines. Her image flitted across television screens innumerable times, often showing her in a glittering cowgirl outfit, singing “I want to be a cowboy sweetheart,” or dancing across the stage in a Las Vegas showgirl outfit, complete with heavy makeup. Her unusual first name became so well known that like Cher and Madonna she no
longer had need of a last name.
The public?s shock at the murder soon began to share equal time with its growing dismay at the Boulder police?s investigation, a dismay fed by a steady stream of leaks from the Boulder County prosecutor?s office about the inept police investigation being conducted. For one thing it became known that the police had badly botched the initial investigation by failing to seal off the crime scene. For another it appeared the police were treating the primary suspects ? JonBenet?s parents ? with kid gloves by not only acquiescing to their refusal to be interviewed at police headquarters, but also to being interviewed separately.
Fueled with such information, the media, especially the tabloid television and talk radio shows were showing no such restraint toward the glamorous child?s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey. Some in the media began to point the finger directly at her father, while others implied it was her mother. Some speculated the crime had to have been committed by both parents. JonBenet’s father, John Ramsey, tried to dispel the rumors that he was involved when he said, “Let me address this very directly: I didn’t kill my daughter JonBenet.”
In addition, initial press reports dwelt on JonBenet’s career on the beauty-pageant circuit. As a contestant, the Boulder, Colorado, child dressed as an adult (wearing lipstick and high heels) and
performed suggestive dances. JonBenet’s 40-year-old mother, Patricia (Patsy) Ramsey, a former Miss America contestant, considered her young daughter her confidante and bestfriend. Patsy had undergone chemotherapy, and various press accounts accuse her of fulfilling her own beauty-pageant fantasies through JonBenet.
The Ramseys hired criminal-defense lawyers to represent them four days after the murder, even though they had not been named as suspects. These lawyers advised them not to submit to
formal, videotaped police interviews until the police agreed to show the Ramseys copies of the statement they had made to police the day of the murder. The police agreed to the terms, and the couple was interviewed on May 1, 1997. There was an hour-long break between John’s and Patsy’s interviews, which caused the press to believe that may have given them time to coordinate their stories.
Critics claimed the district attorney’s office has bungled the case because it has little experience with homicides: JonBenet was the college town’s only murder victim in 1996. They said that the police mishandled the crime scene, by allowing John Ramsey to search the house, and point out that the police allowed the couple to leave town for several weeks prior to questioning them. This absence, some speculated, gave the Ramseys time to work out a story to explain their innocence.
During a press conference, the Boulder district attorney called JonBenet’s parents “the focus” of his murder investigation. Police found no evidence of forced entry into the house; nor was the new-fallen snow outside the home disturbed by footprints. The only people known to have been inside the house at the time of the murder were JonBenet’s parents and her 9-year-old brother.
The District Attorney also pointed out that the police also withheld important pieces of evidence from public view, claiming that full disclosure would jeopardize their investigation. The complete autopsy report remained sealed, and the results of DNA tests performed on JonBenet’s bloodstained nightgown, her hair, and the blood found underneath her fingernails also remained confidential. In addition, he had established a task force that included two veterans of the O.J. Simpson defense: law professor Barry Scheck and forensic expert Henry Lee. The prosecutor said the victim’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, described as “a target” of the grand jury probe, “have not been eliminated from the investigation.”
Investigators called the ransom note a fake, citing its “intentional” misspellings. After searching the Ramsey home, police found a legal pad on which they believe the note was written. They also found a rough draft of the note on the same pad. Details within the not indicated an intimate knowledge of the Ramsey family. The amount demanded matched John Ramsey’s 1996 bonus. In addition, the note ended with “Victory SBTC, ” which police said referred to the Subic Bay Training Center, the defunct U.S. Navy base in the Philippines where John Ramsey was stationed in the 1960s.
Police took five handwriting samples from Patsy Ramsey and compared them against the 2?-page ransom note, the complete contents of which were not made public. Police said Patsy’s handwriting samples were inconclusive because her manual dexterity had been hampered by sedatives she had taken since JonBenet’s death. They said that John Ramsey’s samples did not match the ransom note.
What motive would the Ramseys have to kill their daughter? The supermarket tabloids ran riot with speculation, but family friends called the Ramseys gentle and devoted parents. The Ramseys themselves theorized in an interview that one of John’s disgruntled employees might have killed JonBenet. In an ad the Ramseys published in the Boulder Sunday Camera, they
accused a convicted child molester of the crime. Police acknowledged that at least 15 people (caterers, housekeepers, and contractors) had keys to the house.
The next question to be answered is, if the Ramseys didn’t do it, then who did? There are two main theories. The first is that an unknown assailant, who entered the house presumably via the basement window, murdered JonBenet. If this theory is correct then the killer would have to be someone who: -
· was familiar with the layout of the house.
· knew the Ramseys personally enough to know that John Ramsey received a bonus of $118,000.
· was small enough to have gained entry via a narrow basement window and possibly exited the same way.
· was confident enough to spend the time to, not only commit the offence, but also had the presence of mind to write a long note in an attempt to draw suspicion away from them.
The other theory is one posed by former FBI agent and expert criminal profiler, Robert Ressler. John and Patsy Ramsey agree with Ressler. His theory states:
· JonBenet knew her killer
· That the killer could have come from a small circle of friends around the Ramsey home in Boulder
· That the circle would include family, neighbors, and employees of the Ramseys.
On October 13, 1999, District Attorney Alex Hunter called a press conference to announce that a grand jury that had been assembled thirteen months previously to hear the evidence of the case, had found that there was insufficient evidence to charge any suspect with the murder of JonBenet. The grand jury was shown 30,000 pieces of evidence and heard testimony from dozens of witnesses, with forensic experts and Ramsey family friends believed to be among them. Apart from John and Patsy Ramsey, the police have never publicly named any additional suspects in the case.
Where does all of this leave a JonBenet? Will her killer ever be brought to justice? As reporters, former police officers, and John and Patsy Ramsey continue to make money by selling their stories to publishing agencies, a murderer is on the loose. A little girl?s life was taken away and no one has taken responsibility for it.
As things stand, it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever be charged or prosecuted for the murder of JonBenet Ramsey – unless someone were to come forward and confess. It is my guess that no such killer will ever be caught, and that we will never know any more about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey than we know right now. Ironically, Patsy Ramsey said it best in an interview with Dateline in July of 1998. “I don’t know what happened,” says Patsy Ramsey. “God knows, and He’s not telling.”
Date: 12 December 1996
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Date: 11 May 2000
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Date: 14 June 2000
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Date: 9 July 1998
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Date: 13 January 1997
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Date: 1 March 1997
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Date: 21 January 1999
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