Today we are talking about the infamous case of Jon Benet Ramsey. This is probably one of the most well known cases in true crime. I wasn’t originally going to do this case because it is so well known, but I decided that wasn’t really a reason not to do it. A new documentary was released earlier this year and the family said they want to “keep the case alive.” There’s also a lot of psychology and victimology stuff that we can dive into and I don’t want to assume that everyone knows about what happened – especially since my little sisters listen and as far as I know they don’t know anything about it. Because it is so well known and there’s so much information out there and things we can pick apart, it might end up being a two parter so we aren’t having to cut a bunch of info out. So let’s dive in.
JonBenet Ramsey was born August 6, 1990 in Atlanta, Georgia to parents John and Patricia “Patsy” Ramsey before they relocated to Colorado. John was a multi-millionaire business man and Patsy was a former beauty queen (Miss West Virginia 1977). She also had an older brother named Burke who was 9. She participated in pageants and was very well known in the pageant world. She won multiple titles including Little Miss Colorado, Little Miss Charlevoix, Colorado State All-Star Kids Cover Girl, America’s Royale Miss, and National Tiny Miss Beauty all by the age of 6.
On December 26th, 1996, John and Patsy woke to find JonBenet missing from her bed. They had woken up early to prepare for a trip when Patsy discovered a ransom note demanding $118,000 for her safe return. Pretty specific number, right? Well, this was actually the exact amount of John’s Christmas bonus. Sidenote – I wish lol. The note was a whopping 3 pages long and said to expect a call between 8 and 10 am. The note also warned them against involving police, but they ignored the warning and called police immediately. They also called friends and family, hoping for help locating her. When police arrived at 5:55am, they found no signs of forced entry. It sounds like everyone is taking this seriously from the get go, so that’s a good sign, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. When police showed up, they made some pretty serious mistakes. For one, they cordoned off JonBenet’s room, but other than that people were free to roam the house. Because the Ramsey’s had called friends and family to help in the search for JonBenet, they were all roaming the rest of the house, picking things up, and therefore potentially destroying or at least contaminating evidence. If you’re like me, you’re wondering why they would need people to come over to help look. How hard is it to walk around a house? This is because this house is 7000 square feet. In other words, it’s huge. So it makes a little more sense knowing that.
After a few hours, nothing significant had been found and police began to leave the Ramsey home. By 10 am, all but one detective, Linda Arndt, had left. She had waited with them for the ransom call, but the window of time passed and nothing happened. You’re probably thinking that at this point they would be panicking. But detective Arndt observed that “there was no acknowledgment” from either of JonBenét’s parents that “the deadline imposed by the author of the ransom note [had] come and gone.”
Another mistake made by police was that they shared evidence with the Ramsey’s and were not only delayed in conducting formal interviews with them, but did not interview them separately. 1:00pm rolled around and they still hadn’t heard anything, so detectives instructed John Ramsey and a family friend to go around the house and see if any of JonBenet’s things seemed out of place or to do a top to bottom search, depending on sources. I’m not sure if at this point it was still just Detective Arndt, or if other detectives had returned after the ransom call didn’t come. I also feel like they waited a long time to do that and if friends and family were looking around, like I mentioned before, simply looking for things out of place wouldn’t be very reliable as everyone was touching things.
John and the family friend headed down to the basement to look around and went into the spare room down there. This spare room also happened to be where all the Christmas gifts were being kept. When he opened the door, he saw JonBenet’s body. It looked like she had been strangled, her mouth and neck were covered in duct tape, and her hands were tied together with a cord. There were also signs of possible sexual assault. He picked up her body and brought her upstairs. This is what John Ramsey later said about finding his daughter’s body, “I knew instantly what I found. I found my daughter. She was lying on a white blanket. The blanket was wrapped around her. Her hands were tied above her head. She had tape over her mouth. … I immediately knelt down over her, felt her cheek, took the tape off immediately off her mouth. I tried to untie the cord that was around her arms and I couldn’t get the knot untied.” Now we have the issue of him having not only touched, but moved her body. This is obviously going to cause even more issues as we now have virtually no evidence that hasn’t been contaminated.
He said that he brought her upstairs and laid her on the floor because he hoped she was still alive and Detective Arndt had to confirm that she was in fact dead. Now, I find it interesting that Arndt said that when he brought JonBenet upstairs, that moment made her fear that he had killed his daughter. She said that she prepared herself for a confrontation. When describing this feeling she said, “As we looked at each other, I remember — and I wore a shoulder holster — tucking my gun right next to me and consciously counting [that] I’ve got 18 bullets. . .I didn’t know if we’d all be alive when people showed up.” I feel like that’s a pretty extreme reaction and it makes me think that maybe something else had happened or there were some serious bad vibes coming from him.
According to the autopsy that was done on December 27, JonBenet’s cause of death was asphyxia associated with craniocerebral trauma. We talked a little about strangulation in the Samantha Koenig case, but strangulation is not a fast process. It is very hands-on and personal, and while I imagine it would be faster to strangle a child than an adult, it definitely takes a sick kind of person to do this. Now, I do want to clarify that she wasn’t strangled by hands, rather a makeshift garrote that was actually a string wrapped around a piece of one of Patsy’s paintbrushes. On top of the strangulation, she also had craniocerebral trauma, which is more commonly known as a traumatic brain injury or concussion. This is usually caused by a blow to the head.
All right, so we know the cause of death now, but I’m going to break down some of the autopsy report, and bear with me because there is quite a bit of technical stuff and details, but I feel like it’s easier to understand the line of thought suspect and scenario wise if you have the background of what they found first. If you don’t want to hear the details you can skip ahead, but I recommend listening if you’re comfortable with it because we’re going to be referencing these findings later on.
Let’s start with the initial view of her body – her arms were extended up over her head which was turned to the right. There was livor mortis on the right side of her face which would confirm this is the position she died in. There was a ligature around her neck and her right wrist. There was also a small area of abrasion or contusion below the right ear and a prominent dried abrasion on her lower left neck. On her right sleeve there was a brown-tan stain that was consistent with mucus from the nose or mouth. She was wearing long, white underwear which had urine stains. Under the long johns were regular underwear that not only had urine stains, but several red areas of staining measuring up to 0.5 inches in dimension. There were several other small contusions petechial hemorrhages. There was cord found wrapped around multiple different places and this part is a little complicated, so I’m going to read it word for word.
“Extending from the knot on the posterior aspect of the neck are two tails of the knot, one measuring 4 inches in length and having a frayed end, and the other measuring 17 inches in length with the end tied in multiple loops around a length of a round tan-brown wooden stick which measures 4.5 inches in length. This wooden stick is irregularly broken at both ends and there are several colors of paint and apparent glistening varnish on the surface. Printed in gold letters on one end of the wooden stick is the word “Korea”. The tail end of another word extends from beneath the loops of the cord tied around the stick and is not able to be interpreted. Blonde hair is entwined in the knot on the posterior aspect of the neck as well as in the cord wrapped around the wooden stick. It appears to be made of a white synthetic material. Also secured around the neck is a gold chain with a single charm in the form of a cross.”
There was also a deep ligature that encircled her whole neck and various bruises and scratches around her body. The next section I’m going to read directly from the autopsy report again.
“On the anterior aspect of the perineum, along the edges of closure of the labia majora, is a small amount of dried blood. A similar small amount of dried and semifluid blood is present on the skin of the fourchette and in the vestibule. Inside the vestibule of the vagina and along the distal vaginal wall is reddish hyperemia. This hyperemia is circumferential and perhaps more noticeable on the right side and posteriorly. The hyperemia also appears to extend just inside the vaginal orifice.” It continues, “On the right labia majora is a very faint area of violet discoloration measuring approximately one inch by three-eighths of an inch. Incision into the underlying subcutaneous tissue discloses no hemorrhage. A minimal amount of semiliquid thin watery red fluid is present in the vaginal vault.”
The last thing I’m going to note from the autopsy report is that there was a small amount of material in her gastric system which was speculated to be pineapple.
Let’s summarize what we know so far. *Review: parents found ransom note, people come over to look for her but somehow miss her in the basement, everything is contaminated, John and Patsy are setting off alarm bells for Detective Arndt, JonBenet’s body is found in the basement strangled, a fractured skull, and possibly sexually assaulted.
So how could this happen? How could someone have done all this to JonBenet with no one discovering her for so long? Was she in the basement the whole time or had someone snuck her out and back in? A big part of why this case gained so much traction is because there are so many things that just don’t add up.
There were a lot of things that made the public suspicious of the Ramsey’s and a lot of people believed they were guilty. There was actually a grand jury convened in December of 1999 that actually voted to indict John and Patsy for their alleged involvement in what had happened to their daughter. So it sounds like we might find out what happened, but the district attorney decided not to charge them despite the results of the grand jury because they felt there wasn’t sufficient evidence.
Findlaw.com explains the purpose of a grand jury and how it is different from a regular trial really well. It says, “How a grand jury works is much more relaxed than normal courtroom proceedings. There is no judge present and frequently there are no lawyers except for the prosecutor. The prosecutor will explain the law to the jury and work with them to gather evidence and hear testimony. Under normal courtroom rules of evidence, exhibits and other testimony must adhere to strict rules before admission. However, a grand jury has broad power to see and hear almost anything they would like.
However, unlike the vast majority of trials, grand jury proceedings are kept in strict confidence. This serves two purposes:
- It encourages witnesses to speak freely and without fear of retaliation.
- It protects the potential defendant’s reputation in case the jury does not decide to indict.”
So basically, they are presented with all the evidence and then they decide whether there’s enough to move forward with pressing charges. It is strange to me that they would go through all this trouble to convene a grand jury and successfully convince them that they have enough to move forward, but then decide to ignore the results and not charge them after all. Like why go to all the trouble if you didn’t think there was sufficient evidence? Was the jury biased because the case was so well known? I’m all about being sure and only convicting when something is proven beyond reasonable doubt, but I just can’t understand not moving forward after all that.
So what is all this evidence they have against the Ramsey’s? And are there other suspects or scenarios that are being considered that could have influenced the DA’s decision? You’re going to hate me, but you’ll have to wait until the next episode to find out. There’s a lot to dive into with each of these theories, and we’re already at the length of a regular episode, so in order to delve into them like I want to we’ll have to break it up. Don’t forget to go on and rate us 5 stars and for those of you celebrating have a happy Christmas and we will see you next week!
Accessed December, 2021, Video of Ramsey Family Home: https://heavy.com/news/2019/04/jonbenet-ramsey-crime-scene-photos/
Accessed December, 2021, JonBenet Murder Photos ***GRAPHIC***: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VYZT0Oj5D8
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