We're very swiftly approaching the 20-year anniversary of the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, which can only mean two things. First, the nation will once again be reminded of the unsolved mystery behind the 6-year-old beauty queen. Second, there will be no shortage of specials reviving said mystery. Sure enough, NBC has announced a Dateline special on JonBenet's murder entitled Dateline NBC: Who Killed JonBenet? which could be interesting... if it manages to stand out from all the other pieces on the investigation. For those of you who are trying to figure out exactly which special to watch if you can't catch them all, let's break down how Dateline NBC is going to be different than the other four television specials.
As of right now, there are five — count 'em, five — specials covering the murder of JonBenét. You have CBS's true-crime mini-series Case Closed: JonBenét Ramsey, which plans to examine the case with a mix of old investigators and new experts in a three-part, two hour segments. Then you have a "three-night television event" from Investigation Discovery titled JonBenet: An American Murder Mystery, which seems to take focus on interviewing persons related to the case — including everyone from a journalist who initially covered the murder, a Boulder police officer at the murder scene, and even the woman who made JonBenét's pageant dresses.
Then there's A&E's documentary The Killing of JonBenét: The Truth Uncovered, an A&E documentary that focused on JonBenét's father, John Ramsey, and featured diary entries written around the time of her death. Way ahead of the curve, The Killing of JonBenét debuted on Labor Day.
And, of course, Lifetime had to step in with it's own take on the JonBenét. Like, NBC, its title asks Who Killed JonBenét? Unlike the others, the special is slated to be a scripted film, focusing on Dec. 26, 1996, when the child pageant star was found dead in the basement of her family home.
So that brings us back to the Dateline Special. NBC's Who Killed JonBenét? is also reported to be interview-centric, with no shortage of involved persons being brought in to discuss the case. What makes it unique, though, is that it features two exclusive interviews with former police officers who were on the case: Jane Harmer of the Boulder Police Department and Tom Haney of the Denver Police Department.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Harmer in particular is going to discuss "why she agreed with the grand jury's recommendation to indict Ramsey's parents, and why she also sided with the district attorney in his decision not to pursue charges." This refers to a 1999 grand jury accusing John and Patsy of "two counts each of child abuse resulting in death in connection to the first-degree murder of their 6-year-old daughter JonBenét," as reported by the Denver Post. Then-District Attorney Alex Hunter never charged John or Patsy, who have maintained their innocence, and, in 2008, were officially cleared of any suspicion of involvement in the murder due to DNA evidence.
In 2013, the Ramseys' attorney, Lin Wood, told the Denver Post of the grand jury's accusations, "The DNA was not available to the grand jury in 1999... What we have here is a release of a sliver of the evidence that the grand jury looked at and reviewed. It’s just based on incomplete evidence."
There's no doubt that each JonBenét special could bring something new to the table, although I doubt we'll get any solid answers. Regardless, if you're still intrigued by the tragic, 20-year-old tale, Dateline NBC: Who Killed JonBenet? will air Friday, Sept. 9, at 9 p.m.