Burke Ramsey's 1998 Interview About JonBenet's Murder Sheds More Light On What Happened That Tragic Day
From the moment six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey was found murdered in her home on Dec. 26, 1996, circumstances surrounding the case were nothing short of bizarre. As the Sept. 9 Dateline special "Who Killed JonBenét?" recapped, Ramsey's mother, Patsy Ramsey, woke up shortly before 6 a.m. and discovered that her daughter was not in her room. After finding a ransom note at the bottom of the stairs, she immediately dialed 911. Eight hours after the 911 call, Ramsey's father, John Bennett Ramsey, found Ramsey's body in the family basement. Though the family was cleared of all suspicion in 2008 thanks to new DNA evidence, back in 1996, detectives immediately began to investigate Ramsey's close relatives, including John and Patsy, as well as Ramsey's then 9-year-old brother Burke Ramsey. Of course, shortly after Ramsey's body was found, media outlets conducted numerous interviews with the whole family to talk about the case — but, although John and Patsy's interviews with journalists and detectives had previously been made public, Burke's 1998 interview with Detective Dan Schuler was only released on Dateline Friday — and it sheds light on how he experienced that tragic day.
When the entire family was legally exonerated of all suspicion surrounding the case in 2008 by Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy — who, according to NBC News, wrote in a letter to John at the time, "To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime, I am deeply sorry... No innocent person should have to endure such an extensive trial in the court of public opinion." Advanced DNA technology that had been unavailable at the time of the murder pointed towards a mystery killer due to the presence of unknown male DNA on Ramsey's underwear and beneath her fingernails. So, as you listen to Burke and Schuler's conversation, it's important to remember that this interview was conducted at a time when the entire family was under suspicion, including Burke.
Excerpts from the interview that aired on Dateline shed light on the fear and confusion Burke experienced on Dec. 26, 1996. He told Schuler that his first memory from that morning was Patsy running into his room, flipping on the light, and then exiting after a quick look around. Afterwards, Burke said he laid in bed with his eyes closed, trying to fall asleep. Next, he remembered John coming into his room to turn off the lights — Burke told Schuler that his dad couldn't tell he was still awake.
"I was afraid," Burke told Schluler in the newly-released interview. He also reiterated that he never left his room for a moment, but he could "hear pretty clearly" his parents downstairs as they conversed with one another before calling the police. When Schuler asked if Burke had a "desire to know what was going on," he responded that he did, but he didn't want to interrupt. Burke's account contradicts the theory that his voice was present on the 911 call — a claim that has been debunked by FBI and Secret Service members who examined the 911 tapes at length.
As police and family friends arrived at the Ramsey home to begin the search for Ramsey, Burke was sent to the home of a family friend, and it wasn't until the evening of Dec. 26 that he learned the tragic news of his sister's death. When he was about to be reunited with his parents, Burke told Schuler that he felt "excited and relieved" because he believed it meant that Ramsey would be with them. "I thought they had found her," he told the detective. Instead, Burke received devastating news: "Dad said JonBenét was in heaven."
Burke, now 29, will participate in an exclusive three-part interview with Dr. Phil beginning on Sept. 12. This will mark the first time we'll hear his account of what it was like to be the brother of one of the most famous, tragic murder victims in history.