John Ramsey Describes The Devastating Moment When He Found JonBenet

This Christmas, it will have been 20 years since the death of JonBenét Ramsey, the 6-year-old beauty pageant queen whose unsolved murder captivated the nation in the 1990s and continues to do so now. In a new and sometimes unsettling interview with Dr. Phil, JonBenét’s father, John, spoke about that episode of his life, including the gut-wrenching moment when he discovered his daughter’s body in their Colorado home.

"I went down to the basement, it's the most logical entry point,” John said in the interview. “There was a window open and a suitcase sitting under the window ... that shouldn't have been there.” Not long thereafter, John found JonBenét’s body — and initially, he didn’t realize she was dead.

"I was just hoping she'd wake up,” John said. “I picked her up and went upstairs. ... I had this rush of, 'thank God I found her.' This overwhelming sense of joy.”

Authorities had suspected that John and his wife, Patsy, who passed away from ovarian cancer in 2006, were partially or fully responsible for JonBenét’s death. In 1999, a grand jury voted to indict both of them on child abuse charges connected to the death of their daughter. But the indictment never came: Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter refused to sign it, saying later that he didn’t think he could prove the parents’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. John and Patsy fervently denied having played any role in their daughter’s death, and both of them were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2008.

JonBenét died from some combination of strangulation and skull trauma. Her body had a cord wrapped around the neck when John found it, but he initially didn't notice it. “Her eyes were closed,” John said. “There was a red spot on her throat. I didn't see the garrote [wrapped around her neck] because it was too deeply embedded in her skin. ... I couldn't speak, I was just screaming."

The identity of JonBenét’s killer remains a mystery. A major break in the case appeared to arrive in 2006, when a man named John Mark Karr confessed to having killed JonBenét. However, Karr’s statements were inconsistent with the autopsy results, and DNA testing later confirmed that his “confession” was false.

In addition to his interview with John, Dr. Phil also spoke with JonBenét’s brother, Burke. It’s the first interview Burke has ever given to the media, and both segments will air Monday night.