Who Is John San Agustin? The JonBenét Ramsey Private Investigator Has Some Important Theories On The Case

As the 20th anniversary of JonBenét Ramsey's death approaches, the still-unsolved case of the child beauty queen's murder is getting a significant amount of attention. In 1999, Ramsey's family hired two private investigators to help clear their names and find out what exactly had happened to their daughter. In particular, private investigators Ollie Gray and John San Agustin supported the "intruder theory" in JonBenét Ramsey's case. Based on their investigation, they told CBS' 48 Hours that they believed one or two intruders had entered the home and killed Ramsey.

"From the get-go, Patsy and John were the focus of JonBenét's murder," San Agustin told 48 Hours in 2004. "And nobody really looked into the intruder theory." By that point, San Agustin had become a part of a small group of detectives who were working without pay to find Ramsey's killer. He and Gray started to focus on the Ramsey's neighbors and their neighborhood in Boulder — something that San Agustin said had not been thoroughly investigated before.

"A lot of people don't really think about, 'Let's go find out who's their next door neighbor,'" San Agustin told CBS. "It's not until something big happens that we worry about who are our neighbors."

Barry Williams/Getty Images News/Getty Images

San Agustin and Gray discovered that there were 38 registered sex offenders in the Ramseys' former Boulder neighborhood, and there had been more than 100 burglaries there in the months preceding Ramsey's death. The two men also launched a closer investigation into a potential suspect, a man named Michael Helgoth who had apparently committed suicide in his home.

The two private investigators told 48 Hours that they wanted to look more closely into Helgoth's possible involvement because of his reported ownership of stun guns, a boot imprint found near Ramsey's body that was similar to the underside of Helgoth's boot, and the ransom note the Ramseys had received. But they also had reason to believe, due to the position of the gunshot wound on Helgoth's body, that someone else had actually killed him.

Moreover, because of Ramsey's high profile in her community as a beauty queen, San Agustin and Gray believed that she may have been targeted for murder earlier than previously suspected. When San Agustin received the news in 2006 that John Mark Karr had been arrested in Ramsey's case, he told Colorado Springs newspaper The Gazette that he almost couldn't believe it. "I was so ecstatic I didn't know what to do," he said. San Agustin added that had Boulder Attorney Mary Lacy not agreed to take on the case, it wouldn't have progressed as it seemingly did.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Soon afterward, San Agustin and Gray appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, and spoke to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly about Karr's arrest. "Well, I mean, if you look at the physical evidence in this case, we have foreign DNA in her panties and under her fingernails that matched nobody in the Ramsey family," San Agustin said. "You have signs of an intrusion. You have a basement window that is open with a suitcase at the base of that window, along with some broken glass on top of that suitcase."

Both San Agustin and Gray pushed the intruder theory, to not only clear the Ramseys but also to insinuate that objectivity had been lost in the original investigation as a result of its immediate focus on Ramsey's parents. While San Agustin did not confirm or deny that he thought Karr had committed the murder, he did say that the DNA alone would not clear or convict him. This was because both detectives agreed that there could have been more than one intruder involved in Ramsey's murder.

There was not sufficient evidence to convict Karr in Ramsey's case, but San Agustin was definitely right about one thing: He told 48 Hours that "it's gonna take a group of investigators to go out and pound the pavement, find out who legitimately could've killed JonBenét." He and Gray spent years trying to do just that, and they will appear in the upcoming Investigation Discovery series JonBenét: An American Murder Mystery, which will explore new findings in the case.