This December will mark the 20th anniversary of the day that JonBenet Ramsey was found murdered in the basement of her family home in Boulder, Colorado. Though the American public at large remains as fascinated by (and perversely obsessed with) this unsolved case as they were back in 1996, it seems that — despite several promising-seeming leads through the years — law enforcement is hardly any closer to solving the crime. In fact, it seems like the more peculiar details we discover about the circumstances surrounding the child pageant queen’s murder, the more confusing her case becomes.
I also can’t help but feel even more hopeless about the idea of ever receiving any kind of closure. Hopefully the numerous JonBenet documentaries coming to TV this fall will shed some light on the tragic murder, but I think the odds are high that we may never know for sure who killed Ramsey.
What we do know for sure is this: there are an unsettling number of bizarre facts about the JonBenet Ramsey investigation, many of which have come to seem ever stranger over the past two decades. What’s more is, I’m sure the longer officials study this case, the more unusual facts they’ll uncover about it.
1. Boulder Police Didn't Seal Off The Crime Scene Or Immediately Take Full Statements From John And Patricia Ramsey
Due to the fact that JonBenet's murder took place during the Christmas holiday, there were fewer police officers than usual available to secure the crime scene and take down full statements from both John and Patricia Ramsey. According to former Boulder police chief Mark Beckner, this mistake significantly impeded the investigation. And the fact that Boulder police failed to seal off the crime scene, allowing friends and family to walk in and out of the scene, is probably the biggest reason why DNA evidence from that day has seemed to lead nowhere.
In a 2015 Reddit AMA, Beckner said, "As for the police department in general, I wish we would have done a much better job of securing and controlling the crime scene on day one...We also should have separated John and Patsy and gotten full statements from them that day." Beckner went on to say that five months passed before the Boulder police formally interviewed the Ramseys again.
2. The Ramsey's Neighborhood Was Home To 38 Registered Sex Offenders
I feel it's important to note that, as recently as 2013, you could become a registered sex offender simply for getting caught peeing in an alley or flashing your breasts publicly while in the state of California. So, clearly, not all registered sex offenders are people who have harmed others or committed sexual assault. That said, it is worth noting that the Ramseys lived in a neighborhood that 38 registered sex offenders called home.
Additionally, in the months leading up to the murder, over 100 burglaries reportedly took place in the general vicinity of the Ramsey's neighborhood. Considering how they could relate to JonBenet's death, it's surprising to me that these details don't seem to be as well known as the many conspiracy theories fixating on who killed JonBenet.
3. The Ransom Note Was Strange
If you've been following the case, then you've undoubtedly already heard about how peculiar the ransom note was, but let's talk about it anyway — because everything about that ransom note is weird. At two and a half pages, the ransom note is unusually long, it was written by hand, whoever wrote it asked for almost the exact amount of money that John Ramsey received as a Christmas bonus in 1996, and it was written on a notepad found in the Ramsey's own house.
All of these details have lead to speculations that the person who wrote the ransom note was comfortable in the Ramsey's home and didn't feel particularly rushed to leave it, which could mean the killer was someone the Ramsey's knew (the entire Ramsey family was cleared of the murder of JonBenet in 2008, and have never been convicted of any crime related to JonBenet's death). But as you'll see if you watch the upcoming CBS docuseries, The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey , some experts believe the note was staged.
4. John Mark Karr Volunteered A False Confession
In 2006, almost a decade after the crime was committed, then-teacher John Mark Karr claimed responsibility for the murder of JonBenet. He insisted Ramsey's death was an accidental result of his own bizarre sexual encounter with her. He also claimed to have drugged Ramsey.
Here's the thing, though: not only does Karr have a solid alibi (circumstantial evidence placed him in Georgia at the time of the murder) — DNA evidence proves Karr was never at the crime scene, and no drugs were found in Ramsey's system. He was exonerated from the crime due to the DNA, and was eventually let free. So why did he plead guilty to someone else's crime? We may never know for certain.
5. A Grand Jury Wanted To Indict John And Patricia Ramsey, But Prosecutors Didn't
Again, let me make it clear that both John and Patricia Ramsey have been exonerated since 2008 in the case of their daughter's murder, and have never been convicted of a crime related to their daughter's tragic death. But in 1999, according to previously sealed court documents reported on by CNN, a grand jury wanted to indict both Ramsey parents on identical charges of "child abuse resulting in death and being accessories to a crime." Prosecutors felt differently, though — according to CNN, they said "there was insufficient evidence" — so the Ramsey's weren't charged.
6. Some Believe That JonBenet's Alleged Kidnapping And Sexual Assault Were Staged
In his Reddit AMA, former police chief Beckner said the alleged sexual assault of JonBenet Ramsey, as well as the ransom note found at the scene of her death, were both staged. According to Beckner:
"We know from the evidence she was hit in the head very hard with an unknown object, possibly a flashlight or similar type item. The blow knocked her into unconsciousness, which could have led someone to believe she was dead. The strangulation came 45 minutes to two hours after the head strike, based on the swelling on the brain. While the head wound would have eventually killed her, the strangulation actually did kill her. The rest of the scene we believe was staged, including the vaginal trauma, to make it look like a kidnapping/assault gone bad."
7. JonBenet's Body Was Found In The Ramsey's Basement, Hours After She Was Reported Missing
JonBenet's body was found in the Ramsey's basement during a police search of the premises approximately eight hours after Patricia and John Ramsey reported her missing to the Boulder police department. Even more bizarrely, investigators initially stated that there were no signs of a break-in — though in the years since, former police detective Lou Smit, who worked on the JonBenet Ramsey case, has gone public with his belief that an intruder killed JonBenet, appearing on Today in 2001 with evidence that he said proved that someone could have entered the Ramsey family home without being detected and committed the murder.