The murder of JonBenet Ramsey has perplexed law enforcement and the American public for the past 20 years. There have been books written about it, conspiracy theories involving everyone from Santa Claus to Katy Perry, and now — as we approach the 20th anniversary of her disappearance and death — a new crop of documentary series. One of the most prominent comes from CBS, which will release The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey, a docu-series that will debut on Sept. 18. And with these documentaries have come a whole new group of people that even the most devoted JonBenet Internet sleuths will be introduced to for the first time. So who is Laura Richards? The investigator will look at JonBenet Ramsey's case with fresh eyes.
Richards is part of the team that hopes to finally solve the mystery of Ramsey's murder. The Case Of gathered a team of seven investigators, who will use modern technology to reconstruct key crime scenes with the aim of finally figuring out what happened to the six-year-old pageant star, who was found bound and strangled in her parents' basement in Boulder, Colorado, the day after Christmas in 1996.
Richards is a renowned criminal behavior psychologist. She spent a decade looking at violent crime at New Scotland Yard, the police force that is in charge of most of London. According to her website, Richards focuses on domestic violence, stalking, sexual violence, and risk assessment. She is currently the violence adviser to the National Police Chiefs Council in the UK. She has also founded Paladin — the world's first service for national stalking advocacy — and has helped draft domestic violence law in the England.
Her criminal psychology expertise should be an asset as her team reinvestigates the Ramsey case. Although the family, (who were the initial suspects in the case but have denied any allegations) were all cleared by DNA evidence in 2008, there were a lot of missteps in the trial involving how Patricia and John Ramsey, JonBenet's parents, were handled in the immediate aftermath. The chaotic treatment of the Ramsey's home, which many experts say was not treated as a proper crime scene, and the way that the Ramsey's were handled during the investigation, has left a lot of questions over the now 20-year-old unsolved case.
Mark Beckner, who was the Boulder police chief at the time of the murder, detailed how he believed the case was mishandled in a Reddit Ask Me Anything in 2015. Beckner wrote:
Yes, the crime scene was not handled properly and this later affected the investigation. [The Ramseys’] position in the community may have had something to do with decisions made that day, but I think the primary reason was a perfect storm-type scenario. It was the Christmas holiday and we were short staffed, we faced a situation as I said earlier that no one in the country had ever seen before or since, and there was confusion at the scene… As a result, some evidence was compromised.
Additionally, Beckner noted that Patricia and John should have been questioned separately, which the police department failed to do. Beckner also said that there was pressure from the Boulder district attorney's office after the initial investigation not to press the Ramsey's, which the former police chief said was a "constant source of frustration and much could be written about this and the reasons for it."
So Richards' expertise in dealing with violent crime scenes and the motives behind them could make her an especially valuable player. We'll see if Richards has what it takes to finally crack the case.