The JonBenet 911 Call Is The Subject Of Debate

by Seth Millstein

The unsolved murder of JonBenet Ramsey captured America’s attention in 1996, and it’s getting a new look 20 years later in the CBS special The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey, which aired Sunday night. The documentary explored several of the more mysterious aspects of the case — such as the 911 call that Patsy Ramsey made after her daughter disappeared. It’s a call that remains controversial today, in part because it’s still unclear what was said after Patsy hung up the phone — if indeed anything was said at all.

A bit of backstory: Patsy, who passed away in 2006, called 911 after finding a ransom note in her home demanding $118,000 in exchange for her daughter’s safe return; JonBenet’s body was discovered by her father soon thereafter. After around a minute of frantic conversation with the 911 operator, Patsy abruptly hung up.

Or did she?

There are some people, including the 911 dispatcher who took the call, who believe that Patsy failed to actually hang up the phone, and that fuzzy audio of additional conversation, perhaps between members of the Ramsey family, can be heard on the recording of the 911 call. This is a highly debated proposition amongst authorities and law enforcement, however, and according to analyses by the FBI and Secret Service, no further conversation is audible on the recording.

The makers of The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey hired an audio engineer to enhance the recordings and unearth what, if anything, was said after Patsy hung up, and who may have said it. To be clear, this is all somewhat speculative; it’s not even a sure thing that any additional comments are audible on that tape, since the audio is faint and difficult to make out.

In any event, the investigators proposed the following possibilities:

  • “We’re not speaking to you” —John Ramsey, JonBenet’s father
  • “What did you do?” and/or “Help me, Jesus” —Patsy Ramsey
  • “What did you find?” —Burke Ramsey, JonBenet’s brother

That last one is potentially crucial: Ramsey’s parents reportedly told police that then-nine-year-old Burke was in bed when the 911 call was made. If they were in fact talking to him seconds after the call, that would strongly suggest that they misled police. In a recent interview with Dr. Phil, Burke said that it wasn’t his voice on the 911 call.

Barry Williams/Getty Images News/Getty Images

For quite some time, Patsy and John were under an “umbrella of suspicion,” to quote law enforcement at the time, regarding their daughter’s death. Many believed that they were involved; however, DNA evidence ultimately exonerated John, Patsy and Burke.

This is just one of many mysterious things about JonBenet’s death, and while The Case Of: JonBenet may not solve the case entirely, hopefully it will shed a bit more light on the circumstances surrounding her murder.