This Long Ransom Note Holds A Mystery

When it comes to the mystery surrounding the murder of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey in 1996, one of the biggest questions left in peoples minds is that of who wrote the JonBenet Ramsey ransom note. In part one of a recent special about the Ramsey case on CBS, one of many specials and interviews in honor of the nearing 20th anniversary of the murder that shocked that nation, forensic linguist James Fitzgerald put forth a fascinating theory on this puzzling question.

The field of forensic linguistics covers the ways people communicate and applies that to cases like the Ramsey murder, which happened to be the first case Fitzgerald worked on when it first happened. Fresh out of FBI training in Quantico, Fitzgerald has worked for nearly 20 years to finally unlock the secret of who wrote the strange and shocking ransom note found in the Ramsey home before investigators found her body.

In the special, Fitzgerald posited that whoever wrote the note was trying to "sell" the idea that they had JonBenet to the Ramsey family, but that whoever wrote the note was likely the same person who killed her.

Former FBI special agent Jim Clemente offered further fodder to the theory that the note's writer was trying to obscure their identity — he believes the letter was "staged".

Whoever wrote this managed to commit a murder, find the pad, find the pen, practice a couple times because they didn’t want to show bad penmanship or something, write it, and then put the pad and pen back to where they normally are kept.

The ransom note in the Ramsey case is so mysterious, of course, because of the paradox it presented: why would someone take the pains to write such a long ransom note (it clocked in at 2.5 handwritten pages) with such specific threats and insults when they had already killed JonBenet, or were already planning on doing so?

Patsy Ramsey, JonBenet's mother, was initially suspected of killing her daughter because, among a number of other purported reasons, the note came from her note pad and seemed to be written with the intent of covering up the murder before her body was found. The Ramseys were cleared of suspicion for JonBenet's death in 2008, two years after Patsy died of ovarian cancer, but Fitzgerald thinks that investigators at least got one small aspect right in their original suspicion — that the note-writer was female, a conclusion he came upon due to the "maternalistic" aspects of the note, such as the use of phrases like "when you get home" and "listen carefully".

Speculation about the note's writer has been in full force since it was first discovered hours before Ramsey's body on Christmas of 1996. Another popular theory based on handwriting analysis stated that John Mark Karr, the man who falsely confessed to the Ramsey murder in 2006, wrote the note. Ahead of the premiere of the first part of the CBS special, Karr claimed he "handled" the murder, which adds fuel to this theory — if he were the person who was supposed to cover it up, he would have had reason to write the note.

When interviewees in the CBS special reveal their suspect, they will likely reveal their theory about who wrote the letter as well. Until then, viewers are left with the nagging thought that the note's writer — and JonBenet's killer — are just out of sight.

Image: The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey/CBS (1)