It's been nearly 20 years since 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey was found murdered in her family's home on Dec. 26, 1996. An intense amount of media coverage was dedicated to the case from day one — it was impossible to turn on the TV or flip through a magazine without seeing JonBenét's pageant photos. Two decades later, the public's fascination hasn't subsided. Who Killed JonBenét?, which airs Nov. 5 on Lifetime is the latest special to focus on the case — CBS, Investigation Discovery, and NBC's Dateline each aired documentaries in September. This is the first special that's not a documentary and instead a fictionalized movie, but how accurate is Lifetime's Who Killed JonBenét? The Ramsey family's attorney, Lin Wood, released the following statement to Bustle about the film: “On behalf of my clients, I cannot comment on the Lifetime production at this time as I have not seen the show and have no information as to its content or gist.” (If Wood provides any additional comment on the Ramseys' behalf, this post will be updated.)
According to Lifetime's official synopsis, Who Killed JonBenét? will approach the case using many aspects of the real case:
The movie revisits the infamous murder of pint-sized beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey and the lurid details that captivated the nation. Starting with the 911 call and investigation lead by Detective Steve Thomas, Who Killed JonBenét? provides a closer look into what exactly happened the day after Christmas 1996, when she was found beaten and strangled in the family’s basement. With the addition of recently surfaced information, the film takes a fresh look at the events and the competing theories about the murder. Were Patsy and John Ramsey responsible or covering for someone else in the family? Was this a kidnapping gone wrong, or was this the work of a predator who had seen JonBenét in one of her pageants?
However, the trailer indicates that this particular special will definitely have a flair for the dramatic — it kicks off with a voiceover from Payton Lepinski, who plays Ramsey, saying: "I was Little Miss Colorado. This Christmas, I would be 26. But to everyone, I’ll always be 6.” The chorus of "Silent Night" at the beginning and end of the trailer definitely add to its creepiness.
In an exclusive clip from E!, one scene depicts Patsy crying into her hands and then looking through her fingers to make sure the cops are aware she's sobbing. This is somewhat similar to what one police officer claims happened during the case. Lawrence Schiller's 1999 book Perfect Murder, Perfect Town cast a great deal of suspicion on John and Patsy Ramsey, who maintained their innocence in JonBenét's murder and were officially cleared of any suspicion due to DNA evidence in 2008, along with JonBenét's brother, Burke. The Federalist quoted a passage from the book in which Schiller claims:
"Patsy was looking around, peeking through the fingers covering her face, one police report said, while John was off by himself much of the time, out of Arndt’s sight. He had even gone alone into the basement at midmorning, after which time he had become despondent, sitting alone."
When the family was cleared, Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy wrote in a letter to John Ramsey: "To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime, I am deeply sorry... No innocent person should have to endure such an extensive trial in the court of public opinion."
However, not everyone agrees with Lacy — most recently, the team of experts on the CBS docuseries The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, alleged that Burke Ramsey had accidentally killed his sister and John and Patsy covered up for him. After the series aired, Ramsey's attorney L. Lin Wood told People that a lawsuit would be filed: “I’m absolutely going to sue CBS on behalf of Burke as a result of the false accusations and the fraud of the docuseries by CBS."
Although Who Killed JonBenét? depicts a variety of theories that were held by those involved in the case, it ultimately leaves the murder unsolved and doesn't name a suspect. However, it does skip some key developments, like the Ramseys' exoneration, which may raise questions about its overall fairness and accuracy.
Images: Dan Buscher, Bob Akester/Lifetime