Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

JonBenet Ramsey

Real Name: JonBenét Patricia Ramsey
Nicknames: JonniB
Location: Boulder, Colorado
Date: December 26, 1996


Details: On the day after Christmas in 1996, six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey vanished from her home in Boulder, after her parents, John and Patsy, found a ransom note demanding $118,000 for her safe return. Eight hours later, her body was found in the basement. She had been struck in the head and strangled. John, in an apparent panic, picked up her body and took it upstairs. Unfortunately, this destroyed important evidence. A lack of a secured crime scene also caused great amounts of evidence to be destroyed. As a result, many have criticized the official police investigation.
John was a millionaire businessman. Patsy was a former Miss West Virginia who guided JonBenét's career as a child beauty queen. Investigators have considered them suspects in her murder; however, they have not ruled out a random assailant.
Criminologist Prabha Unnithan has investigated JonBenét's murder. He believes that the police may have made several mistakes because they were not equipped to handle a high-profile murder investigation. He also notes that stranger child homicide is a rare occurrence, which would mean that John and Patsy should still be investigated as suspects.

Patsy and John Ramsey

Suspects: John and Patsy are considered suspects in JonBenét's death. It was determined that the ransom note and an apparent practice one had been written on a notepad from their home. Also, the $118,000 sum in it was the exact amount of John's Christmas bonus. Handwriting analysis would later be unable to rule out Patsy as its writer. Their lack of cooperation with the police has also made many suspicious of them.
However, John and Patsy's deny any involvement in JonBenét's murder. Neighbors, friends, and relatives have stated that they do not believe that they would be capable of such an appalling crime.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the January 31, 1997 episode. It focuses on an interview with a criminologist, Professor Prabha Unnithan, who gives his theories on it.
  • This case was covered extinsively over various media, including America’s Most Wanted, Dateline, How it Happen with Hill Harper and People Magazine Investigates.

Results: Unresolved. After being suspects for several years, John and Patsy were cleared of any involvement in JonBenét's murder in 2003 after DNA found on her body did not match either of them or any other close relatives. In 2006, John Mark Karr confessed to her murder, but DNA found at the crime scene did not match him either, and no charges were filed against him. Sadly, Patsy died of ovarian cancer that same year. This case remains unsolved.
Despite John and Patsy being ruled out by the police, many still believe that a Ramsey relative was responsible for JonBenét's murder. They note the DNA that "cleared" the Ramseys was touch DNA, which could have ended up on her clothes when it was originally manufactured. Also, in 2013, it was revealed that a grand jury that reviewed this case decided to indict John and Patsy on charges of child abuse leading to JonBenet's murder. However, prosecutors declined to file charges against them at that time.
More recently, suspicion has fallen on JonBenét's older brother, Burke, who was nine at the time. Some amateur sleuths and retired investigators have theorized that he accidentally killed her during a fight. Afterwards, John and Patsy staged the death to look like a random crime. This theory is unconfirmed.

In January of 2021, investigative docuseries 20/20 explored alternate theories about the murder that led away from JonBenet's family. One of the most prominent theories was first surmised by prominent retired Colorado investigator Lou Smit who was asked to assist with this case, which he dubbed "the intruder theory". This theory surmised that either an unknown adult male or an adult male acquaintance of the Ramsey's entered the house via a window in the basement that was open that night so that the Christmas lights that were being displayed outside the house could connect to the electrical outlet in the basement. Several suspects were previously investigated as a result of this theory, including a mentally ill man who confessed to the crime and a neighborhood man who dressed as Santa during the holiday seasons and had seemed to take a liking towards JonBenet, but were ruled out because the DNA evidence did not match their DNA. Lou Smit passed away in 2010 but made a dying wish to his family to continue exploring the intruder theory. As a result, his granddaughters have a true crime podcast that regularly explores the JonBenet case.

In December 2021, investigators announced that new developments in DNA technology had prompted them to take a fresh look at the DNA evidence previously presented in this case and they were optimistic that new leads would come as a result.