The JonBenet 2016 investigations are in full swing, thanks to the JonBenet Ramsey murder’s 20th anniversary and a string of new evidence in the cold case. No fewer than three full-length specials about the case have premiered in the past few weeks, with one more set to debut soon, and at least one high-profile participant–JonBenet’s older brother Burke, who has never before spoken publicly about his sister’s murder–set to finally speak.
But has the JonBenet case been solved? Is there enough evidence to bring a new case to trial? A&E’s special, The Killing of JonBenet: The Truth Uncovered, brings to light a few unexpected theories, and lends further credence to a handful of older ones. For one thing, the documentary relies on the work of former Colorado detective Lou Smit, now deceased, who believed it was possible that someone had broken into the Ramsey home through an open window in the cellar. (The Boulder Police initially dismissed Smit’s theory, before acknowledging it could have happened when they reopened the case in 2009.) Additionally, the BPD had DNA evidence–from a spot of blood found on JonBenet’s underwear–which could have cleared the Ramseys’ name well before the department’s public 2008 letter officially eliminating them as suspects.
At the same time, Investigation Discovery’s JonBenet: An American Murder Mystery claims that the heavily scrutinized ransom note was a clear case of “disguised writing.” Cina Wong, a forensics handwriting expert interviewed for the special, said that the writing of the note is initially “slow” and “a little bit awkward,” but by the third page it looks “more natural.” Based on her analysis of the note and original the handwriting samples obtained by the Boulder Police Department in 1996, John Bennett Ramsey can be ruled out as a suspect. However, there are “striking” similarities between Patsy’s handwriting and the writing of the ransom note.
There are “five…unique variations of the letter e that the ransom note writer and Patsy Ramsey share”; the letter “c” shares a distinctive kink in both the ransom note and Patsy’s writing samples; and the letter “q,” in lowercase, looks almost like a figure eight in both examples. All told, Cina says she noted “over two-hundred similarities between Patsy Ramsey’s handwriting and the ransom note. So, it’s highly probable that Patsy Ramsey wrote the ransom note.”
On the other end of the spectrum, FBI Agent Ron Walker, summoned by the Boulder Police Department to help with the case, told Dateline he was surprised by JonBenet’s appearance in the first photo he saw of her–and what he initially thought must have been a mistake turned into a possible lead.
“I had been told that this little girl was about five or six years old,” Agent Walker explained. “I thought to myself, ‘That can’t be; the girl that’s depicted in this particular photograph looks like she’s thirteen, fourteen years old.’ And then someone told me ‘That’s one of her beauty pageantry publicity shots.’ Well, gosh, you know–who had access to her at one of these pageants, maybe become fixated on her, stalked her?”
FBI Agent Ron Walker, interviewed by Dateline in 2016
But the ransom note was completely devoid of any reference to JonBenet’s beauty, her beauty pageant experience, or anything of the sort–which made Agent Walker “very suspicious.” He says he told the Boulder Police Chief “This isn’t a kidnapping. This is a murder. You’re going to find a body.”
Among the many first-time interviews featured in the Dateline special is Jane Harmer, a BPD Detective who worked on the case immediately following her Christmas vacation. Detective Harmer notes that the BPD investigation involved pageant workers, friends of the Ramsey family, and sex offenders in the greater Boulder area. When her interviewer suggests, “Those pageants are a magnet for pedophiles,” Harmer’s response is as quick as it is straightforward: “Yes.”
Additionally, the JonBenet 2016 investigations include a series of interviews between Burke Ramsey, JonBenet’s brother, who was nine at the time of her murder, and Dr. Phil. The three-part series began on Monday, September 12th, and drew waves of advance notice due to one of Dr. Phil’s trademark point-blank questions: “Did you hit your sister over the head with a baseball bat?”
The Dr. Phil and Burke Ramsey interviews–which mark the Burke’s first comments to a member of the media–also touch on speculation that Burke has been “hiding out” for the past 20 years and keeping a crucial piece of information from investigators. (On the morning of December 25th, 1996, John and Patsy Ramsey told police that Burke was sleeping in his room, and had yet to stir when Patsy found the ransom note alleging that JonBenet had been kidnapped and then contacted police.) Without revealing anything in particular, the show has been promoting Burke’s appearance as one where he’ll reveal “crucial” details about the murder for the very first time. One thing we do know–Burke also spoke to A&E for their documentary, and shared that he didn’t come out of his room the night JonBenet was murdered because he heard something and was “just so scared” that he couldn’t bring himself to check.
A&E’s recent look at the case, The Killing of JonBenet: The Truth Uncovered, is available here. You can stream Dateline’s feature on the JonBenet case by clicking here. Investigation Discovery’s three-part feature JonBenet: An American Murder Mystery airs from September 12-14, and can be streamed here. For Dr. Phil’s interview with Burke Ramsey, check your local listings.
(Photo credits: JonBenet 2016 via Wikipedia, NBC, Robin Rayne Nelson / ZUMA Press / Splash News, Dr. Phil)