Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Profiling JonBenét Ramsey's Murder

Discussion and Analysis (cont.)

Once finished concocting the demand note, the offender allegedly placed it on the back spiral staircase of the Ramsey home. Assuming the offender's goal was to have the note discovered so that the Ramseys could meet his financial demand, placing it on the back spiral staircase seems illogical unless one knew that the Ramseys routinely used that back staircase. Then the placement makes perfect sense. While we know that the note was written in the Ramsey residence, there is an issue of when the offender wrote it.

If the offender wrote the note before the murder, then a financially motivated abduction has to be considered as a distinct possibility. If it were written after the murder, then the note clearly would be an element of staging, i.e. a false motive to misdirect the investigation. Arguably, the most incongruous and potentially revealing decision that the offender made was to leave both the note and JonBenét's body inside the Ramseys' house. Any chance for obtaining the ransom money hinged on the offender being able to credibly guarantee JonBenét's safety. Once her body was discovered, which it inevitably would be, no ransom would be paid and the note would be nothing other than potential physical evidence linking the author to the murder, as well as a behavioral clue that suggested an attempt to stage JonBenét's murder as a kidnapping.

Wine Cellar in which JonBenét's Body was Found
Wine Cellar in which JonBenét's Body was Found

Where and how the offender chose to leave JonBenét's body is significant. He could remove it from the house, thereby increasing the chance that his demand for money would be met. But the offender chose to leave the body in the house, and not just anywhere in the house. He chose to conceal it in an obscure room in the basement that the Ramseys referred to as a wine cellar, a windowless brick room inside the boiler room. The police were unable to find this room when they searched the house during the day. The chances of a stranger, unfamiliar with the house, being able to find this room inside another in the dead of night are remote. But even as he supposedly selected such a room, he then laid the body on the floor instead of further concealing it in a corner or behind something, so it appears that he was ambivalent about wanting it found. This might suggest a staged kidnapping, placing the body where it would not be found quickly but would nevertheless be found before it had decomposed too much.