Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Profiling JonBenét Ramsey's Murder

Discussion and Analysis (conclusion)

The autopsy further revealed no sexual assault, yet there was minor vaginal trauma. This would suggest a sexual motive for the crime, just as the demand note suggested a financial motive. Sexual assault seemed an unlikely motive as (1) she was not sexually assaulted, and (2) strangers who do so typically abduct the child to a place where it is safe for the offender to assault the child. It is so uncommon to attempt to sexually assault a child in her residence, with her parents and brother nearby, as to be improbable.

JonBenét's Ramsey's Grave
JonBenét's Ramsey's Grave

Equivocal evidence include weak traces of male DNA in JonBenét's panties and disputed stun gun marks. The DNA found contained only 10 of 13 markers used for identification and was not from blood or semen. Therefore it may have come from any male who handled the items, or coughed or sneezed around them. DNA detection is now so discriminating that it can be found virtually anywhere. It is possible to find unknown DNA on brand new clothing, including underwear. This unknown male DNA profile is currently in the FBI CODIS system where it is checked weekly against all new existing DNA samples. Over ten years later, it has yet to be matched to anyone. It could well be artifact.

Whether some marks found on JonBenét's body are consistent with the use of a stun gun is another equivocal issue upon which experts disagree. Certainly it would be unusual for a parent to use a stun gun and might suggest a stranger. Yet a stranger who was so unsure of his ability to control a six-year-old girl that he had to bring a stun gun is unlikely to be engaged in constructing elaborate devices such as the garrote used in this case.

Other items that suggested a stranger early in the investigation, such as an unidentified finger- and boot print, have been resolved. The print belonged to a distant family member and it turned out that Burke did own a type of boot that was consistent with the impression in the basement.

John Mark Karr
John Mark Karr

Ten years after the homicide, investigators focused on a 41-year-old school teacher living in Bangkok named John Mark Karr. When this happened, Karr admitted to the media, "I was with JonBenét when she died" and "I am so very sorry for what happened to JonBenét. It's very important for me that everyone knows that I love her very much, that her death was unintentional, that it was an accident." He was lying.

Polly Klaas
Polly Klaas

No doubt Karr was obsessed with JonBenét's murder, as he had been with the abduction, rape and murder of Polly Klass in Petaluma, California, where he once lived. Karr wrote to Richard Allen Davis, her killer. In 2002, he was arrested for the possession of child pornography and fled overseas. He e-mailed Michael Tracey in Boulder, who made several documentaries regarding the Ramsey Case. Karr told Dr. Tracey, among other things, that he was a child killer who was wanted in four states for child abuse and child murder. He told others that he was writing a book about men who kill children. He appears to romanticize violence against children and admittedly aspires to be the "most wanted killer in history." He may have fantasized about murdering JonBenét, but he did not do it. What Karr accomplished was being forever connected to her murder. He is probably well pleased.

Richard Allen Davis
Richard Allen Davis

In conclusion, the totality of the evidence is more consistent with an offender known to JonBenét — one who was comfortable in and familiar with the layout of the house than it is with a stranger.

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