Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder of JonBenet Ramsey

Vindications At Last

JonBenet Ramsey
JonBenet Ramsey

For years, the mainstream media and tabloids put John and Patsy Ramsey on trial in the press for the murder of their daughter. Evidence of their involvement in JonBenet's death was not really necessary, the thinking went; any parent who would promote her daughter's participation in something as politically incorrect as a beauty contest was capable of well, anything.

John & Patsy Ramsey
John & Patsy Ramsey

Rumor and innuendo snowballed, becoming increasingly absurd as the media frenzy fed upon the story: The Ramseys must be guilty because they had a lawyer advising them. Patsy's "motive" for killing her daughter was that she wet the bed. JonBenet had been sexually abused. The behavior of the Boulder law enforcement community did nothing to inject common sense into that runaway news story. They steadfastly kept the Ramseys "under the umbrella of suspicion" and insisted that there had been no intruder in the Ramsey household. In 1999, Colorado Governor Bill Owens claimed the Ramseys were hiding behind their lawyers.

Finally, after years of grieving over the loss of their child and then suffering demonization of themselves in the media, the Ramseys are finding the vindication that they sought from day one. An Atlanta judge and the Boulder district attorney agreed that the Ramseys may have be been right all along and that the weight of evidence supports the belief that an intruder was responsible for JonBenet's death. Furthermore, the district judge criticized police and the FBI for what she said was a media campaign aimed at making the family look guilty.

ABC News.com reported on April 9, 2003 that U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes dismissed a defamation "lawsuit by former Boulder freelance journalist, Chris Wolf, who was named as a suspect in a book the Ramseys wrote."

Wolf had argued in the lawsuit that Patsy Ramsey killed her daughter and tried to cover it up.

The judge said that the Ramseys had defamed Wolf, but to win his case, Wolf would have had to put the Ramseys on trial for murder.

"In short, plaintiff's success in this litigation requires him to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that defendants killed their child," the judge wrote. She said she dismissed the suit "because there is virtually no evidence to support plaintiff's theory that they murdered their child."

District Attorney Mary Keenan took over the Ramsey case in December, 2002. She raised eyebrows in the Boulder law enforcement community by publicly disagreeing with the entrenched police viewpoint. "I agree with the court's conclusion that 'the weight of the evidence is more consistent with the theory that an intruder murdered JonBenet than it is with the theory that Mrs. Ramsey did it,'" she stated in April 2003.

There is significant unexplained evidence to support the intruder theory, ABC reports: "a mysterious boot print outside the house; DNA of an unknown male on JonBenet and her underpants; marks on her body that could have been made by a stun gun; and signs that someone may have entered the house through a basement window."

Dr. Henry Lee
Dr. Henry Lee

The Denver area media is still reluctant to let the Ramseys off. The Rocky Mountain News wrote on April 26, 2003, that Dr. Henry Lee, "the most prominent criminologist to work on the JonBenet Ramsey case remains unsure whether the child was murdered or died in what started as an accident."

Dr. Lee had not been consulted by the new D.A. and he acknowledged that there "may be significant new evidence in the cases since his last involvement."

"I respect her," Dr. Lee said of Keenan. "She is a very competent attorney."

L. Lin Wood, the Ramseys' attorney, believes that the case can still be solved because of the DNA, which is not too contaminated to be useful.

"Still, the horror the Ramseys have lived through the past six years will never completely fade," Wood said. "They lost their child and they lost their privacy."

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