Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder of JonBenet Ramsey

Serious Allegations

When the Ramseys returned to Boulder to assist in the police investigation, they had no idea that worse was still to come. They moved in with friends where they were besieged by the media, who added a third element to the case against them. News stories appeared reporting that the police believed that JonBenet had been sexually assaulted prior to the time of her murder. The televising of footage from JonBenet's beauty pageants and the suggestion that the Ramseys might have sexually abused their daughter brought over 300 journalists to Boulder. Soon after, the story exploded.

JonBenet with her brother, Burke
JonBenet with her brother, Burke

Mainstream journalists followed the tabloids. Any mention of the Ramseys attracted readers and pushed up ratings. The stories continually criticized John and Patsy for "degrading" their daughter in "sexualized" pageants, and for hiring two lawyers; this, according to the press, made them look "twice as suspicious." They were accused of refusing to cooperate with the police and of actually delaying the investigation. According to Brian Morgan, their attorney, the reality was quite different:

"The Ramseys were interviewed on the 26th, the Ramseys were interviewed on the 27th. On the 27th they give samples of physical evidence, blood, hair and fingerprints. When they returned from Atlanta, the Ramseys gave five handwriting samples, voluntarily. To say that the Ramseys had not cooperated in this investigation is a gross mischaracterization."

The samples of handwriting that John and Patsy provided to the police were later found to bear no similarities to those on the ransom note.

The Ramseys' desire to cooperate with the police did not last long. Their attitude towards the police changed dramatically when they got back to Boulder and learned from Mike Bynum that the previous week, the police had refused to release JonBenet's body until John and Patsy agreed to be interrogated. Even though Bynum had been successful in having the body released in time for the funeral, the police continued to press for additional interviews. After hearing this, John and Patsy Ramsey finally realized that the police, to use John's words — "Weren't there to help us, they were there to hang us." They became very suspicious and untrusting of the police and made further moves to defend themselves.

As the weeks passed, the police started to apply more pressure on the Ramseys. In February 1997, District Attorney Alex Hunter told journalists, "I want to say something to the person or persons that took this baby from us, the list of suspects narrows. Soon there will be no one on the list but you."

The inference was that he had been talking directly to John Ramsey, who was now being openly branded as a murderer.

Soon after, another leak from police records indicated that warrants had been sought to search the Ramsey house for pornographic material. The media had a field day and carried stories of how a father's deviant sexual behavior had resulted in the death of his daughter. In May, the Ramseys gave a press conference, part of which showed John Ramsey staring into the camera and declaring emphatically, "I did not kill my daughter JonBenet." It was a last desperate attempt to declare their innocence, but no one believed them.

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