It can be argued that the biggest unsolved mystery of the ’90s (and to this day) is that of the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Ramsey was found dead in her family’s home on Dec. 26, 1996, just a few months after turning 6 years old. A ransom note was left behind. While the police have a DNA composite of the murderer, it remains unsolved.
JonBenét Ramsey was a 6-year-old child beauty queen who lived with her family in Boulder, Colorado. Her father, John, was a computer services company executive, and her mother, Patricia (Patsy), was a stay-at-home mom. She had one older brother, Burke, and an older half-brother, John.
JonBenét was an active participant in child beauty pageants, winning the titles of America’s Royale Miss, Little Miss Charlevoix, Little Miss Colorado, Colorado State All-Star Kids Cover Girl, and National Tiny Miss Beauty.
On the morning of December 26, 1996, JonBenét’s mother found a ransom note demanding $118,000 for her daughter’s safe return. The note said that the kidnappers would monitor the collection of the money and that JonBenét would be returned as soon as it was paid. Patsy called the police, who did a search of the house, but couldn’t find any signs that someone had broken in.
Interestingly, $118,000 is the exact amount that John received as a bonus that year from his company.
After Patsy called the police JonBenét’s body was eventually found in the home’s basement eight hours later.
Patsy and John said that Burke slept through the entire thing and only woke up when police arrived, The Daily Beast reports. Police also determined that the ransom note was written with a pen and paper from the Ramsey’s house and also found what appeared to be a practice draft of the note in the house.
The young girl was found with her wrists bound and duct tape over her mouth. A cord was twisted around her neck, and the cause of death was officially listed as asphyxiation by strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma, per a death certificate obtained by The Associated Press. It is also believed that she was sexually assaulted.
Initially, law enforcement officers suspected a member of her family was involved in the murder, but in 2008, all members were cleared thanks to DNA testing, CNN reports. Instead, DNA testing points to an “unknown male” as the murder suspect. All family members always maintained their innocence.
As the investigation progressed, there were certain details that surfaced, including the fact that the killer may have left a footprint on a suitcase placed below a broken basement window at the Ramsey’s house, the Denver Post reports. For a while, police also operated on the theory that Patsy killed JonBenét in a fit of rage after she wet the bed.
Burke recently debunked the theories that his mother, Patsy, killed JonBenét, telling Dr. Phil, “I’ve never seen her get in a fit of rage. I mean, it doesn’t make sense not to say she never got upset, but nothing near like laying a finger on us, you know, let alone killing her child.”
But Burke has also been suspected of murdering his sister (one theory is that his parents covered for him), and people have pointed out that he behaved bizarrely during a recent Today show interview, laughing and smiling when talking about the day his sister’s body was found.