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The Blonde in the Basement: Finding Justice for JonBenet

By Emily Duren

Not many cities can say theyre strangers to murder, but in 1996, Boulder, Colorado found itself as the exception. During a normal year, the Boulder Police Department worked a handful of homicides. But in 1996, zero. Well, almost.

On Dec. 26, 1996, the Boulder PD was called to 755 15th St., a brick Tudor house with ivy crawling up the front, and plastic candy canes lining the walkway. Inside were frantic parents John and Patsy Ramsey and their 9-year-old son, Burke, who was asleep. JonBenet, their 6-year-old daughter, had been kidnapped. Or so they thought.

The night before, on Christmas day, the Ramsey family had gone to a holiday party, and when they came home, Patsy said she put both of her children to bed (JonBenet was already asleep when they arrived.) It was an uneventful end to a completely normal Christmas. No different from what had played out inside millions of homes across America. But when Patsy went to wake JonBenet up the next morning, she found nothing but an empty bedand a ransom note on a back staircase.

The note was addressed only to John Ramsey and was two and a half pages long and said that it was from a group of people from a foreign faction. The FBI says that most ransom notes are only a few paragraphs long. A two and a half page ransom note is something that had never happened before this case and has never happened since. They demanded $118,000, almost the exact amount of Johns Christmas bonus, for JonBenets return. The note went on to say that the Ramseys were being watched, and that if they contacted friends, family, or especially the police, JonBenet would be beheaded. They would be contacted between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. with further instructions.

The initial 911 call came in at 5:52 a.m. Police arrived at the Ramsey home at around 8:00 a.m. and set up recording equipment, assuming that they would be able to record the call from the kidnappers. Because detectives assumed JonBenet had been abducted, they secured only one part of the four-floor Ramsey mansion: her bedroom. This was the first in a series of big mistakes, which former Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner would admit to years later.

Apparently a search of the home was not immediately done by policethough some reports say a brief search was conductedbecause they assumed JonBenet had been taken, as per the ransom note, and because John Ramsey said he had searched the home (including a brief search of the basement) and found no trace of his daughter. When 10:00 a.m. came and went, and the kidnappers didnt call, detective Linda Arndt asked John, and his friend, Fleet White, whose home the Ramseys had been at the previous night, to search the basement again.

This time they went into the wine cellar, located in the very back room of the basement, which was seldom used by the Ramseys (most recently to hide Christmas presents), and found JonBenets body wrapped in a white blanket. There was duct tape over her mouth, and her hands were bound above her head. JonBenets skull was fracturedpolice believe with something similar to a flashlightand then she was strangled one to two hours later with a garrote made from nylon cord and the broken handle of one of Patsys paintbrushes. JonBenet was also sexually assaulted with the paintbrush at some point. Though police theorized this may have been staged after the fact, her autopsy report would show evidence that she was being sexually abused prior to the night of her murder.

Everything that followed was an absolute disaster and complete loss of physical evidence. John carried JonBenet up the stairs and removed the duct tape from her mouth, placing it on the couch. Patsy then came in the room and saw JonBenet. She threw herself onto her body, disturbing any evidence left by the possible intruder. So we now have a body thats been disturbed, a terribly secured crime scene, and friends and family who are walking around it willy nillyFleet White and his wife, another couple who are friends of the Ramseys, and their minister.

Its also important to note that pineapple was found in JonBenets stomach, and there was a bowl of pineapple on the kitchen counter, even though both John and Patsy say they didnt give JonBenet pineapple on Christmas night. Though this was considered important evidence, Boulder cops allowed it to be put it in the sink for unknown reasons, and any evidence that may have been on it was lost forever.

So, who did it? Well, thats a good question. Ill flat out tell you that I dont have a clue. There are many theories out there that range from an intruder, to Johns financial advisor, to Fleet White, to someone in the Ramsey house, and even that JonBenet really grew up to be Katy PerryI swear to God, search for it on YouTube. There has been a lot of speculation about who could have killed JonBenet over the year. Here are who I think are some of the most (though still not very) probable perpetrators:

It has been theorized over the years that Burke Ramsey may have killed JonBenet, and Patsy, desperate to protect him, covered it up.

In his book Foreign Faction–Who Really Kidnapped JonBenet? Former lead investigator A. James Kolar points the finger at Burke Ramsey, and shares some shocking evidence that I had never heard before, including information about one incident where Burke smeared feces on one of the bathroom walls of the Ramsey home. On the morning JonBenet’s body was discovered, a pair of soiled pajama bottoms that were believed to belong to Burke were found in JonBenet’s bedroom, as well as a box of candy, also smeared with feces. According to Kolar, and an AMA he posted to Reddit, investigators thought this was weird, but they never even collected the items. So, nobody knows if the DNA belongs to Burke.

As far as other evidence goes, two years prior to the murder, Burke hit JonBenet on the head with a golf club, even though this incident was later determined to be an accident. He was known to have anger problems, and when he was interviewed by a child psychologist after JonBenets murder, he acted very indifferent and emotionally detached when answering questions about his family.

One thing that stands out in particular is that when he was asked to draw a picture of his family, he drew himself, Patsy, and John, even though this was just mere days after JonBenets murder. The psychologist noted that most children whose siblings are murdered will continue to draw the deceased siblings for years after because the pain of acknowledging the loss is far too painful.

Its also reported that he can be heard speaking in the background of the 911 call, even though hes supposedly upstairsasleep. Not to mention that Burke’s fingerprints were on the bowl of pineapple that JonBenet had eaten from shortly before she was killed. As I said earlier, John and Patsy were both adamant that they didnt give JonBenet pineapple. However, both Burke and Patsys fingerprints were on the pineapple bowl. It doesn’t add up.

An Intruder: Let me just say that although the theory of a stranger breaking in and murdering JonBenet is possible (because lets be honest, I dont think we can rule anything out in this case), it isnt the most probable scenario. First of all, the ransom note was unnecessarily long, and it was written on a notepad and Sharpie from the Ramsey home. A stranger wouldn’t have known the amount of John’s bonus, so that ransom demand would’ve been an awful big coincidence. Again, the pineapple business. If neither Burke nor Patsy made it, that means the intruder came in, took JonBenet out of her bed, took her downstairs, made her a snack, and sat in the kitchen with her while she ate. Then hit her, took her body downstairs, sat with her for 1-2 hours, strangled her, and staged a sexual assault, went back upstairs, wrote a ransom note, and then vanished into thin air.

We also have to remember that there were no signs of forced entry or a struggle, and nobody in the home said they heard JonBenet scream. So whoever killed her probably knew her, and is also probably the same person who had been abusing her. They also must have had intimate knowledge of the home, or at least the layout of the basement, to find the hidden wine cellar in the very back. So, that nearly puts the intruder theory to bed, or at the very least, narrows the suspect pool significantly. Those arent even my biggest problems here. The BIGGEST hole is: youre leaving a ransom note for money, correct? Correct. Therefore, YOU DONT KILL THE CHILD. Now the parents have no incentive to give you the money! However, there are some things that point to an intruder who knew JonBenet. Come on, if youre a regular reader, you know I have to play Devils advocate. There was male DNA in JonBenets underwear that was never able to be matched to anyone. This is a GIGANTIC win for those who think there was an intruder.

Theres also the fact that many of the things used in the commission of the murder were from the Ramsey home. I know this contradicts what I just said, but hear me out. If youre a random serial killer, youre going to bring your owntoolkit, or whatever it is serial killers use. But if youre someone who has intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Ramsey home, you know what you do and dont need. The less you bring with you, the less there is to risk leaving something behind. Because, and hear me out, if the Ramseys killed JonBenet, or if Burke killed her, and the Ramseys staged a cover up, they had hours to dispose of the weapons and notepad, yet everything was left behind. The notepad was left out in the open on the kitchen counter for the police to see. Their home was four floors, why not at least stash it in an upstairs closet if they’re the ones who wrote it? Just saying.

Patsy Ramsey: This is the theory that has been most popular over the years, especially with authorities. In 1999, a grand jury voted to indict the Ramseys on child abuse that led to JonBenets murder, but Boulder DA Alex Hunter wouldnt sign the indictments due to what he believed to be a lack of evidence. The only thing that was somewhat fishy was that everyone in the Ramsey house had to undergo a handwriting analysis to be compared to the ransom note, and when it came to the $118,000 portion, Patsy wrote it out instead of using the numerals, possibly to be different from the letter and throw the police off her trail.

The Patsytheory for the murder, though, was always that after Patsy put JonBenet to bed, JonBenet wet the bed, Patsy was exhausted and angry, and they got in a fight in JonBenets bathroom, in which she sustained an accidental head injury, possibly by falling? The strangulation came later, when Patsy realized that JonBenet wasnt yet dead, she staged the sexual assault, the rest of the scene, wrote the ransom note, and called 911. Personally, I think this is absolutely preposterous. Mostly because I cant see a mother staging the sexual assault of her own child. I know youre probably thinking that if she can commit murder, than that probably doesnt seem too far fetched, but it does to me. I just cant wrap my head around a mother doing that. A detached, cold-blooded killer, maybe. But not a mother.

Just to touch on each of the people in the Ramsey home that night, I dont, never have, and never will believe that John Ramsey had anything to do with his daughters murder, nor did he have any knowledge of who did kill her, or take part in a coverup after the fact. Absolutely zero evidence points to him.

Patsy Ramsey died from ovarian cancer on June 24, 2006. Shortly after her death, a school teacher named John Mark Karr, who was living in Thailand at the time, came forward and said he murdered JonBenet, but his claim was quickly determined to have no merit. On July 9, 2008, both John and Patsy Ramsey were officially cleared of any involvement in JonBenets murder. John Ramsey has since remarried. Burke Ramsey is now 29-years-old and works as a software developer. No charges have ever been filed in the case.

This is a case that I can say with almost 100 % certainty I dont think will ever be solved, all due to the errors made in the first few days of the investigation. The mere fact that such little evidence can produce so many viable theories and suspects is absolutely mind boggling to me. Theres only one thing I know for sure, though: the fact that a little girl can be brutally murdered in her own home and nobody has to pay the price for it will haunt me until the day I die. There is no justice for JonBenet.

There is currently a movie called Casting JonBenet being filmed in Boulder, Colorado.

**Correction: A previous version of this article claimed that “everything in the Ramsey home was used to kill JonBenet,” which is untrue.

12 Comments on The Blonde in the Basement: Finding Justice for JonBenet

  1. Why is there so much emphasis on the spider web at the basement entry not being disturbed. Don’t investigators know that a spider can spin an elaborate web in an hour or less? Have you never walked out of your door to see a huge web that was not there shortly before?


  2. JMK My Ass // August 19, 2016 at 12:35 pm //

    Justice for Jonbenet is coming after the new docuseries airs in September. Melinda Soppel will see…


  3. Really? Burke did it out of sheer jealousy over her famous sister? Hmm…not farfetched. But what about her sister’s vaginal trauma? Was he also a culprit? Findings stated that there has been a prolonged and consistent sexual abuse in the life of JonBenet. I have another theory. JonBenet was offered as a child sacrifice to Moloch. December 21st was winter solstice so her death was deliberate.


  4. The intruder brought his tools with him, the stun gun, cord, tape, gloves. More important, he also brought, and left, his handwriting, his fantasies, his boot prints, fibers and DNA.

    The family was cleared by DNA within 3 weeks, but the police kept that information to themselves. They were cleared by handwriting later. They passed polygraphs. The had no mental illness or history of violent behavior that would lead to such an act and after the murder they acted as devastated parents of a murdered child, nothing more or less.

    You should review the case before putting a message of judgment online that could mislead people looking for answers.


  5. This was former police chief Mark Beckner’s retraction about the profile DNA in his AMA interview: (this was AFTER he had backed Kolar’s findings calling the DNA inconsequential and also pointed the finger at the Ramseys. You have to wonder what happened to make him recant. A call from Boulder PD perhaps? Or their attorney?) He was just too stubborn to investigate anyone other than a Ramsey.
    “I tried to be honest and fair,” Beckner said, “and I think the only thing I would emphasize is that the unknown DNA [from JonBenet’s clothing] is very important. And I’m not involved any more, but that has got to be the focus of the investigation. In my opinion, at this point, that’s your suspect.”

    “The suspect is the donator of that unknown DNA, and until you can prove otherwise, I think that’s the way you’ve got to look at it,” he continued.


  6. Famous Profiler John Douglas suggested it was a person with hatred for John Ramsey due to the content of the ransom note. JMK has hatred for all fathers of his love interest due to his past experience with them. He wants to be the father of the child. Yet pedophiles see nothing wrong in having an unconventional relationship with their “child”. JMK uses many phrases from the ransom note in his every day conversation and his family could have verified this had they been asked.


  7. John Mark Karr was arrested in 2001 for child pornography. He was also briefly considered a suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case but Boulder authorities never even returned Sonoma County authorities phone call when they call to tell them of their evidence. Kara’s attorney and family suggested that he leave the country (which is what he did) He was in hiding in Thailand with a suitcase packed ready to leave at a moment’s notice at all times.
    Karr’s family and his wife protected him to avoid their own embarrassment. Karr’s wife has since admitted she did not know where he was that Christmas and they were estranged at the time. Kara’s brother and father invented that story that he was doing research for a book. They know he is a pedophile and gave him advice to avoid capture.
    His DNA was tested in the governor’s jet on the tarmac with NO OTHER WITNESSES except one Detective who allowed him to do his own swab. Unheard of for such a high profile case! Karr has mentioned doing a “magician’s sleight of hand”. Could this be why the DNA didn’t match?
    Miss Colorado 1996, Suesan Rajabi, told professor Michael Tracey about meeting a man claiming to be JonBenet’s father at the last talent show she participated in on December 22nd at South Plaza Mall. After the murder she realized the man was not her father but she failed to report this to police. There was a man watching JonBenet perform from the back of the stage who looks very much like John Mark Karr. He has been identified as JMK by two people who knew him intimately. The JMK likeness concentrated on JonBenet as she comes on stage and moves closer to watch her perform, ignoring the man he was talking to backstage. There is a possibility that this man could be identified as John Mark Karr if people would come forward and stop being fearful of getting involved. This family deserves justice.
    If you go back to the beginning of the murder and consider what profilers have suggested JMK is the most likely suspect. Profilers suggested a sadistic pedophile, someone obsessed with movies (JMK uses movie quotes to make his point with students), someone who had a connection to the pageant industry (JMK claims he was at the Atlanta Gingerbread pageant in August 1996 backstage in a sequin jacket handing out something) He also admits to advising JonBenet on her singing and meeting or knowing both Patsy Ramsey and her mother Nedra Paugh. Unfortunately they were deceased upon his arrest in 2006 and unable to verify this. In 1996 JMK was a likable and personable married teacher with three children. It’s possible they would have never thought of him as a suspect. He was far from the big scary monster everyone was looking for but true pedophiles usually are.


  8. To respond to your comments JaKobscalpel: The rumor that John insisted on attending an important meeting after JonBenet’s death is false. He had a meeting he had to notify that he would not be attending. John Ramsey does not understand how FLEET WHITE couldn’t have seen JonBenet in the basement room because he looked in there first. She was clearly visible from the door. John Ramsey’s explanation of breaking the basement window was that at one time time months earlier when he had locked himself out of the house. He needed to break into his own house so he chose a hidden basement well window to break and unlatch the lock to gain entry. It didn’t need to be repaired immediately because it was hidden behind the house in the well window. I have personally done the same thing when left with the option of calling an expensive locksmith or having my husband repair a $2.00 window pane. Fleet White moved the suitcase from under the window while the crime was still being investigated. It was clearly placed there to be used as a step stool and there was a scuff mark right under the window. Remember John Ramsey said he had broken INTO the home, not OUT of the home. The was a possible exit used by the perpetrator.
    John Ramsey never left the home that morning of the murder. Much of what has been reported in the media is just false information.
    Any parent would try to revive their child if they found her themselves. This was a very rare situation that John Ramsey was unfortunately put in. He would have never found her himself if the Boulder PD had done their job property when searching the home. The last thing on an innocent parent’s mind is contaminating evidence.
    In addition to the open basement window with the suitcase and scuff mark underneath, the butler door was left open, JonBenet’s balcony door was unlocked and there were other upper level windows that were open.
    There were no footprints in the snow because there was no snow in the back of the house on the driveway. Another false rumor touted by incompetent journalists. There were no footprints in the snow in the FRONT of the house. Evidence pointed to entry though the basement window.
    No debris from window well in basement? Not true. There were styrofoam packing peanuts in the window well and the basement floor. The spider web is up for debate with experts from both sides who disagree.
    Patsy could not excluded as the author when she was the only person tested. That is not the same as saying she wrote the ransom note. Plenty of other suspects who have since been tested for handwriting such as Chris Wolf and John Mark Karr have been identified as possible writers of the ransom note. JMK’s writings were even compared scientifically by a linguist who is NOT opinion based. Their SCIENTIFIC findings were that JMK wrote the ransom note and the Patricia Letters.
    DNA, including TOUCH DNA found in three areas of her body was a slam dunk in 2008. If Boulder PD has evidence that this profile is not that of the killer and they have DNA on the garrote (not ever confirmed publicly by anyone else but Kolar) why don’t they rearrest John Mark Karr? or test his DNA against the garrote DNA they supposedly have. You will not hear the current police chief Greg Testa call the profile DNA inconsequential. He was likely embarrassed by former Chief Mark Beckner’s insinuation. Notice he quickly backtracked after his AMA interview, saying it did have credibility. I would suspect this was avoid a lawsuit.
    James Kolar never once interviewed the Ramseys, has little experience in homicide, and he participated in the case investigation very little.


  9. “Absolutely zero evidence points to him.” – Although I don’t believe JR had anything to do with the crime, I also don’t think this statement is completely accurate. Some circumstantial evidence exists. White’s description of how JR found the body is a distinct red flag (room too dark to see, etc). JR admits to breaking the basement window (the previous summer though). JR was out of police contact for at least an hour while Linda dealt with PR. JR carried the body upstairs, contaminating evidence. JR insisted the family needed to leave the state and that he had a business meeting he couldn’t miss. Circumstantial yes, but clearly above zero.

    [3rd comment] “There is plenty to suggest an intruder was the culprit: there were open doors and windows, (one basement window which had a scuff mark in it and suitcase under it—suggesting the killer used it as an exit)” – There are also indications there was no intruder. Lack of footprints in heavy frost anywhere outside the home. Undisturbed spider web in the grate crawl space. No debris on basement floor from grate removal and the tight fit. Also, regarding the note, PR could not be excluded as the author and her handwriting tests showed signs of modification. Her notepad, practice pages (missing) were attempted, and the strange ransom request…. anyway, it is not clear cut either way. However, I don’t think the evidence, or lack thereof, can excluded PR’s involvement.

    The DNA evidence is not a slam dunk for an intruder, as has been presented by the former DA. However, it is clearly the best evidence that an intruder did it and no convincing refutation exists. Kolar’s book was probably the best effort to explain away the DNA evidence but it has not convinced me.


  10. Dr Henry Lee revised his original assessment of the DNA in the case after the touch DNA was found in 2008 on the thermal pants which also matched the DNA on the panties and the partial fingernail DNA. He said something to the effect that if the same DNA was found in multiple areas that it would add credibility to the possibility that it belonged to the killer.
    I pray that the case IS solved because the parents have not only had the horrific burden of losing their beloved daughter, but the additional tragedy of finding brutally tortured body themselves in their own home. The garrote was embedded into her neck and she had damage to her hymen. Only a psychopath could have done this type of damage. Not parents who have no history of mental illness or abuse. Parents that had a reputation for excellent parenting skills. If going through all of that wasn’t enough, the Boulder Police Department has continued to harass the Ramsey family by suggesting their involvement for nearly 20 years despite the DA exonerating them in 2008. The Boulder PD can’t afford to see this case solved because it would probably lead to a huge lawsuit from the family for their refusal to consider the intruder theory.
    There is plenty to suggest an intruder was the culprit: there were open doors and windows, (one basement window which had a scuff mark in it and suitcase under it—suggesting the killer used it as an exit), rope and tape used which did not come from the home, russack bag and flashlight left behind behind which did not belong to the family. Foreign DNA. a bizarre three page ransom note with movie quotes speaking of beheadings and foreign factions. This was not a note educated parents would use to cover up an “accident” as the police department suggests.
    It’s time for the Boulder PD to give up the case to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Colorado State Police or even a group of retired professionals like the Vidocq Society. Yet they refuse to work with anyone or allow anyone to take it over.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Excellent first rate article. You have the pro-Rams sweating bullets. You bet it isn’t likely that an intruder committed this crime, Dr. Henry Lee said so in his own 120 plus page chapter of his book, “Cracking More Cases.” With all the personal references in the LONG ransom note, only a very small universe of people could have committed this crime, and they have all been thrown under the bus. 20 years of false perps.
    I do not believe this case will go unsolved. I believe as Shakespeare said “murder will out, in spite of the money, power, deliberate obfuscation by pro-Ramseys, and deliberate neglect by the DA’s office (not the police). People won’t allow this crime to be swept under the carpet. This case reeks and people are right to start asking HARD questions and investigating on their own, like this wonderful author did.


  12. At least your article wasn’t completely one sided like most of them but one error I see is that you say that everything used to kill her was found in the home. That is NOT true. There was never any rope of duct tape found in the home that matches that which was used to kill her. There was a flashlight found that the Ramseys said was not theirs in the kitchen. It’s possible that a flashlight was the item used to bash her head in. There was a russack bag found in John Andrews room with rope inside that was NOT the Ramseys.
    Have you considered the scenario that the Kidnapping and Ransom Note was the original intention but the child was killed to silence her?
    There was DNA found in her underwear and thermal pants that matches partial DNA found under her fingernails that has not been sourced. Kolar also states there was other DNA found–even on the garrote. The garrote DNA would be the most likely item to contain DNA from the killer, yet this DNA does not match the profile! So why was JMK the only suspect arrested and released for the murder via DNA evidence, not re-examined as a suspect or tested against these “new” DNA samples? He had used bondage and a garrote in his past. He is a self professed pedophile obsessed with JonBenet. He had kidnapped a 12 year child in his past who later became his child bride. He has used the same phrase terminology in the ransom note in his past. He reluctantly admitted to being the killer and that has never wavered. His family did NOT give him an iron clad alibi as media reported. There is also video evidence to suggest he may have been at previous talent and pageants that JonBenet had participated in. Yet law enforcement refuses to even investigate him further.
    Your conclusion is likely correct: the case will never be solved.


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