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JonBenet Murder Mystery Solved? (Not by Psychics)

The death of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey went unsolved for two decades. Psychics were worse than useless, but the author’s proposed solution resulted from evaluating the best evidence.

On the day after Christmas 1996, child beauty-pageant star JonBenet Ramsey, age six, was found dead—garroted and her skull broken—in the basement of her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado. As police vied with the district attorney’s office over incompatible theories, the mystery of the little girl’s death became a national media sensation, but it never led to an arrest. The case is a complex puzzle—not only with many pieces to sort out and fit into place but with some bogus pieces tossed into the mix.

I have worked privately on this case over the years. Unfortunately, I lacked the direct access (to police files, crime-scene evidence, etc.) that I had when I was enlisted to investigate homicide cases (e.g., Nickell 2007; Nickell with Fischer 1992, 107– 129; Nickell and Fischer 1999, 39). Still, much essential evidence in the Ramsey case has now become publicly available.

What I present here is not an accusation but an exercise in trying to select and interpret the best evidence for “One of the greatest unsolved crimes in history” (Murder 2016).

Death of JonBenet

At about 5:52 am on December 26, the girl’s mother, Patsy Ramsey, called 911 to report her daughter missing— although a ransom note Mrs. Ramsey had found on the kitchen stairs warned that alerting authorities would result in her daughter being killed; ditto talking to anyone else, although she also called friends.

Responding to the emergency call, two police officers arrived separately at 755 Fifteenth Street and looked around, but they did not see any evidence of breaking and entering.

The ransom note was addressed to JonBenet’s father, John Ramsey (see below).

The patrol sergeant called for additional officers, a crime-scene investigation (CSI) crew, and what are known as victim advocates to com fort and assist the Ramseys. Unfortunately, the house was not vacated and guarded as a crime scene, and a Ramsey friend, Fleet White, even went looking in the basement. In a large room with a model railroad, he saw a broken window, picked up a piece of glass, putting it on the ledge, and moved a suitcase to look for other pieces. He had unthinkingly altered part of the crime scene (although it would be learned that John Ramsey had himself broken the window on an earlier occasion, when he had locked himself out of the house). Also, an advocate followed behind a fingerprint technician, using spray cleaner to tidy up as he finished with the area (Ramsey with Chapian 2012, 12; Thomas with Davis 2000, 18–27).

About one o’clock that afternoon, detective Linda Arndt initiated a further search with White and Ramsey. Ignoring her suggestion to begin at the top floor and work their way down, Ramsey headed straight for the basement, “a warren of rooms, closets, nooks, and crawl spaces” (Thomas with Davis 2000, 27). There, in a little room lacking a window, he discovered the lifeless body of JonBenet. She lay face up with her arms extended above her head. She was dressed in a white knit top and white long underwear over an “oversized” pair of floral-print panties. A pink nightgown was in the white blanket that she was neatly tucked into (Wecht and Bosworth 1998, 23; Thomas with Davis 2000, 28, 42; Douglas and Olshaker 2000, 284; Gentile and Wright 2003, 306). Ramsey ripped off duct tape covering her mouth, picked up the stiffened little body, and—carrying it upstairs—placed it on the floor close to the front door. Arndt noticed the smell of decomposition when she reached to the neck to feel for a pulse. Ramsey put a quilt over the body, and someone covered the feet with a sweatshirt. He lay down to put his arm around the dead child and stroked her hair, while Patsy came and fell across the body. All of these actions, and more, seriously compromised any future evidence collecting (Thomas with Davis 2000, 27–30; Wecht and Bosworth 1998, 22–26).

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Fire-Breathing Dinosaurs? Physics, Fossils, and Functional Morphology vs. Pseudoscience JonBenet Murder Mystery Solved? (Not by Psychics) An Investigation of the Missing411 Conspiracy