Murder has no statute of limitations and cold cases older the JonBenét’s have been solved. New technology unavailable at the time of the crime often makes the difference.
In JonBenét’s case, the CBS docuseries brought together some of the material from original investigators and outside forensic experts who used new crime-solving techniques to gather fresh clues.
Their findings were surprising and shocking. And, they seemed to lead to one conclusion. JonBenét’s then 9-year-old brother killed her either accidentally, or willfully, by hitting her on the head with a flashlight.
Then, in a bizarre twist, parents John and Patsy Ramsey covered up his complicity. They concocted a kidnapping and murder, even though it was clear JonBenét never left the house on the night of her death.
If that theory of the case is correct, it would mean the Ramseys, or Burke, created a macabre crime scene. It would have included carrying JonBenét to the basement, tying up her lifeless body, wrapping a cord around her neck and writing a fake ransom letter.
John’s and Patsy’s strange behavior on the night of the murder and in the weeks afterward certainly raised suspicions about their possible involvement. But that’s as far as it went.
Their standing in the community helped keep them above reproach, and they were able to successfully stonewall investigators. Police were never able to interview either of them.
But through the use of new technology, the docuseries unearthed new details about Patsy’s 911 call to report the alleged kidnapping. The findings add fresh evidence of a cover up.
At issue are six seconds of a previously inaudible conversation recorded by the 911 operator after Patsy thought she’d hung up the phone.
John Ramsey can be heard saying “We’re not speaking to you,” as if he was addressing Burke.
Next, Patsy can be heard saying “What did you do?” and “Help me, Jesus.”
Then, Burke can be heard saying, “What did you find?” It’s as if he knew, or thought, JonBenét’s body or other evidence had been found.
Another puzzling clue in the case is the ransom note, which has always been under a cloud. It was overly long, and the writer asked for a ransom that precisely equaled John’s most recent bonus of $118,000.
A re-examination of the letter by the new investigative team concluded that the writer spent at least 21 minutes composing it, adding popular dialogue from movies, including “Dirty Harry” and “Speed.”
Words appeared to be misspelled on purpose to throw off police. But the experts concluded the writer’s first language was English.
Even more chilling, forensic linguist James Fitzgerald added that the writing was “maternal” in style, suggesting a woman had composed the letter, which was written on Ramsey household stationary with a household pen.
Burke was tied to the crime through a test conducted by Werner Spitz, a renowned criminologist. He wanted to determine if a nine-year-old boy had the strength to damage a skull with a blow from a flashlight like the one that killed JonBenét.
So, he recreated the act using simulated skulls adorned with wigs. A boy about Burke’s age and size struck the skulls and caused the same injury suffered by the beauty queen.
Because of her hair and the elasticity of her young skin, external bleeding would have been minimal. But internal hemorrhaging was severe enough to cause her death.
The final piece of the puzzle, which also points to the Ramseys, was the content of JonBenét’s stomach. An autopsy found she’d eaten pineapple before she died.
But that contradicted John Ramsey’s story that he’d carried a sleeping JonBenét up to her bedroom after the family returned home from a Christmas dinner.
Given the new and old evidence, here’s how the scenario might have played out.
Burke went downstairs to play with Christmas toys and may have woken her up. He was eating a pineapple snack left in the kitchen by his mother.
JonBenét woke up, heard him downstairs and followed. At some point she ate some pineapple as well, possibly teasingly, or while Burke was out of the room.
Something angered him; was it the snack? He picked up the flashlight in a fit of anger and hit her on the head. She may have lain unconscious on the floor for several minutes, or even hours.
In any event, when her parents discovered her, she was likely already dead.
A neighbor said Burke had been the apple of his parents’ eyes until JonBenét came along.
She was outgoing, gregarious and endearing, while he was reclusive and often stayed to himself. His mother often dragged him along to her pageants.
That suggests he may have harbored festering resentment against her.
In fact, he’d hit her previously with a golf club, leaving a scar, although he claimed it was an accident. This time, did he do her in for good?
Was it accidental? Or, did he mean to kill her? And what about the parents? Did they cover it up?
As it turns out, at the time, a grand jury investigating the crime voted to indict the parents for JonBenét’s murder. But the prosecutor refused to proceed.
They remained prime suspects in the case until 2008. They were finally cleared but Patsy, who died of ovarian cancer two years earlier, never saw the day.
In April, a private investigator hired by the Ramseys pointed the finger at a local electrician named Michael Helgoth. He allegedly committed suicide shortly after JonBenét’s death.
Police cleared Helgoth as a suspect after failing to find his DNA under JonBenét’s fingernails or in her underwear.
Still, given the new investigation and fresh clues, the case merits going forward. As long as suspicion lingers, JonBenét can never rest in peace.
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