You may or may not know that we are approaching the 20 anniversary of the Jonbenet Ramsey murder case. There have been quite a few specials and documentaries on the story on TV lately, all of which I have found interesting.
First I wanted to say that I am by no means a legal expert, and I also want to say that I cannot imagine what it must be like to have your child murdered. With that being said I was too young to remember this case in terms of the details, but I certainly remember seeing her face on grocery store tabloids and hearing her name on the news almost nightly. I was just too young to understand what happened and what was going on.
This case is arguably one of the most famous in all of American history. I would say that it was up there with the Lindbergh Kidnaping case. What makes it even more fascinating is that it was first, never solved, and secondly one of the first stories to take the American public by storm. I think the first was obviously the OJ Trial, but this was certainly a close second. Which I think was a lot of the problem, but I will get to that in a second.
Again I am not an expert on the case but I did watch a two hour documentary that I felt fairly and unbiasedly laid out all the evidence. So here are most of the facts Jonbenet a six year old little girl was sexually assaulted and murdered in her home on Christmas day night. She was taken from her bed upstairs in the middle of the night to the basement where she was assaulted then murdered. A four page ransom note was left on the back stairs of the house detailing that the Ramsey’s daughter was kidnapped and the kidnappers would need $118,000 to get their daughter back.
Upon arrival to the Ramsey household the police were suspicious as there were no signs of break in. They also claimed that the Ramsey’s were acting “strange” in light of what had happened. Eventually the body of Jonbenet was found in the basement. Upon examination of the body it was determined that she was hit over the head hard enough to cause a black out, but the cause of death was ruled strangulation by a garrote. It was also determined that she had been sexually assaulted before her death.
It did not take long for the police to suspect John and Patsy Ramsey, in particular Patsy. Although during the investigation there was not enough evidence to directly indict the Ramseys and they were eventually no listed as suspects. This is where I think things get convoluted and is the basis of what I wanted to talk about. Regardless of the evidence or lack thereof, the Boulder Police had already named their suspects and were ready to get them to trial, but a grand jury believed that there was not enough evidence to prosecute a case. The main proponent for the innocents of the Ramseys was a very famous and extremely through detective named Lou Smit.
Lou Smit was the one that noticed two small marks and an additional burn mark on Jonbenet’s body, which he later confirmed were from a hand held teaser. He also said that it was relatively easy to sneak into the Ramsey’s basement through a window and did so on live TV at one point and time. The Boulder Police maintained that it would be impossible for anyone to do this yet a 60 something year old man did it with relative ease. Smit also noticed a black mark on the wall that he claimed was from the person coming through the window. So his theory of what happened that night was that someone entered the basement just as he had, went up to Jonbenet’s room teased her and took her to the basement hit her over the head, assaulted her, then strangled her with the garrote. Seems plausible and the evidence seemed to mostly point to that.
But there are a things that don’t really match up with that theory. The first was a four page ransom note, I mean who the hell writes a four page ransom note? Also the dollar amount requested was strange, it was also the exact amount that John Ramsey received for his Christmas bonus. Only John and Patsy would have known of this dollar amount. The other bizarre fact was that in Jonbenet’s stomach there was pineapple. The Ramsey’s claimed that she did not eat that on Christmas night, so the killer must have fixed her pineapple before they killed her. Again both of these are really strange. There was also some evidence that suggested that Patsy Ramsey wrote the ransom note, which would explain the odd asking price. A handwriting analysis did state that there were similarities from her handwriting and that of the ransom note. But I am not sure that would hold up in court and neither did the prosecution which is why they were never indicted.
Years went by and still no killer had come forward or been caught. But DNA testing had come into play and Jonbenet’s clothes were tested. What they found was the DNA of an unknown male on her clothes, which basically eliminated any of the family members as they would all share the same DNA since they were family. Still the Bolder Police believed the Ramsey’s were the killers, which completely blows my mind. So at this point in the case they have the DNA of an unknown male on the body of the victim, Smit also showed that it was extremely easy to gain entry to the Ramsey house. So it seemed that there was much more credence to his theory than the others.
But there is still the problem of the ransom note and the pineapple. For me those two things are very strange. I can believe that the ransom note was written by someone else because handwriting analysis is not an exact science. Also the note was place on the back stairs, not the main stairs of the house. So the police say that the intruder would have to have known that the Ramsey’s did not use the main stairs early in the morning. This could have just been a coincidence as where do you leave a ransom note so the parents find it? But the pineapple thing is truly bizarre. Why would the killer feed Jonbenet pineapple before killing her.
I could go on and on talking about the other suspects that were rounded up, but in the end none of those that were brought in matched the DNA profile on Jonbenet’s clothes. So more than 20 years later the case is still unsolved.
The point of my post is to talk about small town law enforcement. I am not going to criticize anyone for doing their job, but what I will say is that even to this day the officers interviewed for the documentary I watched still believed Patsy killed her daughter. That is what I have a problem with. The evidence should point you to a suspect not the other way around. There was also a time when the Bolder Police wanted all of Smit’s evidence thrown out of the investigation because it did not fit the narrative that Patsy killed Jonbenet. How messed up is that if it is true?
Is there so much pressure on small town investigators to get a killer that they will completely ignore evidence to get the conviction? That is certainly scary if true and gets me back to my earlier statement of the impact that the media had on the case. This was a nationwide case, probably a worldwide case and there was certainly pressure to get the killer.
This is not the only case where this may have happened, I am sure you remember the series Making a Murderer. That murder also took place in a very small town. Now I will be honest deep down I think Steven Avery was guilty, although it certainly did not happened the way the prosecutor said it did. So he should have probably gotten off based on what the prosecution presented. However as I said I still think he probably did it so he is in jail, justice served right? But again there was a mountain of evidence to suggest otherwise or at least give a reasonable doubt to the jury. There are those that think the investigators planted evidence, everyone remembers the key and the blood drops. I think there is a reasonable chance that those along with some other pieces of evidence was planted, but again I think he did do it. Regardless of my opinion, what is nuts is that the prosecution looked for no other suspects they stuck with Avery even though they had no evidence to start. Again I think that is troubling, and the fact that evidence could have been planted sets up a very scary scenario.
While the Making a Murderer case did not receive national attention until after the documentary it is still alarming at how some investigations are conducted. The same can be said with the Jonbenet murder. As I have said I am not an expert on either case, but in my opinion I do not think the Ramsey’s killed Johnbenet. There are theories that her brother killed her because he was jealous, her mother did because she wet the bed, but honestly none of the evidence suggest that. The most bizarre thing to me is the pineapple, no matter which theory you go with that just does not add up. If her mother killed her then where did the male DNA come from? If she was killed by an intruder, why would they feed her pineapple before killing her? Just seems really strange. Still though, being a prosecutor is tough no doubt, but sometimes there seems to be a lack of common sense. Or there is such a determination to catch someone, anyone, just get someone that important evidence is ignored. If that is the case then that is very scary. I also feel that these high profile, big time cases are more often than not botched. It seems the limelight does more harm than good.