Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder of JonBenet Ramsey

Who Did It?

The next question to be answered is, if the Ramseys didn't do it, who did? There are two main theories. The first is that JonBenet was murdered by an unknown assailant who entered the house, presumably via the basement window. JonBenet was found wrapped in a blanket and lying in the middle of the basement floor. She had duct tape across her mouth. She lay with her arms above her head and a white cord was wrapped tightly around her neck. The same cord was tied loosely to her wrists. The broken handle of a paintbrush, measuring approximately 4.5 inches in length, had been looped into the cord to form a garrote. At the time of her death, JonBenet was wearing a sweatshirt over a long sleeve shirt. The lower half of her body was clad in white pajama bottoms over white panties.


There was a thin gold ring on the middle finger of her right hand, and a bracelet with her name engraved on one side and the date "12/25/96" on her left wrist. A red heart was drawn on the palm of her left hand. Around her neck was a gold chain with a single gold cross attached. The evidence suggests that either someone took the girl from her bedroom by force, or lured her to the kitchen with the promise of food, which would explain the undigested remnants of pineapple found in her stomach at the time of her death. She was then taken to the basement, had tape placed over her mouth, and was bound with the nylon cord. She was then sexually assaulted, after which she was strangled with the garrote and bashed about the head. The killer or killers then wrote out a two and a half page "ransom" note on a pad from the house, demanding $118,000, and left it at the foot of the staircase.

If this theory is correct, then the killer would have to be someone who:

  • is familiar with the layout of the house.
  • knows the Ramseys personally enough to know that John Ramsey received a bonus of $118,000.
  • is small enough to have gained entry via a narrow basement window and possibly exited the same way.
  • was confident enough to spend the time to not only commit the offense, but to have the presence of mind to write a long note in an attempt to draw suspicion away from himself.

Former FBI agent and expert criminal profiler, Robert Ressler believes that:

  • JonBenet knew her killer
  • the killer could have come from a small circle of friends around the Ramsey home in Boulder
  • the circle would include family, neighbors, and employees of the Ramseys.

Ressler's analysis is further strengthened by an excerpt from a letter of resignation that Detective Lou Smits, a veteran investigator of 32 years' experience, sent to District Attorney Alex Hunter:

"The case tells me that there is substantial, credible, evidence of an intruder and lack of evidence that the parents are involved."

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