Who killed JonBenet Ramsey? 10 possible suspects from the heartbreaking unsolved case that remains a mystery
JonBenet Ramsey — the name still sends shivers down the spine. Over 20 years ago, on Christmas night, the six-year-old was brutally murdered in her own home in Boulder, Colorado. With twinkling blue eyes and beautiful features, she was an enigma ever since she stepped into the world. No wonder she is still frozen in time -- forever six. After the tragedy, the killer was never found and her death is still shrouded in mystery.
Born on August 6, 1990, she was raised by her parents John and Patsy Ramsey along with two sisters — Elizabeth and Melinda — and two brothers — John Andrew and Burke Ramsey. From an early age, she had a sparkle and would often entertain her family by breaking into a little dance or showing off her skills. Kind, smart and playful, she excelled in math and loved to read. Did you know she could also hula hoop, rollerblade, and ski?
In the wee hours on December 26, 1996, John and Patsy Ramsey woke up to find their little one missing. A mysterious long ransom note was found on the stairs demanding a huge ransom of around $118,000 for their daughter’s safe return. The case drew much attention as her mother, Patsy Ramsey, was a former beauty queen and encouraged her daughter to take part in a series of child beauty pageants. Amid the open investigation with the Boulder Police Department, the one question still remains: Who killed JonBenet Ramsey?
Here are the 10 suspects that will boggle your mind:
John Bennett Ramsey
Could a father kill his own daughter? The businessman was under the scanner for quite a long time and was considered a suspect in the murder of his own daughter. According to Gregg McCrary, a retired profiler with the FBI, "statistically, it is a 12-to-1 probability that it's a family member or a caregiver" is involved in the homicide of a child. However, he was cleared in 2003 and 2008 by DNA evidence.
Patricia ‘Patsy’ Ramsey
During the investigation, enforcement officials declared that Patsy and her husband were “under an umbrella of suspicion” and the two constantly defended their innocence for the next 10 years. A Colorado Bureau of Investigation report indicated that the unusually long note with several exclamation marks was penned down by Patricia Ramsey.
In a preview of an ABC 20/20 special, handwriting expert Cina Wong said it was “highly probable” that Patsy had written the ransom note after examining and comparing it to 100 examples of her handwriting. In her explanation, the letter “A” written in four different variations was exactly how Patsy wrote them. However, no crucial evidence could be found against her and the suspicion was set aside.
At the time of his sister's death, Burke Ramsey was nine. In several speculations, he was counted among the suspects and many thought he accidentally murdered his younger sister.
In 2016, Burke sued Werner Spitz, the forensic pathologist involved in the CBS docuseries for $150 million. Later that year, Burke sued CBS for $750 million for being accused of murdering his sister in 'The Case Of JonBenet Ramsey' and received $250 million in compensatory damages and no less than $500 million in punitive damages. Burke's lawyers stated in the filing, "The accusation that Burke Ramsey killed his sister was based on a compilation of lies, half-truths, manufactured information, and the intentional omission and avoidance of truthful information about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey."
At the time of JonBenet Ramsey, Michael Helgoth was 26. He was thrust into the case after he was turned in by colleague John Kenady, a convicted sex offender with a long criminal record. According to Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, Kenady "had had some mental problems". Kenady claims he first contacted police with his theory in 1997, "three months after the crime".
According to reports, he once asked Helgoth what it would be like to crush a skill and his answer led him to speculate he might have had a hand in the murder. In 2019, Kenady claimed Helgoth's flashlight had gone missing after the crime in a documentary, calling it "one of his prized possessions".
A local reporter, Chris Wolf was said to be one of the suspects after his live-in partner Jacqueline Dilson turned him in. Reportedly, she said he was out all night on December 25 and when he came back, his clothes were dirty. Reports also say that Wolf was quite agitated to see the news of the murder. Moreover, Wolf also possessed a sweatshirt with the acronym "S-B-T-C" (which stood for Santa Barbara Tennis Club) on it.
Dilson claimed Wolf's handwriting was similar to the one in the ransom note and handwriting expert Lloyd Cunningham could not eliminate him.
A known sex offender, Gary Oliva was said to be in Boulder at the time of the murder. After being arrested on drug charges in 2000, he was found with a JonBenet cutout and a stun gun. He was a potential suspect in Ollie Gray's eyes. A high school friend of Oliva, Michael Vail said he 'hurt a little girl'.
Todd Fuss' imprisoned wife Bernice Johnson turned him in as their kid was allegedly a part of the same pageants.
John Mark Karr
A former substitute teacher, John Mark Karr was arrested for child pornography in California in 2001. Reports claim the charges were dropped when the files lying on the computer were lost. After being cleared by DNA evidence in 2006, he was arrested again for domestic violence in 2007.
Linda Hoffman-Pugh was the Ramseys' housekeeper and he had the house keys. She also wanted a loan to clear her rent dues. Mysterious as it may sound, she once asked JonBenet's grandmother if the family ever had any fears about the girl being kidnapped.
A Santa Claus impersonator the now late Bill McReynolds was also a suspect in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. The week before the murder, McReynolds had dressed up as the local Santa and entertained children at a Christmas gathering. It is reported that McReynolds paid a little too much attention to JonBenet and had supposedly chosen JonBenet to be his "special friend".