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'JonBenet Ramsey: What Really Happened': Why did the 6-year-old pageant star's brother Burke sue CBS?

CBS's 'The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey' may have tried to do what other true-crime documentaries, do, but it also presented a theory as to who could have killed JonBenet
Burke Ramsey (via 'Dr Phil'/CBS)
Burke Ramsey (via 'Dr Phil'/CBS)

The murder of six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey has as yet received no definitive answer as to what exactly happened on December 26, 1996. The little pageant star's body was discovered by her father in their basement. She was found bludgeoned, strangled, and hidden underneath a white blanket with a nylon cord around her neck. Her wrists had been bound above her head while her mouth was covered using duct tape. JonBenet was a beauty pageant star, having won numerous titles such as America's Royale Miss, Little Miss Charlevoix, Little Miss Colorado, Colorado State All-Star Kids Cover Girl and National Tiny Miss Beauty.

More than 20 years have passed since JonBenet was killed, yet no one has yet been arrested for the crime. While there are many theories as to who the suspects could be, the case is limited to theorizing. A new documentary from discovery+, 'JonBenet Ramsey: What Really Happened' will take a fresh look at the case-one among the many documentaries to do so. 

However, one particular docuseries created more controversy than needed. CBS's 'The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey' may have tried to do what other true-crime documentaries, do, but it also presented a theory as to who could have killed JonBenet. The docuseries first examined the 911 call made from the home and claimed that there were three voices on the tape-those of JonBenet's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, as well as her brother, Burke Ramsey. The docuseries claimed that Patsy said, "What did you do?" and "Help me, Jesus," while John purportedly said, "We're not speaking to you." However, neither the Secret Service nor the FBI indicated that Burke's voice could be heard on examining the tapes.

Further, the investigators in the docuseries concluded that JonBenet could have been killed by a blow from a flashlight by a 10-year-old boy, based on experiments performed using a child and a fake skull with wigs. The investigators were able to recreate the injury that JonBenet sustained by having the boy in the experiment use a flashlight similar to one found in the Ramseys' home. However, the boy in the re-enactment was visibly bigger than Burke would have been at the time of the murder.

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'- $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 JonBenét Ramsey."

CBS and Burke settled the defamation lawsuit for an undisclosed amount in 2019, with the Ramsey's lawyer, Lin Wood telling NPR, "For almost 20 years, it has been my privilege to represent John Ramsey, Patsy Ramsey (before her untimely death in 2006) and their son, Burke in a number of defamation lawsuits." He continued, "It is now my professional and personal wish for this family that they no longer suffer the pain of false accusations in the future. I sincerely hope the CBS case is my last lawsuit for these fine clients and friends."

'JonBenet Ramsey: What Really Happened' will premiere on Discovery+ on Monday, January 4, 2021.