Who killed 6-year-old pageant star JonBenet Ramsey? Here are 8 possible suspects

Who killed 6-year-old pageant star JonBenet Ramsey? Here are 8 possible suspects
The grave of JonBenet Ramsey (Source : Getty Images)

The murder of six-year-old beauty pageant princess JonBenet Ramsey has continued to grip the world since it happened in 1996. JonBenet Ramsey was discovered dead in her home in Boulder, Colorado in 1996 on December 26, just a day after Christmas. When she died, she was only six years old and was discovered by her father John Ramsey eight hours after she was reported missing.

More than two decades later, the police have no clue as to what happened that fateful day while the killer(s) remains at large. This has resulted in numerous conspiracy theories and headlines hoping to answer the million dollar question — who killed JonBenet Ramsey?

A new documentary 'Hunting JonBenet's Killer: An Untold Story' which features on the A&E network is attempting to find some answers to one of the world's most notorious cold cases, giving an insight into some of the theories. 

Here is a list of eight possible suspects:

1. Michael Helgoth, the junkyard worker

Michael Helgoth, who used to work at a junkyard, was a prime suspect in the murder of little JonBenet. For many years, Helgoth was named in a theory which stated that there were two intruders in the kidnapping case gone wrong. Before his death in 1997, Helgoth had claimed that he and a partner would be making "$50-60K each" in what Helgoth called a "killer deal" over the same Christmas which JonBenet died.


The overall amount matched what was on the ransom note found at the Ramsey home. However, the deal did not come through and post the murder, Helgoth changed his appearance — and got a buzz cut which was very different from his long blonde hair.

2. John Mark Karr, the school teacher

In 2006, former school teacher John Mark Karr had randomly owned up to the murder of the pageant star in graphic and sexual detail and, as a result, was arrested in Thailand. Karr had been staying in Thailand after facing child pornography charges in the US. Karr got himself involved in the case after reaching out to a University of Colorado Boulder professor named Michael Tracey about a documentary that Tracey was making. 

In one of the emails, he revealed his sexual fascination with JonBenet and was reported to authorities by Tracey who arrested him in Bangkok. He was then flown into Boulder, Colorado, for questioning but was cleared when his DNA did not match the profile of an unknown male found on JonBenet's clothing.


3. Linda Hoffman-Pugh, the housekeeper

Housekeeper Linda Pugh had been working for the Ramsey family along with her husband Mervin, who was their handyman. Pugh suspected that JonBenet's mother Patsy Ramsey was responsible when Patsy, in turn, claimed that Pugh was in need of money and requested a loan of thousands of dollars which the Ramseys denied. It is reported that Pugh led JonBenet into the basement to try and trick her employers for ransom money as mentioned on a note found at the scene. 

Given that Pugh was familiar with the home as well as the family schedule, she became a suspect especially since she did not have a credible alibi. However, all the evidence surrounding her is circumstantial and she has not been accused of the crime. 

4. Bill McReynolds, the town Santa

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". 


It is also believed that he brought a vial of glitter gifted to him by Ramsey to his heart surgery and then in a strange twist, asked his wife to mix the glitter with his ashes if he were to pass away. However, there has been no evidence to link him to the murder.

5. Burke Ramsey, the brother

According to a CBS show titled 'The Case of JonBenét Ramsey', one theory put forth by forensic investigator Werner Spitz claimed that JonBenet's brother Burke had killed his sister using a flashlight. He believed that JonBenet had taken a slice of fruit from Burke's snack which led to his attack. Those investigating the show claimed Burke had "a history of scatological problems".

As a result of these claims, Burke launched a £120million lawsuit against CBS. All the members of the Ramsey family were cleared as suspects after three pieces of male DNA were found on JonBenet's clothing in 2008. 

6. Gary Oliva, the town drifter

Gary Oliva was a known sex offender in Boulder, Colorado when JonBenet died. It is alleged that a magazine cutout of little JonBenet was discovered in her backpack after she was caught on drug charges in 2000. According to Oliva's high school friend, Oliva had confessed to him saying, "hurt a little girl. I hurt a little girl." It was also rumored that Oliva had connections to a theory which linked the marks found on JonBenet's body to an encounter with a stun gun. Oliva had a stun gun at the time of his initial arrest.


However, he was also cleared by DNA testing for her murder. 

7. Todd Fuss, the other pageant dad

According to one theory, a 68-year-old Colorado woman, Bernice Johnson who is locked up in prison at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility, claimed that her baby daddy Todd Fuss had some role to play in the JonBenet Ramsey case. Given that their child was possibly part of the same pageants, Todd may have possibly been at the same location and event as JonBenet on a few occasions. 

Johnson recalled a time when she caught Todd "leaning on a door frame where some older little girls were getting dressed". She then asked Todd, "Don't you think it would be a little weird if some strange man was watching your little girl get dressed and put on make-up?" which resulted in him cursing and lashing out. 

Johnson also claimed that Todd had revealed he was coming into some money around the same Christmas when JonBenet was killed. However, Johnson is of the opinion that there is no way that Todd acted alone and that he had help from someone. While this claim itself led to a whole new theory of multiple killers, Todd was cleared after his DNA did not match with the crime.


8. The Schonlau Brothers 

Another theory claimed that the murder of JonBenet is linked to the murders of two other little girls — in Colorado and Hawaii. A retired police officer is of the belief that the murder of Tracy Marie Neef in 1984, the killing of Lacey Ruff in 1993, and the murder of JonBenet Ramsey in 1996 are possibly linked to each other. All the girls were between the ages of four to seven and were abducted and killed in a similar fashion.

When Tracy Neef was kidnapped in 1984, members of the Schonlau family were living close to Tracy's house in Thornton which was the same case when Lacey Ruff was abducted and killed in Kauai. When JonBenet Ramsey was found dead in 1996, it is unclear where the Schonlau family were based but in May that year, a male member of their family was arrested for assault as well as domestic violence in a county close to Boulder. This means that the man could very well have been living in JonBenet's vicinity even seven and a half months later when someone broke into Ramsey's home and killed her.


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