Jonbenet Ramsey

JonBenét Ramsey: Murder mystery still lingers; can new DNA testing solve the case?

Twenty years have passed since six-year-old beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey was discovered dead and posed in her parents’ upscale home on December 26, the day after Christmas, in Boulder, Colorado.  At the time of her death, JonBenét had become a “queen” in the beauty pageant realm. She was crowned at five pageants, country-wide. At only four years of age, she shined at the Colorado State All-Star Kids Cover Girl, then appeared just a few months later at the Little Miss Charlevoix pageant in Charlevoix, Michigan. JonBenét continued on to win Little Miss Colorado, America’s Royale Miss and National Tiny Miss Beauty.  Over the years, many crime sleuths have tried to connect her death in some way to her competition in these or other child beauty pageants.

Nonetheless, police insist the investigation is ongoing, and the Boulder police chief says his team has obtained and analyzed over 200 DNA samples, gathered more than 1,500 pieces of evidence, contacted 1,000 potential witnesses and researched 20,000-plus tips; but, to date, no one has ever been arrested. Now, The Colorado Bureau of Investigation plans to test specific pieces of evidence according to Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, based on “rapidly developing area of forensic investigation.”

It is believed he was referring to a highly sensitive form of testing now available called “YFiler Plus,” and it focuses specifically on the Y chromosome.  The technique greatly enhances the resolution of trace evidence and sex assault mixtures of small quantities of male DNA amidst a much greater quantity of female DNA.   Analysis of the case suggests the evidence to be retested is a flashlight found in the home, duct tape on JonBenet’s mouth, ligatures on her wrists and the garrote ostensibly used to strangle her.

Interest and allegations in the JonBenét Ramsey murder investigation were reignited after an interview with JonBenét’s brother, Burke, on the Dr. Phil Show.  Burke was just 9 years-old at the time of his little sister’s death and has lived in the shadow of that tragedy ever since, even enduring claims that he, himself, was part of the gruesome death.

The interview catches Burke Ramsey on video, smiling “inappropriately” as he describes the morning his sister was found dead in the basement approximately eight hours after being reported missing. She had, ostensibly, been struck severely on the skull and strangled with a garrote.

Much of Burke’s unusual affect while speaking of his sister’s death was chalked up to him being socially inept and a loner-recluse who rarely socializes – and even works remotely.  While theories roping Burke into a homicidal scheme continue to abound, little in the way of facts support them.  Statistically, sibling homicide, fratricide or sororicide, are practically nonexistent, extremely rare to say the least, especially given the Ramsey family identifying characteristics.

“The first thing I remember is my mom bursting into my room really frantic saying, ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh,’ running around my room, now, I know, looking for JonBenét,” he said, thus kicking off an extremely uncomfortable interview.

But “uncomfortable” or “socially inept” does not a killer make. So who is responsible for a faked kidnapping, a brutal child death and an undoubtedly posed murder scene?


To properly analyze a homicide scene, preceding events must be taken into account. Several key events took place in the days before JonBenét’s death. John Ramsey threw a huge Access Graphics company party celebrating the company’s $1 billion in sales.  Importantly, Ramsey’s financial coup was published in the local paper December 21, 1996, four days before the death.  One day after, JonBenét performed, danced and sang at a holiday event at a local shopping mall.  Then, on December 23, the Ramseys hosted a Christmas party where a neighbor played Santa.  That neighbor later became a suspect in the case.  Was there a connection between one of these events and JonBenét’s homicide?

[Photo: AP/David Zalubowski, File]
The home itself is the crime scene.  Inspecting it, what do we learn?  The night of JonBenét’s death, only she and her immediate family were home: Burke, Patsy and John Ramsey. Beginning on the main floor, the main entrance to the home, the front door, appeared to show everyday wear and tear from a family of four but significantly, no forced entry.  A broken, unlocked window was found in the basement under a grate, bordered with undisturbed cobwebs was found by police.

Immediately from the entrance area, one enters a gorgeous living room, still decorated for Christmas. Other decorations were strewn about the home, including video cassette cartridges and Christmas gifts.  Then, to JonBenét’s room, where a light pink coverlet lies thrown off the bed and her many pageant trophies are on display beside an expensive dollhouse stuffed with toys. Again, significantly, her own room shows no signs of foul play. A Mag-lite flashlight was found sitting on the kitchen counter.  The flashlight was clean of fibers and fingerprints.

But a clue was discovered by cops there on the dining room table: a bowl of cut up pineapple.  Brother Burke later stated pineapple was one of JonBenét’s favorite snacks and it is noted below in the official autopsy report that undigested pieces of pineapple were in her stomach at the time of autopsy. The Ramseys stated JonBenét was asleep at 10 pm when they all returned from the neighbor’s Christmas party the night before. They say they put her straight to bed, not feeding her anything.

Photos of the home taken on the day when JonBenét’s body was found show a bowl of pineapple on the kitchen table with a spoon in it.  Police reported brother Burke Ramsey’s fingerprints were on the bowl but its argued they may have been left on a previous occasion and can not be “dated.”  Patsy and John Ramsey insist Burke slept through the night, as does he.  It is nonetheless largely undisputed that JonBenét ate pineapple approximately two hours before her death.

The sequence of events starts when Patsy cannot find her daughter.  As a Burke says, “The first thing I remember is my mom bursting into my room really frantic saying, ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh,’ running around my room, now, I know, looking for JonBenét.”

Then, the discovery of the note. Despite strict orders in the ransom note not to contact police or friends, Patsy Ramsey calls police at 5:52 a.m. MST, as wells as friends and family.  In just minutes, officers responded to the 911 call and arrive at the Ramsey home to find Patsy Ramsey answering the door in full makeup, hair combed, and dressed in the same black velvet pants and red top as she had worn the night before.  Cops immediately conduct a cursory search but find no sign of a break-in or forced entry.

John Ramsey began hastily making arrangements to pay the $118,000 ransom and CSI forensics were sent to the house. The so-called ransom note, left by kidnappers, was found by Patsy Ramsey on the spiral staircase leading to the basement where JonBenét was found dead.  Because of the note, police believed it was in fact a kidnapping, and cordoned off only JonBenét’s bedroom to avoid contamination. No further measures were taken to preserve the scene and evidence, a failure that would haunt the investigation for the next two decades.

Friends, victims’ advocates and the family minister showed up and at some point, seeking to help, straightened up, picking up items and even cleaning surfaces in the kitchen – destroying any potential evidence. Boulder Police Detective Linda Arndt arrived to the scene at about 8 a.m. MST, to await the instructions from the kidnapper. Those instructions never came nor was there ever any attempt to claim the $118,000 ransom.  As the clock ticked with no word from a kidnapper, Arndt asked John Ramsey and his friend Fleet White to search the home to find out if “anything seemed amiss.”

Ramsey and White started in the basement, and it was there that John Ramsey found his daughter’s body in a separate room in the basement.  JonBenét was lying face-up, her mouth covered in duct tape, nylon cord binding her neck and wrists, and she was found resting on – and partially covered by – a white blanket, “papoose style.”  Her arms were stretched above her head.

John Ramsey [Photo: AP/Alan Mothner]
A garrote, fashioned from nylon cord and the broken handle of a paintbrush belonging to Patsy Ramsey, was tied around the child’s neck. A portion of the bristle end of the paintbrush was found in a tray containing Patsy Ramsey’s art supplies on the basement floor. Wood splinters were reportedly found next to the tray suggesting the garrote had actually been made in that spot on that night.  The bottom third of the paintbrush was never found.

Ramsey rushed to scoop her up and immediately took her body upstairs to the others.  Patsy Ramsey the threw herself over the body, and John Ramsey removed the duct tape from JonBenét’s mouth and loosened the wrist bindings.  Inexplicably, Arndt moved her into the living room and reportedly placed her under the Christmas tree.  Each move destroyed, dislocated or contaminated potentially vital evidence.

Patsy Ramsey informed police that JonBenét, now dressed in white leggings and a shirt, was not wearing what she wore to bed the night before. She was still wearing the white top she wore to Fleet White’s Christmas party the night before, but her bottoms were different.  Also, the underpants she was wearing when found in the basement were several sizes too large for her and were stained with urine.

John, Patsy and Burke Ramsey provided handwriting, blood and hair samples, and gave preliminary interviews in the weeks that followed.

The Office of the Boulder County Coroner performed the autopsy and discovered ligature marks on JonBenét’s neck from a garrote, fashioned with the white cord wound by a broken paintbrush belonging to Patsy Ramsey. There was fatal trauma to the head, a fractured skull eight inches in length and a brain hemorrhage. There was no evidence of sex abuse, however, there were abrasions around her vaginal area consistent with being scraped and abrasions on her body consistent with being dragged across the floor.

The Ramseys quickly retained a criminal defense lawyer because they felt Boulder wrongly targeted them as the prime suspects. Even though it is highly unusual for a kidnap victim to be found dead in their own home, the Ramseys refused to go to the police station for questioning and refused to be questioned separately.  The family insisted police submit their questions in writing, and demanded police hand over all reports about Ramsey statements and behaviors.

The paper on which the note was written and its ink were analyzed.  The chemical makeup of ink from pens collected in the home were then compared to the ink in the note. The ransom note, written with pen and paper found inside the home, indicates the perp was not in a hurry and had no fear of being caught, taking the time to plan and pen a two-and-a-half page letter, one of the longest ever documented. The killer also returned the pad and pen to where they had been. The $118,000 ransom figure demanded was the exact bonus amount John Ramsey just received from work. Handwriting experts who analyzed the note differed wildly as to whether Mrs. Ramsey wrote the note.


“Mr. Ramsey,

Listen carefully! We are a group of individuals that represent a small foreign faction. We do respect your bussiness [sic] but not the country that it serves. At this time we have your daughter in our posession [sic]. She is safe and unharmed and if you want her to see 1997, you must follow our instructions to the letter.

You will withdraw $118,000.00 from your account. $100,000 will be in $100 bills and the remaining $18,000 in $20 bills. Make sure that you bring an adequate size attache to the bank. When you get home you will put the money in a brown paper bag. I will call you between 8 and 10 am tomorrow to instruct you on delivery. The delivery will be exhausting so I advise you to be rested. If we monitor you getting the money early, we might call you early to arrange an earlier delivery of the money and hence a [sic] earlier delivery pick-up of your daughter.

Any deviation of my instructions will result in the immediate execution of your daughter. You will also be denied her remains for proper burial. The two gentlemen watching over your daughter do notparticularly like you so I advise you not to provoke them. Speaking to anyone about your situation, such as Police, F.B.I., etc., will result in your daughter being beheaded. If we catch you talking to a stray dog, she dies. If you alert bank authorities, she dies. If the money is in any way marked or tampered with, she dies. You will be scanned for electronic devices and if any are found, she dies. You can try to deceive us but be warned that we are familiar with law enforcement countermeasures and tactics. You stand a 99% chance of killing your daughter if you try to out smart [sic] us. Follow our instructions and you stand a 100% chance of getting her back.

You and your family are under constant scrutiny as well as the authorities. Don’t try to grow a brain John. You are not the only fat cat around so don’t think that killing will be difficult. Don’t underestimate us John. Use that good southern common sense of yours. It is up to you now John!



Photo: Boulder Police Department
Photo: Boulder Police Department


A Caucasian hair was discovered on JonBenét’s body. It didn’t match the Ramseys, nor has its owner ever been found.   There was a shoe print in the basement that matched none of the Ramsey family. The duct tape reportedly revealed a perfect set of lip prints, indicating it was placed post-mortem or after JonBenét sank into unconsciousness. This leads to the belief that the blow to the head came first.  Degraded trace DNA was collected from JonBenet’s underwear and fingernails but its donor could not be traced.   The presence of DNA, however, may be meaningless as we later learned investigators actually tested brand new underwear just bought from a department store only to discover the new underwear held trace DNA, likely from being handled at the manufacturing plant where it was made.

The delay in finding the body was crucial. Had dogs been brought in or simply if a thorough police search of the home had been conducted immediately, including the wine cellar where JonBenét’s body was found, contamination of the body would not have occurred and a much clearer timeline would exist today.

Dark fibers were discovered on the garrote’s white rope and also from JonBenet’s genital area. Chemical analysis and microscopes compare the ingredients, shapes, and dyes of fibers.  Shoe prints, sizes and designs of the ones found in and outside Jon Benet’s home were compared to shoes belonging to persons of interest to no avail.



DOB: 08/06/90 DEATH D/T: 12/26/96 @ 1323

AGE: 6Y AUTOPSY D/T: 12/27/96 @ 0815

SEX: F ID NO: 137712 PATH MD: MEYER COR/MEDREC#: 1714-96-A


I. Ligature strangulation

A. Circumferential ligature with associated ligature furrow of neck

B. Abrasions and petechial hemorrhages, neck

C. Petechial hemorrhages, conjunctival surfaces of eyes and skin of face

II. Craniocerebral Injuries

A. Scalp contusion

B. Linear, comminuted fracture of right side of skull

C. Linear pattern of contusions of right cerebral hemisphere

D. subarachnoid and subdural hemorrhage

E. Small contusions, tips of temporal lobes

III. Abrasion of right cheek

IV. Abrasion/contusion, posterior right shoulder

V. Abrasions of left lower back and posterior left lower leg

VI. Abrasion and Vancular congestion of vaginal mucosa

VII. Ligature of right wrist Toxicologic Studies blood ethanol – none detected blood drug screen – no drugs detected CLINOCOPATHOLIGICAL CORRELATION: Cause of death of this six year old female is asphyxia by strangulation associated with Craniocerebral trauma.

John E. Meyer M.D. Pathologist Jn


The body of this six year old female was first seen by me after I was called to an address identified as 755 – 15th street in Boulder, Colorado, on 12/26/96. I arrived at the scene approximately 8 PM on 12/26 and entered the house where the decedent’s body was located at approximately 8:20 PM.

A brief examination of the body disclosed a ligature around the neck and a ligature around the right wrist. Also noted was a small area of abrasion or contusion below the right ear on the lateral aspect of the right cheek. A prominent dried abrasion was present on the lower left neck. After examining the body, I left the residence at approximately 8:30 PM.

 EXTERNAL EVIDENCE OF INJURY: Located just below the right ear at the right angle of the mandible, 1.5 inches below the right external auditory canal is a 3/8 x  1/4 inch  area of rust colored abrasion. In the lateral aspect of the left lower eyelid on the inner conjunctival surface is a 1 mm in maximum dimension petechial hemorrhage.

Very fine, less than 1 mm petechial hemorrhages are present on the skin of the upper eyelids bilaterally as well as on the lateral left cheek. On everything the left upper eyelid there are much smaller, less than 1 mm petechial hemorrhages located on the conjunctival surface. Possible petechial hemorrhages are also seen on the conjunctival surfaces of the right upper and lower eyelids, but liver mortis on this side of the face makes definite identification difficult.  A deep ligature furrow encircles the entire neck. The width of the furrow varies from one-eight of an inch to five/sixteenths of an inch and is horizontal in orientation, with little upward deviation.

The skin of the anterior neck above and below the ligature furrow contains areas of petechial hemorrhage and abrasion encompassing an area measuring approximately 3 x 2 inches. The ligature furrow crosses the anterior midline of the neck just below the laryngeal prominence, approximately at the level of the cricoid cartilage. It is almost completely horizontal with slight upward deviation from the horizontal towards the back of the neck. The midline of the furrow mark on the anterior neck is 8 inches below the top of the head. The midline of the furrow mark on the posterior neck is 6.75 inches below the top of the head.  

The area of abrasion and petechial hemorrhage of the skin of the anterior neck includes on the lower left neck, just to the left of the midline, a roughly triangular, parchment-like rust colored abrasion which measures 1.5 inches in length with a maximum width of 0.75 inches. This roughly triangular shaped abrasion is obliquely oriented with the apex superior and lateral.

The remainder of the abrasions and petechial hemorrhages of the skin above and below the anterior projection of the ligature furrow are nonpatterned, purple to rust colored, and present in the midline, right, and left areas of the anterior neck. The skin just above the ligature furrow along the right side of the neck contains petechial hemorrhage composed of multiple confluent very small petechial hemorrhages as well as several larger petechial hemorrhages measuring up to one-sixteenth and one-eight of an inch in maximum dimension.

Similar smaller petechial hemorrhages are present on the skin below the ligature furrow on the left lateral aspect of the neck. Located on the right side of the chin is a three-sixteenths by one-eight of an inch area of superficial abrasion. On the posterior aspect of the right shoulder is a poorly demarcated, very superficial focus of abrasion/contusion which is pale purple in color and measures up to three-quarters by one-half inch in maximum dimension. Several linear aggregates of petechial hemorrhages are present in the anterior left shoulder just above Deltopectoral groove. These measure up to one inch in length by one-sixteenth to one-eight of an inch in width.

On the left lateral aspect of the lower back, approximately sixteen and one-quarter inches and seventeen and one-half inches below the level of the top of the head are two dried rust colored to slightly purple abrasions. The more superior of the two measures one-eight by one-sixteenth of an inch and the more inferior measures three-sixteenths by one-eight of an inch. There is no surrounding contusion identified.

On the posterior aspect of the left lower leg, almost in the midline, approximately 4 inches above the level of the heel are two small scratch-like abrasions which are dried and rust colored. They measure one-sixteenth by less than one-sixteenth of an inch and one-eight by less than one-sixteenth of an inch respectively.  On the anterior aspect of the perineum, along the edges of closure of the labia Majora , is a small amount of dried blood. A similar small amount of dried and semifluid blood is present on the skin of the Fourchette and in the vestibule.

Inside the vestibule of the vagina and along the distal vaginal wall is reddish hyperemia. This hyperemia is circumferential and perhaps more noticeable on the right side and posteriorly. The hyperemia also appears to extend just inside the vaginal orifice.

A 1 cm red-purple area of abrasion is located on the right posterolateral area of the 1 x 1 cm hymeneal orifice. The hymen itself is represented by a rim of mucosal tissue extending clockwise between the 2 and 10:00 positions. The area of abrasion is present at approximately the 7:00 position and appears to involve the hymen and distal right lateral vaginal wall and possibly the area anterior to the hymen.

On the right labia Majora is a very faint area of violent discoloration measuring approximately one inch by three-eighths of an inch. Incision into the underlying subcutaneous tissue discloses no hemorrhage. A minimal amount of semiliquid thin watery red fluid is present in the vaginal vault. No recent or remote anal or other perineal trauma is identified.

REMAINDER OF EXTERNAL EXAMINATION:  The Unembalmed, well developed and well nourished Caucasian female body measures 47 inches in length and weight an estimated 45 pounds. No scalp trauma is identified. The external auditory canals are patent and free of blood. The eyes are green and the pupils equally dilated. The  Sclerae  are white. The nostrils are both patent and contain a small amount of tan mucous material. The teeth are native and in good repair.

The tongue is smooth, pink-tan and granular. No buccal mucosal trauma is seen. The frenulum is intact. There is slight drying artifact of the tip of the tongue. On the right cheek is a pattern of dried saliva and mucous material which does not appear to be hemorrhagic. The neck contains no palpable  Adenopathy  or masses and the trachea and larynx are midline. The chest is symmetrical. Breasts are prepubescent. The abdomen is flat and contains no scars.

No palpable  Organomegaly  or masses are identified. The external genitalia are that of a prepubescent female. No pubic hair is present. The anus is patent. Examination of the extremities is unremarkable.  The fingernails of both hands are of sufficient length for clipping. Examination of the back is unremarkable. There is dorsal 3+ to 4+  Livor  mortis which is  Nonblanching .  Livor  mortis is also present on the right side of the face. At the time of the initiation of the autopsy there is mild 1 to 2+ rigor mortis of the elbows and shoulders with more advanced 2 to 3+ rigor mortis of the joints of the lower extremities.  

INTERNAL EXAM: The anterior chest musculature is well developed. No sternal or rib fractures are identified.  

Mediastinum: The mediastinal contents are normally distributed. The 21 gm thymus gland has a normal external appearance. The cut sections are finely lobular and pink-tan. No petechial hemorrhages are seen. The aorta and remainder of the mediastinal structures are unremarkable.

Body Cavities: The right and left thoracic cavities contain approximately 5 cc of straw colored fluid. The pleural surfaces are smooth and glistening. The pericardial sac contains 3-4 cc of straw colored fluid and the  Epicardium  and pericardium are unremarkable. The abdominal contents are normally distributed and covered by a smooth glistening serosa. No intra-abdominal accumulation of fluid or blood is seen.  

Lungs: The 200 gm right lung and 175 gm let lung have a normal lobar configuration. An occasional scattered  Subpleural  petechial hemorrhage is seen on the surface of each lung. The cut sections of the lungs disclose an intact alveolar architecture with a small amount of watery fluid exuding from the cut surfaces with mild pressure. The intrapulmonary bronchi and vasculature are unremarkable. No evidence of consolidation is seen.

 Heart: The 100 gm heart has a normal external configuration. There are scattered  Subepicardial  petechial hemorrhages over the anterior surface of the heart. The coronary arteries are normal in their distribution and contain no evidence of atherosclerosis. The tan-pink myocardium is homogeneous and contains no areas of  fibrosis or infarction. The endocardium is unremarkable. The valve cusps are thin, delicate and pliable and contain no vegetation or thrombosis. The major vessels enter and leave the heart in the normal fashion. The foramen  Ovale  is closed.

 Aorta and Vena Cava: The aorta is patent throughout its course as are its major branches. No atherosclerosis is seen. The Vena Cava is unremarkable.

 Spleen: The 61 gm spleen has a finely wrinkled purple capsule. Cut sections are homogeneous and disclose readily identifiable red and white pulp. No intrinsic abnormalities are identified.  

Adrenals: The adrenal glands are of normal size and shape. A golden yellow cortex surmounts a thin brown-tan medullary area. No intrinsic abnormalities are identified.  

Kidneys: The 40 gm right kidney and 40 gm left kidney have a normal external appearance. The surfaces are smooth and glistening. Cut sections disclose an intact  Corticomedullary  architecture. The renal  Papillae  are sharply demarcated. The  Pelvocaliceal  system is lined by gray-white mucosa which is unremarkable. Both ureters are patent throughout their course to the bladder.

 Liver: The 625 gm liver has a normal external appearance. The capsule is smooth and glistening. Cut sections disclose an intact lobular architecture with no intrinsic abnormalities identified.  Pancreas: The pancreas is of normal size and shape. Cut sections are finely lobular and tan. No intrinsic abnormalities are identified.  

Bladder: The bladder is contracted and contains no urine. The bladder mucosa is smooth and tan-gray. No intrinsic abnormalities are seen.  Genitalia: The upper portions of the vaginal vault contain no abnormalities. The prepubescent uterus measures 3 x 1 x 0.8 cm and is unremarkable. The cervical  Os  contains no abnormalities. Both fallopian tubes and ovaries are prepubescent and unremarkable by gross examination.  

Gallbladder: The gallbladder contains 2-3 cc of amber bile. No stones are identified and the mucosa is smooth and velvety. The cystic duct, right and left hepatic duct and common bile duct are patent throughout their course to the duodenum.

 G.I. Tract: The esophagus is empty. It is lined by gray-white mucosa. The stomach contains a small amount (8-10 cc) of viscous to green to tan colored thick mucous material without particulate matter identified. The gastric mucosa is  Autolyzed  but contains no areas of hemorrhage or ulceration. The proximal portion of the small intestine contains fragmented pieces of yellow to light green-tan apparent vegetable or fruit material which may represent fragments of pineapple. No hemorrhage is identified. The remainder of the small intestine is unremarkable. The large intestine contains soft green fecal material. The appendix is present.  

Lymphatic System: Unremarkable.  

Musculoskeletal System: Unremarkable.  

Skull and Brain: Upon reflection of the scalp there is found to be an extensive area of scalp hemorrhage along the right  Temporoparietal  area extending from the orbital ridge, posteriorly all the way to the occipital area. This encompasses an area measuring approximately 7 x 4 inches. This grossly appears to be fresh hemorrhage with no evidence of organization. At the superior extension of this area of hemorrhage is a linear to comminuted skull fracture which extends from the right occipital to Posteroparietal  area forward to the right frontal area across the parietal portion of the skull. the  Posteroparietal  area of this fracture is a roughly rectangular shaped displaced fragment of skull measuring one and three-quarters by one-half inch.

The hemorrhage and the fracture extend posteriorly just past the midline of the occipital area of the skull. This fracture measures approximately 8.5 inches in length. On removal of the skull cap there is found to be a thin film of subdural hemorrhage measuring approximately 7-8 cc over the surface of the right cerebral hemisphere and extending to the base of the cerebral hemisphere. The 1450 gm brain has a normal overall architecture. Mild narrowing of the sulci and flattening of the  Gyri  are seen. No inflammation is identified. There is a thin film of subarachnoid hemorrhage overlying the entire right cerebral hemisphere.

On the right cerebral hemisphere underlying the previously mentioned linear skull fracture is an extensive linear area of purple contusion extending from the right frontal area, posteriorly along the lateral aspect of the parietal region and into the occipital area. This area of contusion measures 8 inches in length with a width of up to 1.75 inches. At the tip of the right temporal lobe is a one-quarter by one quarter inch similar appearing purple contusion.

Only very minimal contusion is present at the tip of the left temporal lobe. This area of contusion measures only one-half inch in maximum dimension. The cerebral vasculature contains no evidence of atherosclerosis. Multiple coronal sections of the cerebral hemispheres, brain stem and  Cerebellum  disclose no additional abnormalities. The areas of previously described contusion are characterized by purple linear streak-like discolorations of the gray matter perpendicular to the surface of the cerebral cortex. These extend approximately 6 mm into the cerebral cortex. Examination of the base of the brain discloses no additional fractures.  

Neck: Dissection of the neck is performed after removal of the  Thoracoabdominal  organs and the brain. The anterior strap musculature of the neck is serially dissected. Multiple sections of the sternocleidomastoid muscle disclose no hemorrhages. Sections of the remainder of the strap musculature of the neck disclose no evidence of hemorrhage. Examination of the thyroid cartilage, cricoid cartilage and hyoid bone disclose not evidence of fracture of hemorrhage. Multiple cross sections of the tongue disclose no hemorrhage or traumatic injury. The thyroid gland weights 2 gm and is normal in appearance. Cut sections are finely lobular and red-tan.

The trachea and larynx are lined by smooth pink-tan mucosa without intrinsic abnormalities. MICROSCOPIC DESCRIPTION: (All Sections Stained with H&E) (Slide Key) – (A) – scalp hemorrhage, (B) – sections of vaginal mucosa with smallest fragment representing area of abrasion of 7:00 position, (C) – heart, (D-F) – lungs, (G) – liver and spleen, (H) – pancreas and kidney, (I) – thyroid and bladder, (J) – thymus and adrenals, (K-L) – reproductive organs, (M) – larynx, (N-T) – brain.

Myocardium: Sections of the ventricular myocardium are composed of interlacing bundles of cardiac muscle fibers. No fibrosis or inflammation are identified.  

Lungs: The alveolar architecture of the lungs is well preserved. Pulmonary vascular congestion is identified. No intrinsic abnormalities are seen.  

Spleen: There is mild autolysis of the spleen. Both red and white pulp are identifiable.

Thyroid: The thyroid gland is composed of normal-appearing follicles. An occasional isolated area of chronic interstitial inflammatory infiltrate is seen. There is also a small fragment of parathyroid tissue.  

Thymus: The thymus gland retains the usual architecture. The lymphoid material is intact and scattered Hassall’s corpuscles are identified. Mild vascular congestion is identified.

 Trachea: There is mild chronic inflammation in the submucosa of the trachea.

Liver: The lobular architecture of the liver is well preserved. No inflammation or intrinsic abnormality are identified.

Pancreas: There is autolysis of the pancreas which is otherwise unremarkable.

Kidney: The overall architecture of the kidney is well preserved. There is perhaps mild vascular congestion in the cortex but no inflammation is identified.  

Bladder: The transitional epithelium of the bladder is  Autolyzed . No significant intrinsic abnormalities are seen.

Reproductive Organs: Sections of the uterus are consistent with the prepubescent age. The ovary is unremarkable.  

Adrenal: The architecture of the adrenal is well preserved and no intrinsic abnormalities are seen.

Brain: Sections of the areas of contusion disclose disrupted blood vessels of the cortex with surrounding hemorrhage. There is no evidence of inflammatory infiltrate or organization of the hemorrhage. Subarachnoid hemorrhage is also identified. Cortical neurons are surrounded by clear halos, as are glial cells.

Vaginal Mucosa: All of the sections contain vascular congestion and focal interstitial chronic inflammation. the smallest piece of tissue, from the 7:00 position of the vaginal wall/hymen, contain epithelial erosion with underlying capillary congestion. A small number of red blood cells is present on the eroded surface, as is  Birefringent foreign material. Acute inflammatory infiltrate is not seen.  

EVIDENCE: Items turned over to the Boulder Police Department as evidence include: Fibers and hair from clothing and body surfaces; ligatures; clothing; vaginal swabs and smears; rectal swabs and smears; oral swabs and smears; paper bags from hands, fingernail clippings, jewelry, paper bags from feet; white body bag; sample of head hear, eyelashes and eyebrows; swabs from right and left thighs and right cheek; red top and purple top tubes of blood. ”


The autopsy revealed JonBenét was killed by strangulation and skull fracture…”asphyxiation due to strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma.”  There was no evidence of conventional rape.  JonBenét’s hymen was intact, and no semen was found.  There was, however, evidence that there had been a vaginal injury, and it appeared that her vaginal area had been wiped with a cloth.

Much later, in December of 2003, enough material from a mixed blood sample found on JonBenét’s underwear established a DNA profile belonging to an unknown male.  The DNA was analyzed by the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, CODIS, tracking over 1.6 million DNA profiles. Nothing in CODIS matched the sample.  But as of October, 2016, new analysis suggests the DNA contains genetic markers from two individuals other than JonBenét.

A Boulder grand jury convened on September 15, 1998, and in 1999, and returned a true bill charging the Ramseys.   But in a surprise move, Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter refused to prosecute, stating he did not believe that he could meet the higher standard of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a petit jury.



JonBenét’s mother, Patsy Ramsey, passed away after a battle with ovarian cancer.  Although she and John Ramsey were arguably exonerated based on DNA, many still hypothesize that Patsy accidentally killed Jon Benet in a fit of rage over yet another bed-wetting incident and staged a cover-up.

The garrote on the scene was part of a paintbrush taken from Patsy’s paint kit that lay nearby, and the ransom note demanded $118,000, the amount of John’s bonus, be given to the “foreign faction” by 10 a.m. the next day.  Handwriting analyses were ultimately inconclusive although the note reportedly was on Patsy’s stationary and written with her pen.


Arndt stated she found it suspicious that the Ramseys let the 10 a.m. ransom deadline pass without a word.   A detective on the scene claimed to have overheard John Ramsey making arrangements to fly the family to Atlanta just hours after the murder.  In his own defense, John later stated they’d been asked to leave the house and naturally wanted to go home to Atlanta where they’d lived for many years.  Although rumors of assault cropped up, no evidence was ever found to prove it.

John Ramsey was exonerated in 2008 by use of touch DNA testing, as were all three members of the immediate Ramsey family.


JonBenét’s older brother, Burke, was wisely kept from the press for years after the murder, but he voluntarily changed that with a sensational interview with Dr. Phil.   Soon after, CBS aired a documentary on his sister’s murder.  Burke Ramsey promptly sued forensic specialist Werner Spitz for statements he made while promoting the special.


Elementary school teacher John Mark Karr, in a 2006 bombshell confession, claimed he “accidentally’ killed JonBenet.  His confession proved to be not only dripping with pedophilic innuendo, but completely false.   No DNA evidence ties Karr to the murder. In fact, he may not have been anywhere near Boulder at the time of JonBebet’s death.  Karr was arrested in Thailand where he was hiding from child pornography charges.  Karr was ruled out as a suspect after it came to light he wasn’t, in fact, in Boulder at the time of JonBenét’s death.


Lou Smit, a Colorado Springs homicide detective hired to help with the JonBenét investigation, reportedly suggested Gary Oliva, a local, registered sex offender and known pedophile, as a potential suspect.  While Oliva was cleared by DNA in the JonBenet investigation, he was later arrested on unrelated child pornography charges.


No evidence links the family friend who played Santa at the neighborhood party the night before the murder.


Another potential suspect was an electrician named Michael Helgoth who worked in an auto salvage yard near the Ramseys. He was cleared by DNA and was found dead by an apparently self-inflicted gunshot.


JonBenet is buried in Marietta, Georgia, directly beside her mother and her half-sister Elizabeth Ramsey, who died in 1992 in a car crash.

[Photo AP/Ric Field]

Timeline As We Know It

December 26, 1996 – JonBenét Ramsey is murdered in her home.  Her mother, Patsy, finds a ransom note demanding $118,000.   Hours later, JonBenet’s body is found in the home’s basement with her skull fractured and strangled by garrote.   

October 13, 1999 – District Attorney Alex Hunter announces insufficient evidence to indict. 

December 2003 – DNA found at the scene submitted to CODIS. No match. 

June 24, 2006 – Patsy Ramsey passes away. 

August 16, 2006 – 41 year-old John Mark Karr arrested in Bangkok. 

August 28, 2006 – The Boulder District Attorney elects not to charge Karr based on DNA. 

July 9, 2008 – Mary Lacy, Boulder D.A., clears the Ramseys. 

January 27, 2013 – The Boulder Daily Camera reports the 1999 grand jury voted to indict John and Patsy Ramsey on charges of child abuse resulting in death.  Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter declines to sign off on the charges citing lack of evidence. 

October 6, 2016 – Burke Ramsey files a $150 million defamation lawsuit against forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz, based on statements he allegedly made suggesting Burke killed his sister as part of a TV special on JonBenét.

November 30, 2016 – Spitz makes a motion for summary judgment to have Burke Ramsey’s case thrown out of court claiming his statements are protected by the First Amendment right to free speech.

December 29, 2016- Burke Ramsey sues CBS and others for $750 million, saying they ruined his reputation following a TV series suggesting he killed his own sister. The series, titled, The Case of JonBenet Ramsey, went to air in September, immediately preceding the twentieth year mark of JonBenet’s death.

[Featured Photo by Boulder Police Department]