JonBenet Ramsey: 5 facts about the infamous murder of a 6-year-old beauty queen

JonBenet Ramsey, the 6-year-old beauty queen killed inside her Boulder, Colorado, home on Christmas night 1996, has been back in the headlines this summer as TV specials and documentaries begin to mark the upcoming 20th anniversary of her death.

The infamous case was plagued by rumor and innuendo, with police early on targeting the little girl’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, and her then-9-year-old brother Burke as suspects in the murder. Prosecutors cleared the family of wrongdoing in 2008 -- two years after Patsy Ramsey’s death from ovarian cancer -- based on DNA evidence found at the scene.

Here are five facts about the case that have come to light in the two decades since JonBenet was slain:

1. The DNA in the case was found to belong to an unidentified male who is not related to any of the Ramseys. Though the biological profile, which came from “touch” DNA found on JonBenet’s underwear and pajamas, was entered into the FBI’s DNA database in 2003, no match has been found, according to CNN. Mark Beckner, the former Boulder police chief, argued in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” segment last year that the DNA findings did not necessarily exonerate the family. 

"Exonerating anyone based on a small piece of evidence that has not yet been proven to even be connected to the crime is absurd in my opinion," Beckner wrote. Beckner has since deleted his answers on the Reddit thread, but the Denver Post cached the questions and answers before they were edited. Read the entire thread here.

2. JonBenet’s body was found, fully dressed, bound at the wrists and with duct tape across her mouth, in the basement of her family’s home on Dec. 26, hours after she was reported missing to police. She had been sexually assaulted and suffered a skull fracture, but the cause of death was strangulation.

Beckner said that the blow to the head, inflicted with a flashlight or similar object, would have eventually killed her even if she had not been strangled to death.

3. Suspicion fell on JonBenet’s parents due, in part, to the bizarre circumstances surrounding her death. The little girl was reported missing after Patsy Ramsey told police she found a ransom note on the stairs of their home. The note writer claimed to have taken JonBenet -- despite the girl’s body later being found inside the home -- and demanded $118,000 for her safe return. The note was written on paper from inside the family’s home and demanded the exact amount of a bonus John Ramsey had recently received at work.

Handwriting tests conducted on both parents and compared to the ransom note indicated that John Ramsey did not write the document, but Patsy Ramsey’s test results were “inconclusive.” Beckner said in the Reddit thread that investigators found it suspicious that the note was written at the scene, with instruments found in the house.

"No note has ever been written at the scene, and then left at the scene with the dead victim at the scene, other than this case,” Beckner said.

4. A grand jury in 1999 voted to indict John and Patsy Ramsey in their daughter’s death, but CBS News reported that prosecutors at the time declined to sign off on the indictment, citing a lack of evidence in the case.

5. There has actually been a confession in the case. In 2006, a former schoolteacher named John Mark Karr was arrested in Thailand after claiming to have been present when JonBenet died. The Atlanta native, who was living in Alabama when JonBenet was killed, claimed her death was an accident.

He was eliminated as a suspect less than two weeks later when his DNA did not match that found on JonBenet’s body. As of 2011, he had changed his name to Alexis Reich and reportedly planned to have sex reassignment surgery. His whereabouts are unknown. 

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