Real Crime Blog

JonBenet Ramsey: The Murder That Won't Let Us Go

People light candles at the murder site of 6 year old JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado, December 1997.

More than 20 years have passed since the mysterious death of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey and we’re still mesmerized. There has been so much coverage of the case that it can be hard to separate the truth from the tabloid, the explanations from the exploitation. We gathered a variety of coverage that provides an overview of the case, but it’s worth noting that perspectives, evaluation of evidence, and forensic analysis have evolved over the years. Check out the A&E syllabus for JonBenet Ramsey 101:

What happened when…
This CNN timeline sets out the major events.

A&E’s examination of the case
The Killing of JonBenet: Her Father Speaks is a two-hour A&E documentary special, including a sit-down with John Ramsey, that aired in the fall and marked the 20th anniversary of the case. It brought forth information that cast a new light on the investigation — for example, that the body bore marks possibly from a stun gun and that it was easy enough for an adult to enter the house through the cellar window.

A deep dive of a book…
Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncensored Story of the JonBenet Murder and the Grand Jury’s Search for the Final Truth by Lawrence Schiller
The author of American Tragedy: The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense casts a wide net in this sprawling book (published in 2000), discussing everything including media misbehavior, police procedures, TV interview transcripts, bits of evidence, and the victim’s medical history.
Buy it here.

Lifetime’s look…
The telepic Who Killed JonBenet?, which aired on Lifetime last November, sets the mood by beginning with a chilling voiceover from the actress playing the murdered girl. Another Lifetime offering last fall, JonBenet’s Mother: Victim or Killer?, was a two-hour look at the woman who was beauty queen, socialite, wife, mother…and suspect.

The book by a veteran FBI profiler who consulted on the case…
The Cases That Haunt Us by John Douglas & Mark Olshaker
FBI profiler John Douglas and his co-author examine famous cases from the Zodiac Killer to Lizzie Borden JonBenet. In this 2000 book, Douglas runs through the forensic and behavioral evidence behind his claim that John and Patsy were innocent. The Netflix series Mindhunter, based on Douglas’s and Olshaker’s book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, debuts this fall and has already been renewed for a second season.
Buy it here.

Three podcasts that take an irreverent tone…
My Favorite Murder, hosted by two comedians, takes an off-beat and gossip-y run at the case.

The Last Podcast on the Left
A two-part examination from two fans of the weird and fantastic who do not mince words.
Part 1
Part 2

On Generation Why, friends Aaron and Justin go to the dark side, discussing unsolved murders and notorious crimes.

And for something completely different…
Even though the documentary Casting JonBenet (now available on Netflix) is ostensibly about the tots and adults auditioning to play the real-life characters of mom Patsy, dad John, brother Burke, the Boulder police chief, and John Mark Karr (who falsely fessed up to the deed), there is much speculation on what really happened and some surreal re-enactments. Creepy detail: To the boys auditioning for the brother role, filmmaker Kitty Green supplies a heavy flashlight and a watermelon and asks them to demonstrate how they might use the former to crush the latter.

A&E’s Real Crime gets closer to the people and the stories behind the crime headlines.

(Image: Karl Gehring/Liaison)

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