Law in Contemporary Society

JonBenét Ramsey Murder


JonBenét Ramsey was a six-year-old girl known throughout the children’s beauty pageant industry as the winner of titles such as America’s Royale Miss, Little Miss Charlevoix, and Little Miss Colorado. She was enrolled in the advanced program for kindergarten at High Peaks Elementary School. Her teachers described her as thoughtful, courteous, and respectful and said her maturity provided a great example for other students.

On the day after Christmas in 1996, JonBenét Ramsey was reported missing by her parents John Bennet and Patsy Ramsey seemingly kidnapped from their Boulder, Colorado home. Upon arrival 3 minutes after the 911 call, Patsy presented detectives with a two-and-a-half-page ransom note she had found demanding a reward in exchange for JonBenét’s safe return. The ransom note was addressed only to John Bennet Ramsay and said it was authored by “members of a small foreign faction” who did not mind Mr. Ramsay but hated his company. The note also asks for a specific amount: $118,000. This was the same amount that John Bennet had received as bonus shortly before Christmas.

Police performed a cursory search of the home but found no sign of forced entry. At 1 PM after securing the ransom, John Ramsay was asked by police to ensure that nothing in the home was a miss. Accompanied by family friend, Fleet White Jr., John searched the home. In the basement behind a latched door, the pair found JonBenét’s dead body. John Bennet reports that when he found his daughter, she was duct-taped and covered by a blanket and a Colorado Avalanche hockey team sweatshirt. In the blanket, a single Caucasian public hair was found not belonging to any of the Ramsey family members. Coroners determined her cause of death to be strangulation by asphyxiation. Her skull was cracked and there were stun gun injuries below her right ear and on her lower back. There was also temporal lobe bruising which suggests that someone tried to shake her to regain consciousness.

JonBenét had been sexually assaulted with some forensic scientists believing a previous wound was retraumatize suggesting she was sexually assaulted previously. Her genitalia contained silica, suggesting her assailant used lubricated gloves or materials. However, there were no white blood cells found, suggesting she died less than an hour after her assault. Her stomach contained undigested pineapple in her upper intestines above the cracked crab she ate for Christmas dinner the previous night. The placement suggests she ate it 2 hours before she died however this timing is very imprecise.

It is difficult to give much detail as the crime scene was compromised early in the investigation. There were no footprints found in the snow outside of the Ramsey home; however, there were faint pry marks on the exterior of the rear kitchen door. The narrow basement window was broken and there was a suitcase placed below it. In the kitchen nook, there was a bowl of pineapple and milk with Patsy’s fingerprints on the spoon.

Tensions in "Protecting White Women"

This missing-child report turned homicide cold case has stumped many armchair sleuths, present company included. Although much of the case information has since been made public online, the quality of the evidence was severely compromised by the initial missteps of responders. Police responding did not secure JonBenét’s bedroom or the Ramsey house from visitors because they believed the ransom. They thought they were looking for a missing child and the faction would not have kept her in the house. The police’s suspended disbelief was a function of the Ramsey’s race and class, particularly Patsy Ramsey as a grieving White mother.

The narrative of White women as victims traces at least back to slavery in the United States. Protecting White women, particularly from Black men, was the impetus for many lynchings. Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy, was abducted and lynched by a group of White men after a White woman falsely accused him of flirting with sexually harassing her. White women have weaponized their femininity against people of color to afford them a sense of power the patriarchy denies them. The idea of White women as victims mobilizes White men who see their role as protecting Whiteness and women as a subordinate gender.

The tension that keeps this case in the public eye is that the theory of Patsy as a participant in JonBenét’s murder posits a White woman and girl on either side. The media coverage of JonBenét focuses on her beauty and pageant prowess. It promotes the idea that bad things should not happen to girls who look like her. Patsy appeared in press conferences as the innocent grieving mother. Although theoretical observations of groups of people may be abstractions as best, there is evidence that Patsy Ramsey played into this stereotype. Officer Richard French, the first uniformed patrolman on the scene, noted that upon seeing JonBenét’s body Patsy Ramsey sobbed loudly but produced no tears and awkwardly peaked from behind her hands to gauge the officers’ reactions. Grief is not a monolithic experience, but Patsy’s behavior seemed to have been more of a performance of victimhood to elicit sympathy than the genuine response of a mother who has just seen the body of her murdered child.

Case Status

There is a lot of evidence that points towards John Bennett and Patsy’s involvement in JonBenét’s murder. John Bennett was missing for hours shortly before he discovered his daughter’s body and further contaminated the crime scene. The materials used to pen the ransom letter were a legal pad from Patsy’s office and a Sharpie pen borrowed from and returned to its place in the kitchen beside the phone. JonBenét’s vagus nerve was pinched by a garrote made from a broken paintbrush belonging to Patsy Ramsey that was kept in the wine cellar in the basement. The garrote contained trace amounts of blood, urine, and fibers from Patsy’s jacket. In 2008, in an unprecedented move, District Attorney Mary Lacy exonerated the Ramsey family.

ABC News, Ex-DA Opens Up About Why She Cleared the Ramsey Family of JonBenet's Murder Burke Ramsey Defamation Suit
Buzzfeed Unsolved True Crime
Dr. Cyril Wecht, Who Killed JonBenét Ramsey? (Electronic edition, 2016)
Last Podcast on the Left Ep 167, Ep 168
My Favorite Murder, Ep. 1: JonBenét Ramsey
Ransom Note
Time Magazine, 25 Years Later, the Murder of JonBenet Ramsey Remains Unsolved—and Issues It Highlighted Persist
Time Magazine, How the 'Karen Meme' Confronts the Violent History of White Womanhood


-- NereeseWatson - 22 Apr 2022


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r5 - 28 May 2022 - 22:59:31 - NereeseWatson
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