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S P E C I A L JonBenet Ramsey Case

Justice for JonBenet?

Ramsey graphic

A year later, notorious case still unsolved

In this story:

(CNN) -- Almost 2,000 children were murdered in the United States during 1996, but none of those murders has fascinated the American public and attracted the mass media like that of JonBenet Ramsey. And a year after the little girl died, the spotlight is still hot and her killing is still unsolved.

The Boulder, Colorado police department recently bolstered its investigation into the strangling death of the 6-year-old beauty pageant princess, perhaps providing a semblance of hope that there eventually will be justice for JonBenet.

Murdered child

On December 26, 1996, John Ramsey found the body of his daughter in the basement wine cellar of the family's sprawling Boulder home. According to the police report, JonBenet was covered with a blanket, her wrists were tied above her head, her mouth was covered with tape, and a nylon cord was wrapped around her neck. The autopsy report revealed she might have been sexually abused and that she suffered a blow to her head that left an eight-and-a-half inch fracture.

JonBenet Ramsey
JonBenet had become a seasoned model and pageant contestant in her 6 years   

Early that morning, Patsy Ramsey called 911 saying JonBenet had been kidnapped. She had found a ransom note -- a three-page letter that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation later said she might have written herself. After studying handwriting samples, the CBI concluded John Ramsey did not write the note but said "there are indications that the author" is Patsy, "although there is not enough evidence to conclude that definitively."

The Ramseys publicly denied any responsibility in their daughter's murder in an exclusive interview with CNN on New Year's Day. About a month later, Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter identified the Ramseys as "the obvious focus of the investigation." And nearly a year later, the new lead investigator said JonBenet's parents "remain under an umbrella of suspicion."

But Cmdr. Mark Beckner said police have no official suspects in the case. Still, he said he is confident the murder mystery will be solved.

Revived investigation

Beckner, a department veteran, was made the lead investigator in October, taking over a seemingly aimless nine-month probe and getting a beefed-up staff. When he spoke publicly about the case for the first time on December 5, he promised a "focused and aggressive" approach. Practically speaking, Beckner has started the investigation over.

As the Ramsey case enters a second year, police are re-interviewing people they talked with in the first few weeks after the murder and interviewing some neighbors for the first time; re-submitting evidence for forensic testing and submitting some evidence for the first time; collecting more evidence; consulting more experts -- performing tasks on a 72-item checklist.

John and Patricia Ramsey
The Ramseys talked with CNN on New Year's Day   

One of those items is questioning John and Patricia Ramsey again. Beckner wants the couple interviewed about information police have gathered since the Ramseys were questioned for the first and last time on April 30, four months after JonBenet was killed. While Beckner has said the Ramseys "have indicated every willingness to cooperate," a source told the Rocky Mountain News it is unlikely the Ramseys would agree to fly to Boulder for an interrogation. They now live in the Atlanta area, where JonBenet was born and is buried.

And although police have said they do not consider 11-year-old Burke Ramsey a suspect, they want to talk with him again. He and his parents were the only people in the house on the night of his sister's murder and Beckner said "we are treating him as a witness."

The police commander said investigators previously spoke with Burke only during a "preliminary interview" on the day JonBenet's body was found. But Newsweek reporter Dan Glick told CNN's "Larry King Live" that there actually were two interviews:

  • one, a tape-recorded conversation between a single detective and Burke on December 26;

  • the other, on January 8, by a psychologist appointed by the Boulder police. Glick said the nearly two-hour, videotaped session was observed through a two-way mirror by police detectives, district attorney's representatives, and social service professionals.

Closing the case

the Ramseys' house
The Ramseys lived in an affluent Boulder neighborhood   

The Boulder police have consulted with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for advice on how to proceed. One thing the FBI said should be done, according to the Rocky Mountain News, is to exclude all potential suspects -- however minor -- to strengthen the police investigation, which may account for the second round of interviews.

A year after JonBenet's murder, police basically have two theories about the case:

  • that someone entered the Ramseys' house through unknown means, possibly sexually abused then brutally, yet silently, killed JonBenet, hid her body, took the time to write a long ransom note, then left unheard and unseen;

  • or that someone who was in the house that night committed the horrible crime.

However the investigation is concluded, Beckner said police will have three options: make an arrest, ask for a grand jury investigation, or deactivate the case until new information is obtained. As the anniversary of JonBenet's murder drew near, commander Beckner said in his December news converence that police weren't ready to act on any of the options.

Until they do act, the Ramseys -- who haven't spoken publicly since May 1 -- will be covered by an "umbrella of suspicion;" the spotlight will undoubtedly shine on this notorious murder mystery; and JonBenet's slaying will remain unsolved.


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