By Jean Henry Mead
Recently losing my daughter to cancer was the worst experience of my life, but having a daughter murdered and subsequently suspected of the crime has to be off the endurance chart. I’m referring to the JonBenet Ramsey murder and the additional tragedy that followed.
Six-year-old JonBenet was found by her father in the basement of their Boulder, Colorado, home the afternoon following Christmas 1996. Her mother reported to police that she had found a note on the stairs demanding the unusual amount of $118,000. The note said the little girl would be returned the next day if the money were delivered. The Ramseys called police, who reportedly treated them as suspects from day one, although their voluntary handwriting samples bore no resemblance to that of the ransom note.
JonBenet’s parents took the two-and-a-half page note seriously and set out to raise the money, but the call they expected never came. Meanwhile, serious mistakes were made by local police. Investigators failed to seal off the area or make an effort to protect forensic crime scene evidence. They also neglected to conduct a thorough search of the house until later that afternoon when Detective Fleet White accompanied John Ramsey through the house to search for anything unusual. Starting in the basement, Ramsey found his daughter in a seldom used room, according to the London documentary, Who Killed JonBenet?
Because no footprints were found in the snow, police and local media assumed the murder was an inside job, although a basement window latch was broken and a portion of the Ramsey’s yard contained no snow. An intruder could have gained entry through the window and made his way up the carpeted stairs to JonBenet’s bedroom, one floor below that of her parents.
The Ramseys were under constant scrutiny and rumors were rampant they had killed their daughter. Even their nine-year-old son Burke was suspect. Because JonBenet was a beauty pageant contestant, her parents were accused of sexually exploiting her. Following her funeral in Atlanta, the Ramseys were aware of their sole suspect status, to which Ramsey replied, “The police weren’t there to help us, they were there to hang us.” However, all allegations against the Ramseys proved groundless. That didn’t stop the host of a major talk show from conducting a live murder trial, complete with judge and jury. The “jury” decided the Ramseys were "liable for the wrongful death of their daughter JonBenet."
There isn’t room here to discuss the entire case, but the point I want to make is that investigative blunders must have contributed to Patsy Ramsey’s unfortunate death. She announced to a group of friends at a Christmas party that she had overcome a recurrence of ovarian cancer, and that her husband John had been named “Boulder’s Businessman of the Year.” The couple’s happiness was short-lived when, three days later, their daughter was found murdered. The accusations and stress that followed undoubtedly contributed to Patsy Ramsey’s death.
John Ramsey not only lost members of his family, he suffered incredible pain. He took the news of his murder clearance by Boulder officials ten years after the fact with the grace of a true gentleman. My heart goes out to you, John. #