The slaying of child beauty queen JonBenet Patricia Ramsey, 6, shocked the community of Boulder, Colorado. The Ramseys were an affluent family and extremely prominent in Boulder social circles. The murder and the resulting publicity placed the parents under intense media scrutiny, and theories abound on whether one or both of the parents either murdered or accidentally killed their child and then staged an elaborate cover-up of the crime. Investigations spanned ten years before an arrest was made, a paedophile by the name of John Mark Karr. The charges against him were eventually dropped on grounds of lack of evidence and the case remains unsolved.

On the morning of 26 December 1996 at about 5.45 am, Patsy Ramsey discovered a two-and-a-half page ransom note on her doorstep telling her that her six-year-old daughter, JonBenet Patricia Ramsey, was being held hostage, and would only be returned safely for the specific sum of $118,000. The letter warned that if the kidnappers caught them “talking to a stray dog, she dies”. In spite of the warning, a call was made to 911, logged by the dispatcher at 5.52 am, and the police arrived at the house seven minutes later. Further calls were made to family friends, the Whites and the Fernies, who arrived at the house five minutes later.

Contrary to normal protocol, the house was not sealed off and the family friends and a pastor who arrived soon after were allowed to walk in and out of the house. A team of victims’ advocates, trained to assist the family in traumatic situations, began wiping down the kitchen possibly removing vital evidence. The house was searched by detectives, Mr Fleet White and John Ramsey, father of JonBenet, revealing nothing. John also began making preparations to assemble the ransom amount. By 1.00 pm there was no progress and to give the two men something to do to occupy their minds, Detective Linda Arndt told Fleet White and John Ramsey to search the house for anything amiss.

The two men entered the wine cellar in the basement and immediately discovered JonBenet’s body covered in a blanket. She had black duct tape covering her mouth, a cord around her neck that was attached to a wooden garrote and her hands were bound. Ramsey pulled the duct tape from her mouth, carried her body upstairs and placed her on the floor, at which point Arndt picked the body up again and placed it near the Christmas tree in the living room. JonBenet was checked for signs of life while backup was requested. The forensics team returned and this time the house was sealed and secured.