In December 1996, the names John and Patsy Ramsey were suddenly splashed across headlines everywhere. The Boulder, Colorado couple tragically became the topic of national news following the unexplained murder of their youngest child, 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey.
John was an executive at Access Graphics, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, while Patsy, a former beauty queen, was a stay-at-home mother (via Romper). Patsy had entered JonBenét into a number of pageants, in which she took home several prizes, including Little Miss Colorado. The family lived a seemingly normal, unassuming life in a quiet neighborhood of Boulder until the day after Christmas 1996, when the parents awoke to find their daughter missing from her bed.
Soon after the death of their daughter was made public, the Ramseys became the subjects of much rumor and speculation that they had somehow been involved. Suspicions were only amplified by the accusations of misconduct that plagued the murder investigation from the very start.
There was an 'umbrella of suspicion' surrounding the Ramseys after JonBenét's murder
After discovering a ransom note on the stairs of their home, the Ramseys placed calls, not only to the police but to family and friends, who also soon arrived at the house. However, authorities failed to lock down the home, so visitors wandered throughout the house, touching and moving things, and potentially disturbing any evidence that might have been present. John also potentially destroyed evidence at the crime scene around 1 p.m. that afternoon, when he discovered JonBenét’s body in the basement and carried her upstairs, rather than leaving her there, according to Crime Museum.
The ransom note was another source of suspicion. The note demanded exactly $118,000 in exchange for JonBenét’s safe return, which just happened to be the same amount of money John had been given as a bonus from his company the previous year, per CNN. The strange note, as well as the disturbed crime scene, soon cast an “umbrella of suspicion” around John and Patsy, via The Boston Globe. Another popular theory soon emerged, speculating the parents were not themselves responsible but were simply covering up for their son, Burke, who might have lashed out at his younger sister out of either jealousy or rage, according to CrimeViral.
John Ramsey ran for Michigan state representative in 2004
The suspicions were worsened by accounts that the Ramseys failed to immediately cooperate with the police, although they claimed their hesitation was due to the fact that they did not want to be scapegoated as easy suspects. Patsy was also never officially cleared by an analysis of the handwriting sample she provided, and some believed she may have written the ransom note herself to throw investigators off the track. Regardless, the Ramseys were never officially listed as suspects in the murder. However, in 1999, a Colorado grand jury did vote to indict JonBenét’s parents on charges of “child endangerment and obstruction of a murder investigation,” but it was never prosecuted due to lack of evidence, per Crime Museum.
As the years went by and the investigation stalled, the Ramseys tried to move on with their lives. They eventually moved from Colorado to Charlevoix, Michigan, where they had long kept a summer home. “We’ve been going there for years and had talked about it for a long time. Last summer we were talking with Burke and … he felt like he really would like to continue in school there in Charlevoix. So we said … let’s go ahead and make this permanent,” John explained to NBC News. In 2004, John even staged a run for a seat in Michigan’s House of Representatives but was defeated with 24.3% of the vote by fellow Republican challenger Kevin Elsenheimer, per MI Elections.
John and Patsy Ramsey were officially cleared of any involvement in JonBenét's death in 2008
Through the years, the Ramseys remained consistent in their story that an intruder had been responsible for the death of their daughter, but no leads turned up as to who that might have been until 2006, when an ex-teacher named John Mark Karr confessed to JonBenét’s murder, according to History. However, any potential relief was short-lived, as it was soon revealed that Karr had falsely confessed to the crime. His DNA was not a match to the samples found at the scene of the crime, and he was soon released.
In 2008, new DNA evidence of an unidentified third party led Chief Deputy District Attorney Mary Lacy to officially clear John and Patsy of any involvement in their daughter’s murder, according to ABC News. “The Boulder District Attorney’s Office does not consider any member of the Ramsey family, including John, Patsy, or Burke Ramsey, as suspects in this case. We make this announcement now because we have recently obtained this new scientific evidence that adds significantly to the exculpatory value of the previous scientific evidence…To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime, I am deeply sorry,” she wrote in an apology letter to the family (via Bustle).
Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer in 2006
However, this news sadly occurred two years too late to be of any comfort to Patsy Ramsey. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1993 and died in 2006 from the illness at the age of 49, per WSFA 12 News. Patsy was buried alongside her daughter at St. James Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia, nearby Patsy’s father’s home, where Patsy had stayed while receiving treatment. JonBenét had been laid to rest there next to her maternal grandparents and her half-sister, Elizabeth Pasch Ramsey, who had died tragically in a car accident in 1992, per Atlas Obscura.
John Ramsey remarried in 2011. Now 77 years old and a grandfather, he lives in Michigan with his new wife, Jan Rousseaux. “I think he’s focused on life today and enjoying life with his family and grandkids,” his son and JonBenét’s half-brother, John Andrew Ramsey, told ABC News earlier this year. He went on to say that while his father has tried to focus on healing, their family is still committed to finding JonBenét’s killer. “What happened to JonBenét, what happened to my family, what happened to the community at large, is wrong. This 6-year-old little girl was killed on their watch and, ultimately, they are responsible for finding the killer, and they can do it and we want them to do it,” he said.
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