The shocking murder of Colorado child beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey on Christmas night, 1996 was all anyone could talk about for years following the crime, but now nearly two decades have passed, and some people who followed the case might be a little fuzzy on the details. And of course, some didn't follow it at all, because they were closer in age to JonBenét herself, who was just 6 years old at the time of her death. Suspects abounded, but just how many trials were there for JonBenét Ramsey’s murder? Surprisingly, there were none, though three people came close.
Initial investigations focused almost exclusively on JonBenét's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey. The prevailing theory was that Patsy killed JonBenét in a fit of rage after the child wet her bed. JonBenét had a serious skull fracture, but her cause of death was asphyxiation, so the hypothesis was that Patsy had perhaps accidentally fractured her daughter's skull, then strangled her to cover it up and blame the murder on a botched kidnapping for ransom. Subscribers to this theory posited that John helped his wife cover up her crime. The Ramsey family has always maintained their innocence, and they were never charged with any crimes. Romper reached out to both Jon and Patsy Ramsey's representation and has not received a reply.
In 2008, a DNA test was run on a garment of JonBenét's that contained trace DNA not belonging to the victim. No match was found, but the test did rule out the Ramsey family, and Boulder County district attorney Mary Lacy issued a letter to John apologizing for the scrutiny his family had faced, and assured him that none of the Ramseys were "under any suspicion in the commission of this crime," including Patsy, who died in 2006, and JonBenét's older brother, Burke.
In 2013, newly released court documents revealed that a grand jury convened in 1999 had voted to indict both John and Patsy on matching charges of Child Abuse Resulting in Death and Accessory to a Crime. However, Alex Hunter, who was the Boulder County District Attorney at the time, refused to sign the indictment, saying that he felt there was insufficient evidence to proceed. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin noted that the indictment only indicated that the majority of the grand jury believed there was probable cause to indict John and Patsy, which is a much lower standard than guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. "It doesn't precisely say that the grand jury thought they killed JonBenét," he explained.
Adding another bizarre twist to the case was John Mark Karr, an American schoolteacher living in Thailand, who was arrested in 2006. Karr, who was already wanted on child pornography charges in California, was arrested in Bangkok and sent to Colorado to be charged with the first-degree murder, kidnapping, and child sexual assault of JonBenét. Karr freely confessed to reporters on camera, saying that he was not innocent, that he had loved JonBenét, and that her death had been an accident. Karr seemed to be able to provide no information about the murder, though, and the case against him was eventually dropped when a DNA test ruled him out as a suspect. After thorough investigation, Romper could not reach Karr or a representative for Karr for comment.
Karr was extradited to California to face the child pornography charges, but those were ultimately dropped, as well. According to People, Sonoma County District Attorney spokeswoman Donna Edwards said in a statement at the time, "While it was known that child pornography was in Mr. Karr's computer, the people cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he possessed it within the specific timeframe required under the law."
The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, a six-hour docu-series, will attempt to solve the crime once and for all. While there is no new evidence, the series will reportedly bring on new investigators and use modern techniques to re-examine key evidence and conduct new interviews. The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey premieres September 18 on CBS.