Romper

What Was Janet McReynolds' Play About? The Ramsey Family Friend Felt Their Pain

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One of the major twists in the investigation of the murder of JonBenét Ramsey is that detectives interviewed Bill McReynolds, a friend of the family, because he had played Santa Claus at a Ramsey Christmas celebration two days before the 6-year-old's body was found. But it wasn't just Santa that investigators were interested in. It was his wife. She had dressed up as Mrs. Claus at the Christmas party and way back in 1976, Janet McReynolds wrote a play about a young girl who was abducted, molested, and found dead in a basement.

The play, Hey Rube, was about the 1965 torture and murder of Sylvia Likens in Indiana. McReynolds won a Western States Art Foundation regional prize and a $7,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, but it was never published and no copy has been released to the media since.

There were other similarities about McReynolds' play and the Ramsey murder that spiked investigators' interest. According to The Daily Camera, the McReynolds' middle daughter, 9-years-old at the time, was abducted on December 26, 1974, and witnessed the sexual molestation of her friend. No suspects were ever found in the case, but both children were found.

McReynolds and her husband, a journalism professor at the University of Colorado at the time of JonBenét's murder, were at the Ramsey home on December 23, 1996, playing Mr. and Mrs. Claus for the kids. Because of their proximity to the family, the couple was questioned in February of 1997 after returning from a vacation in Spain. Hair and handwriting samples were collected by police from both of them at that time, according to an Associated Press report. They were never charged as suspects in the murder. Multiple attempts to reach out to Janet McReynolds for comment on the play and CBS docu-series were unsuccessful.

According to The Guardian, Bill McReynolds had written a note to JonBenét, as Santa, days before her body was discovered. It said that she would receive a "special present" after Christmas, and the note was found in the trash at the Ramsey home during the initial investigation. The McReynolds said at the time that the coincidences between their daughter's abduction, the play, and JonBenét's death were all just coincidence.

Keep in mind that just after JonBenét's death, there were rumors that sexual assault was a factor in the murder, but those claims are under dispute in light of recent interviews like A&E's The Killing of JonBenét: The Truth Uncovered, which aired on Labor Day weekend. Many of the similarities between the Ramsey case and McReynolds' play come from these allegations of sexual molestation.  

In March 1997, Bill McReynolds told The Chicago Tribune, "In my heart, I know there's no connection. Anything I'd say would sound suspicious." Janet McReynolds said in the same interview that her 1970s play sounded "quaint" in light of the Ramsey murder and only made her family more empathetic to the Ramseys' loss.

Bill McReynolds died in 2002 from a heart attack, but the rest of the McReynolds family has shied away from the spotlight since then.