The JonBenét Ramsey case has been fascinating people for two decades now; it has almost taken on urban legend status in the annals of true crime, a mystery that has never been solved. There have been many suspects throughout the years and those that are drawn to stories of unsolved crimes have theorized endlessly, but answers are hard to come by. JonBenét was a six-year-old girl who was bludgeoned and strangled in her own home, then left behind to be found hours later. There is a surplus of evidence but none of it has proven anything. So who killed JonBenét Ramsey?
The answer is that we simply don't know – and that's part of why the case has dominated the public consciousness for such a long time. Despite any theories floating around, there has never been a conviction. It's not as simple as using evidence like puzzle pieces to build a complete picture and result in a satisfying solution; there are no answers here, and that's why people just can't stop looking for them.
There are many factors that make the JonBenét case so fascinating, but few things are as intriguing as a mystery. Everyone wants to be the one to figure it out, to crack the case. A lot (but not all) of the true crime cases that loom largest are the ones without endings: who was Jack the Ripper? Did Lizzy Borden really kill her parents? Who killed the Black Dahlia? Who killed JonBenét?
There are other factors that weigh in too, of course. JonBenét Ramsey was the very young, white, blonde, pageant queen daughter of millionaires; there is no denying those things had an impact on how the case was reported and how people reacted to it. Pictures of her done up in her pageant dresses with big hairsprayed hair and perfect makeup were plastered all over magazine covers. Author Lawrence Schiller, who wrote about the case in his book Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncensored Story of the JonBenét Murder and the Grand Jury's Search for the Final Truth said, "This case would have lasted in regional newspapers for one week if not for two elements. It's the release of videos of JonBenét in beauty pageants, and the release, days later, of still photos of her in hair and makeup. The tabloids latched on to that."
The death of a child, particularly a little girl who was barely older than a toddler, is undeniably immensely tragic, but the intersection of her innocence with the uncomfortable world of child beauty pageants was attention-getting. Just look at the popularity of Toddlers & Tiaras; people don't understand it, but they're fascinated by it at the same time. I've listened to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of articles about JonBenét while researching her, and I've often seen comments about how something about her eyes seemed too knowing, that all the makeup and sequins made her look so much older than she was. Why do people feel the need to comment on this?
In a way, it's trying to pin an understandable narrative on an unfathomable crime. Child pageantry almost seems to carry an implicit darkness and that dichotomy (the innocence of the children involved and the nature of the pageants) is intrinsic to the lasting interest in JonBenét. It's almost as though people just knew something horrible would have to come from a world that unsettling. Or at least that's what they wanted to think, because in a case without answers that can almost feel like one.