The murder of child pageant star JonBenét Ramsey was one of the most high-profile criminal cases of its kind in the 1990s. The prominence accorded to the case and the media coverage has not entirely ended to this day, since the case of JonBenét Ramsey has never been formally closed.
The basic facts in the case of JonBenét Ramsey are not greatly disputed. JonBenét Ramsey was a 6-year-old child pageant participant at the time of her death in 1996, which occurred on Christmas Day.The following day, Patsy, the mother of JonBenét Ramsey, called the police to report that she had found a ransom note in her house demanding payment of $118,000 for the return of her daughter. That day, her husband John began searching the house when they discovered the body of JonBenét Ramsey in the basement, heavily bound with a number of restraints.
An autopsy was inconclusive as to whether sexual assault had been an element of her death. At the time of the initial police investigation, the Ramsays advanced their theory that the death of JonBenét Ramsey had come about as the result of a break-in by someone in the internet. However, both public and police suspicion regarding the death of JonBenét Ramsey concentrated heavily upon her parents. The evidence tying the parents to the case was never more than circumstantial. For example, in 1997 several handwriting experts issued analyses concluding that the ransom note seemed to have been written by Patsy.
In light of the inconclusive nature of the investigation, independent investigation efforts intended to either condemn or exonerate the family of JonBenét Ramsey continued. The family maintained that they believed an intruder had been responsible for the death of JonBenét Ramsey and hired former FBI behavioral scientist John E. Douglas to conduct an investigation. Douglas published the results of his investigation in 2001, concluding that the death of JonBenét Ramsey was in all probability the result of a kidnapping which had been mishandled.
In 2008, a major new development occurred when new DNA tests were performed. The results were obtained from clothing worn by JonBenét Ramsey at the time of her murder and showed that none of the DNA could be traced to any family member. The results led to an apology from the Boulder County District Attorney, documented in a letter that announced the family's complete exoneration.
Despite the official dismissal of any suspicion against the surviving family members of JonBenét Ramsey, public opinion in the case still is open to a number of interpretations and theories. For example, in 2012 detective Jim Kolar publicly asserted that key evidence ignored at the time of the initial investigation made the theory of assault and murder by an intruder possible. As part of his evidence, Kolar cited a basement cobweb that should have been brushed away by any intruder entering the house. The investigation into the death of JonBenét Ramsey remains technically ongoing.