Inside The 27-Year Investigation Of JonBenét Ramsey’s Murder

On Dec. 26, 1996, the pageant princess was found strangled to death in her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado.

6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, pictured here, was found dead on Dec. 26, 1996. Her murder remains unsolved.

Photo by: Boulder Police Department

Boulder Police Department

By: Aaron Rasmussen

Nearly 30 years ago, Colorado beauty pageant princess JonBenét Ramsey was murdered in her family’s Boulder home. Over the years, police have received tens of thousands of tips, but whoever is responsible for the little girl’s death remains at large. Ahead are some key dates in the still-active investigation.

Dec. 26, 1996

John and Patsy Ramsey report their daughter, JonBenét, missing. On a staircase, Patsy finds a bizarre three-page ransom note demanding John pay $118,000 to prevent his daughter’s death.

Around eight hours later, John finds JonBenet’s lifeless body in the home’s basement. “She was lying on a white blanket. The blanket was wrapped around her. Her hands were tied above her head,” he later says in an ABC News interview. “She had tape over her mouth. … I immediately knelt down over her, felt her cheek, took the tape off immediately off her mouth. I tried to untie the cord that was around her arms and I couldn’t get the knot untied.”

The child had been bludgeoned and strangled to death with a garrote the evening before.

Dec. 31, 1996

JonBenét is laid to rest in Marietta, Georgia.

April 18, 1997

According to the Denver Post, Jon and Patsy are in the crosshairs of the Boulder district attorney, who claims the couple is the focus of the police investigation. The parents adamantly maintain they had nothing to do with their daughter’s death.

March 2000

The Ramseys publish their account of the case in their book, The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenét’s Murder and How Its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth.

June 24, 2006

Patsy Ramsey, 49, dies after a battle with ovarian cancer.

August 2006

Police seem to get a break in the case when John Mark Karr claims he killed JonBenet, according to Court TV. The teacher is eventually cleared, however, after his DNA is determined not to be a match with forensic evidence collected in the case.

July 2008

The Boulder District Attorney’s Office releases a statement that notes prosecutors no longer consider anyone in the Ramsey family, including John Patsy or the victim’s brother, Burke, a person of interest in the case. The news is announced after tests on DNA evidence collected at the crime scene come back with the genetic profile of a male who is unrelated to the Ramseys.

June 22, 2016

Police arrest Gary Oliva, then 52, after receiving a cyber tip about the downloading of child pornography. Investigators learn Oliva had a photo of JonBenét in his possession during a 2000 arrest. He allegedly admitted to having an obsession with the child at the time, and it’s determined he could have been in the area when the crime occurred, Court TV reports.

September 2016

JonBenét’s brother, Burke, was 9 when she died. Almost 20 years later, Burke gives an interview to Dr. Phil. “I know people think I did it, that my parents did it,” he tells the TV host. “I know that we were suspects.”

Burke, who adamantly denies he was involved in JonBenét’s death, tells Dr. Phil he believes a pedophile broke into his family’s home and killed his sister.

January 2020

Boulder police appear to dismiss convicted pedophile Oliva’s alleged confession that he was responsible for JonBenét’s slaying, KMGH-TV reports. “The Boulder Police Department is aware of Mr. Oliva and has investigated his potential involvement in this case, including several previous confessions,” officials said, in part, declining to further comment on the case.

December 2021

Shortly before the twenty-fifth anniversary of JonBenét’s murder, law enforcement officials note there continues to be an active and ongoing investigation into the crime. “As the Department continues to use new technology to enhance the investigation, it is actively reviewing genetic DNA testing processes to see if those can be applied to this case moving forward,” the Boulder Police Department says.

November 2022

The Boulder Police Department indicates investigators would work with the Colorado Cold Case Review Team on the case.

January 2023

According to news reports, John reaches out to Colorado Governor Jared Polis about his daughter’s murder, writing, “I am 78 now and realize that time for answers is running out. The murder of my daughter can never be undone. There will never be peace or closure, but there can and should be justice.”

John says he was “encouraged” after receiving a response from the politician even though “there were no commitments.”

June 1, 2023

John, his son, John Andrew, Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold and Deputy Chief Stephen Redfearn meet with Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty. “We have trust that they are doing the right thing,” John Andrew says about the development, The Denver Gazette reports. “I told them that I am not interested in litigating the past.”

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