Almost 20 years after it happened, the JonBenet Ramsey murder case remains unsolved. The public’s fascination with it hasn’t lessened a bit, and there are apparently going to be eight, yes, eight, specials on the case this television season.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past 20 years you already know about this case, but here’s a brief recap. Six-year-old JonBenet, daughter of John and Patsy Ramsey and sister of nine-year-old Burke, was a child beauty pageant contestant who was found strangled and with a head injury in her home on the day after Christmas in 1996. There was an ultra-bizarre ransom note, asking for the amount of John Ramsey’s recent bonus, yet, left on the circular back stairway that Patsy found when she went downstairs that morning (but JonBenet hadn’t really been kidnapped). The note was written inside the house on a pad of paper belonging to the Ramsey family. The garrote used to strangle the little girl was made from a paintbrush out of her mother’s paint set. It certainly looked like an inside job.
That perception wasn’t helped by the videos that were released to the public after the child was found dead in which she strutted the beauty pageant runways looking more sexually provocative at age six than most adult women could ever pull off in their lifetimes. It was only natural to wonder about what kind of parents would pay for a first grader to get coached to perform like that and enter competitions. The subculture of child beauty pageants was virtually unknown then to anyone who wasn’t directly involved in them (and who in their right mind would want to be)?
As the house was searched and the friends and police were arriving, nine-year-old Burke was allegedly in his bedroom. He allegedly stayed in there during all the chaos of that morning, as the police waited with the parents for the phone call that never came about the ransom demand for the “kidnapped child” who wasn’t kidnapped. A cop told JonBenet’s father and one of his friends to search the house to see if anything was out of the ordinary – an astonishing suggestion. They found JonBenet’s dead body in the basement. It was believed she wasn’t just strangled and had her head bashed in but that she was sexually assaulted, too.
Had her parents done it? Her mother? Her father? Her nine-year-old brother? Had it been an accident that John and Patsy tried to cover up with that mother of all ransom notes? What happened that night in that beautiful house in Boulder?
Suspicion fell on the parents, and was further aggravated by Patsy Ramsey’s bizarre affect whenever she spoke to the media. The lady looked like the worst actress of all time, with her body language not only not matching her comments but glaringly almost fighting against them. She gave me the creeps. If she was honest than I’m Queen Elizabeth. Suspicion remained on Patsy and John until DNA evidence, found on JonBenet’s underwear, was to clear them.
In all the years since, JonBenet’s brother, Burke, has not spoken publicly about the events in the house when the murder took place – until recently. Today the first of his interviews was aired on Dr. Phil.
I was unprepared for how disturbing this show would be.
If Patsy Ramsey’s body language had been weird, I’ll say this: at least she came across like an over-the-top sad parent who’d lost her daughter.
Burke’s went completely in the opposite direction. There was a smile on his face throughout almost the entire interview about the murder of his sister! He smiled when asked when was the last time he saw her, he smiled when describing his mother coming into the room when she was searching for JonBenet, he smiled describing everything. It reminded me of the look on Jack Nicholson’s ultra-bright but evil face as he said in The Shining, “Heeeere’s Johnny!” Good God Almighty!
Yet at the same time as that grin was on his face, his fingers were clenched, or drumming the arm of the chair on which he sat. Nervous as Hell on the one hand, yet smiling like a politician at a victory parade on the other. And this is during an interview about the murder of his own little sister.
People had thought, hoped, even, that the young man would say something revelatory that might just lead to an answer to this horrific unsolved crime, a remembered sound, maybe, or the recollection of someone’s suspicious actions, but I for one am coming away from watching that utterly freakish interview with a whole new list of additional questions. Why is Burke smiling? What is going on in his head? What has him so nervous? What happened the night his sister died, and what does he know about it?
And on another note entirely, why does nobody ever seem to coach members of this particular family before they make their media appearances? If guilty, oh well, but if they’re innocent, they excel at giving themselves a perception problem before the public.
Part Two airs tomorrow. Stay tuned. I still hope that one day there really will be some justice for JonBenet.