In November 1996, Ransom, a Ron Howard movie starring Mel Gibson hit theaters. The thriller centered around a wealthy family in despair as they tried to get their kidnapped son back, paying a two-million-dollar ransom. At the end of the film, Gibson gets his son back and the man behind the kidnapping is killed.
Only a month later, the Ramsey family lived their own version of this story. As in the movie, the Boulder residents were wealthy, prominent figures in their small-town community. But there the similarities ended. Patsy and John Ramsey had two children — Burke, 9, and JonBenét, 6. And on December 25, tragedy struck.
The story of JonBenét's assault, ransom, and murder has become one of the most befuddling cases of modern crime. It reads more like the plot of a thriller with a surprise twist ending, much like Ransom. Except this story's ending is far from happy — or even resolved.
As the 20th anniversary of the little girl's death approaches, many television networks are revisiting the case in an attempt to reevaluate the bizarre events surrounding this unsolved murder.
For those unfamiliar with the overall narrative of the night of December 25, here's a quick summary: It was a normal Christmas Day in Boulder for the Ramsey family. After opening presents, they all went to a nearby friend's house for a holiday party. On the way home, JonBenét fell asleep in her father's arms. They tucked her into bed, did the same with Burke, and then went to sleep.
The next morning (around 6 a.m.), Patsy woke up, put on her clothes from the night before, and walked downstairs. On the staircase, she found a three-page ransom note telling her that her daughter had been kidnapped and would only be returned in exchange for a large sum of money (the exact amount her husband had received as his holiday bonus). Alarmed, Patsy called the police and reported the kidnapping. Hours later, their house now filled with friends, family, and police officers, one detective told John to go look around the house for clues. That's when he says he walked into the basement and found his daughter dead on the ground. She had been strangled, sexually assaulted, and suffered a blunt-force trauma to her head. She appeared to have never even left the house.
Years after that jarring discovery on December 26, the evidence that has come to light points in all sorts of directions, creating no clear narrative for the detectives to follow. Since 1996, the media frenzy around JonBenét's case has died down, giving way to individual theories that we've rounded up here for you to read. Obviously, we don't endorse any of the theories that spurred from the troubling cold case (especially not the one claiming that Katy Perry is JonBenét). This fall, multiple networks will release docu-series, TV movies, and exclusive interviews in an attempt to bring new evidence and theories to light. They're sure to resurrect all the questions that haunted the public and media 20 years ago. Did her parents accidentally kill her? Why did an intruder spend the time writing a three-page note and then leave her body and not try to collect the ransom? How did the police not find her body in their initial search of the house?
Who killed JonBenét Ramsey?