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Who Killed JonBenet Ramsey: 9 Theories Explained

In 1996, 6-year-old pageant queen JonBenet Ramsey was found murdered at her family home in Boulder, Colorado. She was reported missing by her parents – then eight hours later, her body was found in the basement. The case had several grand jury hearings, yet still remains unsolved.

According to the testimony of JonBenet’s mother, Patsy Ramsey, she discovered her daughter was missing after coming across a ransom letter in the kitchen demanding $118,000 for the safe return of her daughter. The note said JonBenet would be returned as soon as the money was paid.

JonBenet’s father, John Ramsey, made arrangement to pay the ransom and collect the money that morning from a local bank. The instructions were not to call the police or contact any friends, but at 5.45pm that day they rang the police and also contacted friends and family.

After officers arrived, they believed JonBenet had been kidnapped from her bedroom and cornered off the area. They then suggested John Ramsey search the house for anything unusual and he headed to the basement in the house. There he found his daughter’s body covered in a blanket and carried her upstairs in his arms. The police were later ridiculed for allowing the father to move the body from the scene of the crime.

A nylon cord had been tied around the young girl’s neck, her wrists were tied above her head, and her mouth was covered with duct tape. An autopsy also revealed that JonBenet had been killed by strangulation and a severe skull fracture.

The case has since become one of the most speculated murder mysteries of the past twenty years. Mark Beckner, who was Chief of Boulder police at the time of the murder, explained during a Reddit chat: “The media attention and the intrigue of a good murder mystery attracts lots of people. Add a small beauty queen and it only intensifies the interest. If only 1% of the population is crazy, in our country alone that would mean there are about 3,600,000 crazy people out there wanting to give us their wacky ideas.”

Here are nine theories of who killed JonBenet Ramsey…. (SCROLL DOWN FOR THE FULL ARTICLE)

9. A New Documentary Pinned The Blame On Burke Ramsey

Burke was 9-years-old when his sister was murdered. 69-year-old Judith Phillips, who was a family friend of the Ramsey’s for more than ten years, has finally spoken out after the death of JonBenet. She claims Burke had always been jealous of his younger sibling and she believes he could have lashed out at her. She told The Sun newspaper, “When Burke was born he was the absolute apple of Patsy’s eye. Then along came this little girl who stole all the attention. He could well have been very jealous.”

She added, “I agree with the theory Burke killed JonBenet but I don’t think he meant to do it. I think Patsy did everything in her power to protect her living child. I think she wrote the ransom note whilst John staged the scene in the basement. After calling the police Patsy began inviting friends over to the house and in the commotion John went missing for an hour and half. It is my opinion he was disposing of evidence.”

During the CBS documentary The Case Of: JonBenét Ramsey there was more evidence that Burke could have been involved when the original 911 call was made public for the first time. Jim Clemente, a former FBI agent and producer of the program, listens in on the call and reveals: “I think I hear a man say, ‘We’re not speaking to you.’ I think that’s John Ramsey’s voice. The tone is apparent, talking to a child.” He then overhears a woman’s voice, most likely Patsy, saying ‘What did you do? Help me, Jesus.’

There is also a second voice saying, ‘What did you find?’ Clemente concluded this voice may have belonged to a child. He said, “It sounds like a smaller voice. It doesn’t sound like a booming adult.” Investigator Laura Richards clarified that if this is Burke’s voice it could be “hugely significant” because “their account is that Burke was asleep at that time.”

Forensic expert Dr. Werner Spitz also stated that a Maglite flashlight found at the Ramsey residence was the murder weapon used to kill JonBenet. When asked if a child could cause a skull fracture with this weapon, he replied, “The skull of a 6-year-old – we call them eggshell skulls. It could be an adult, it could be a child. There was, in my view, no doubt that it was this flashlight or one exactly like it.”

During his one-to-one interview with Dr. Phil, Burke Ramsey revealed when the police entered his bedroom as the search for JonBenet took place that he did not get out of bed. This is considered odd behavior for a 9-year-old, who anyone would expect to be alarmed if police officers started walking around their bedroom, which led many speculate he wasn’t curious because he knew exactly why they were there.

Ramsey’s attorney Lin Wood publicly stated: “In May of 1999, the Boulder District Attorney and the Boulder Police Department publicly confirmed that Burke Ramsey was not a suspect or even a possible suspect. Any statement conveying that this young man was involved in the brutal murder of his sister – his life’s best friend – is unquestionable false and defamatory.”

8. Private Investigator Claims “There’s No Doubt” Michael Helgoth Did It

Michael Helgoth (pictured above) lived on his family-owned junkyard on the border of JonBenet’s hometown. A private investigator named Ollie Gray hired by the Ramsey’s claimed, “Helgoth and his accomplices committed the crime. There’s no doubt about it.”

Prosecutor Trip DeMuth also told CNN, “I remember that he had footwear that was consistent with the footprint evidence, he had a stun gun.”

Helgoth’s former co-worker John Kenady backed up these claims when he told the Daily Mail, “Helgoth had told me that he and a partner were going to make a great deal and they each will bring in around $50,000 or $60,000. I will never forget we were walking toward his house and he said, ‘I wonder what it would be like to crack a human skull.’ I was amazed. I thought it was a very odd thing to say.”

Shortly after Jon Benet’s murder, Helgoth was found dead with a bullet wound to the head. His death was ruled as an apparent suicide although some believe he was murdered as part of an elaborate attempt to cover up the abduction.

Kenady believes he was murdered by an accomplice or accomplices who were with him when he killed JonBenet. He also told the Daily Mail, “The gun was found on Helgoth’s right side, but the bullet hole goes from left to right. It doesn’t make sense why someone would commit suicide in that manner. He was murdered to keep his mouth shut.”

7. Gary Howard Oliva Wrote A Poem “Ode to JonBenét.”

Journalist Stephen Singular penned the book Presumed Guilty: An Investigation Into the JonBenét Ramsey Case, the Media, and the Culture of Pornography he argued that the police were so set on charging the parents with the murder that they failed to consider she could have been abducted for child pornography.

One of the suspects in the case was Gary Howard Oliva (pictured above) who has previously been arrested for uploading several sexually explicit photographs of children online. Even more chilling was that Inside Edition reported when Oliva was arrested in 2000 he was allegedly carrying a photograph of the child beauty queen with him, alongside a handwritten poem called, “Ode to JonBenét.”

Singular explained this more disturbing theory during an interview with the Computer Crime Research Center. He said, “I didn’t make the connection as much as I felt that this area should be investigated by the authorities because of the similarities between what I’d seen online (of child pornography) and the child’s murder. And because I’d been told by cyber-crime specialists that JonBenét was precisely the kind of child, because of her beauty pageant experience, who could be sucked into the world of child porn.”

CBS also reported there was a high concentration of potential child predators in the Boulder community, with 38 registered sex offenders living within two miles of the family’s house at the time of the murder.

6. Was Bill “Santa Claus” McReynolds Above Suspicion?

In 2006, CNN blogger Anderson Cooper wrote: “Two days before JonBenet Ramsey died, Bill McReynolds (a local neighbor, pictured above) played Santa Claus at her home. After her death, investigators instantly became curious about McReynolds and his wife Janet, who had played Mrs. Claus.

“Back in 1997, McReynolds told a Colorado television station, “I know I didn’t do it.” But for investigators, there were too many eerie connections between the McReynolds and the Ramseys to just drop it. Trip DeMuth, one of the original prosecutors on the case, told me that Santa Bill gave JonBenet a card that read: “You will receive a special gift after Christmas.”

There was also the strange coincidence that the McReynolds had a daughter who was abducted 22-years before JonBenet – on exactly the same day. Bill McReynolds also wrote a play about a child who had been molested and murdered in a basement, which is exactly how JonBenet died, although he told the Daily Camera that it was “a fictionalized account of the 1965 torture and murder of Sylvia Likens in Indiana” and nothing to do with JonBenet.

The pair was cleared via DNA testing after they gave hair, blood and handwriting samples to the investigators.

5. John Karr Wrote A 139-Page Long Detailed Confession

Radar Online reported that child predator John Karr, who now lives in Thailand, wrote a confession in a 139-page journal, titled “Fin Mecontente,” which in French translates to “Unhappy End”, that details how he killed JonBenet.

They reported, “Karr has admitted he broke into the Ramsey home, wrote the ransom note and tied up the angelic golden-haired child in the basement for “deadly games” that took her precious life.”

However, despite the lengthy confession, Karr’s DNA samples did not match up with those found at the crime scene and investigators removed his name from their list of prime suspects. Karr’s journal is now considered as nothing more than a sinister work of fiction.

4. Was It A Business Rival Of Her Father?

The Ramsey’s were a wealthy family; John Ramsey was the president of Access Graphics, a business computer system company which later became a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin. In 1996, the company turned over $1 billion in sales and Ramsey piloted his own corporate jet. The Boulder Chamber of Commerce also named John Ramsey as “Entrepreneur of the Year.”

What was interesting in the case was on the day the John and Patsy Ramsey discovered their daughter was missing, the ransom note read: “You will withdraw $118,000.00 from your account. $100,000 will be in $100 bills and the remaining $18,000 in $20 bills. Make sure that you bring an adequate size attached to the bank.” $118,000 was the exact amount John Ramsey had been rewarded as a bonus earlier that year from Access Graphics.

Could the abductor who left the note a rival co-worker or someone from the direct competition? Was someone out to exploit John Ramsey but the kidnapping went wrong? Or was the similarity in the exact amount the ransom note demanded just a startling coincidence?

3. Brian Scott Was The Family Gardener With A Solid Alibi

Brian Scott was the Ramsey family gardener at the time of her murder. Scott was one of the few people who had access to the Ramsey property but he told the police his alibi was that he spent the night at girlfriends when JonBenet’s murder took place.

In 1999, Lawrence Schiller interviewed Scott for the book Perfect Murder, Perfect Town. He described JonBenet as a curious little girl revealing, “I remember how intelligent JonBenet was. That’s why I never talked to her as if she were just a little kid.”

Scott also appeared to take the heat off him and subtly point toward Burke Ramsey by portraying him as a loner type. Scott said, “(Burke) almost never said a word to me. Just played by himself in the backyard, completely occupied with his own projects. He always seemed to play alone.”

After DNA testing, he also came back clear and was another name removed from the list of prime suspects.

2. Was She Attacked By An Obsessed Pageant Fan?

Patsy Ramsey was obsessed with beauty pageants, she was herself a former beauty queen, and JonBenet became a regular, successful participant in her own “Little Miss” pageants. In the same year, JonBenet was murdered, accounts showed that Patsy had spent money on hiring photographers and model trainers to help JonBenet compete in out-of-state competitions.

JonBenet scooped the 1995 Little Miss Colorado title and a 1996 America’s Royale Miss title but critics also commented her dance routines were too flirtatious – even provocative – and her makeup was far too heavy for such a young girl.

In 1997, Denver Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Steinhauser told reporters: “It’s impossible to look at these photos and not see a terribly exploited little girl. You get this uncomfortable, sad feeling that she didn’t get the chance to be a normal 6-year-old kid.”

Did the exploitation of JonBenet turn deadly? Had a super fan broken into her home and killed her? This is just another theory in this seemingly never-ending cold case.

1. John and Patsy Ramsey Were Prime Suspects During The Initial Investigation

After the murder took place, many speculated that John and Patsy Ramsey murdered JonBenet. The media attention was so persistent and brutal that four days after the murder, John and Patsy Ramsey both hired their own criminal lawyers, a private investigator, and a high-powered public relations specialist.

In 1997, People magazine used the case as their cover story and they wrote: “It would be unusual, to say the least, for kidnappers to kill their victim, stash the body in her home and leave a ransom note behind anyway.”

Former Boulder police chief Mark Beckner who investigated the crime scene revealed during a Reddit chat: “We know from the evidence she was hit in the head very hard with an unknown object, possibly a flashlight or similar type item. The blow knocked her into unconsciousness, which could have led someone to believe she was dead.”

He continued: “The strangulation came 45 minutes to two hours after the head strike, based on the swelling on the brain. While the head wound would have eventually killed her, the strangulation actually did kill her. The rest of the scene we believe was staged, including the vaginal trauma, to make it look like a kidnapping/assault gone bad.”

Other suspicious evidence included:

  • The police later determined the ransom note was written on paper from a notebook in the Ramseys’ house. A practice note had already been written and after the final note was finished, the notepad was returned to the place they had been found.
  • When their handwriting was analyzed by experts to determine if either of them had written the ransom note, Patsy wrote “$118,000” out fully in words as if purposefully trying to be different from the note. Beckner commented: “The handwriting experts noted several strange observations.”
  • The only people known to be in the house the night of JonBenet’s death were JonBenet, Burke, Patsy and John Ramsey. When the police conducted a cursory search of the house – just 3 minutes after the initial emergency call talk place – they did not find any sign of a break-in or forced entry.
  • Nylon cord and the broken handle of a paintbrush had been tied around JonBenet’s neck apparently to strangle her. Part of the bristle end of the paintbrush was found in Patsy Ramsey’s art supplies.
  • The crime scene reports claims from the police’s perspective, they did not see evidence of a forced entry, saw evidence of staging, such as the ransom note, and did not find the Ramseys cooperative in helping them solve the death of their daughter.
  • Because of their highly regarded status in the Boulder community, police were told not to interrogate the Ramseys. Beckner recalls, “After that initial day, we felt pressure from the DA’s office not to push too hard on the Ramseys. This was a constant source of frustration and much could be written about this and the reasons for it.”
  • According to Gregg McCrary, a retired profiler with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, “statistically, it is a 12-to-1 probability that it’s a family member or a caregiver” who is involved in the death of a child.

The Ramseys were eventually cleared of causing their daughter’s death. A letter from the DA read: “We do not consider your immediate family, including you, your wife, Patsy, and your son, Burke, to be under any suspicion in the commission of this crime.”

Who is really responsible for the death of JonBenet Ramsey? We may never know. The case continues and is still under investigation – until there are answers, the speculation will perhaps never end.

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