Jon Benet Ramsey Case Study Case Study

Excerpt from Case Study :

Witnesses reported the noticeable odor of decay was present and dried mucous on one of her nostrils. The child was dressed in a light colored long-sleeved turtleneck and light-colored pants (similar to pajama bottoms). Her distraught father placed her on the floor by the front door. A white cord was tightly embedded around her neck similar to the string around her wrist. On her neck at the base of her throat was a red circular mark about the size of a quarter (World Law Direct Forums web site).

Based on her own experience Det. Arndt believed the child was dead and that she had been dead for some time. John Ramsey told Det. Arndt that he had found JonBenet in the wine cellar under a white blanket, that her wrists were tied above her head, and that a piece of duct tape was over her mouth. He pulled the tape off before he brought her upstairs (Maloney & O'Connor, 2003).

Detective Linda Arndt had not secured the crime scene. She thought it was a kidnapping, not a murder, and waited for hours before she ordered that the house be searched. She had allowed the Ramseys and people who came to support them to walk about in the house and contaminate the evidence. In violation of police procedure, she ordered the father to search the house rather than a police officer who would have known better than to move the body. When the coroner Dr. John Meyer arrived, he had to push his way through the people to get to the body (Church, 1997). These initial blunders greatly complicated the investigation of the crime scene and the collection of the evidence.

The Evidence

JonBenet's body was taken to the morgue, and the next day Dr. John Meyer performed an autopsy with Det. Linda Arndt and Det. Tom Trujillo observing (JonBenet Ramsey case encyclopedia web site). In his report Dr. Meyer stated that when he examined JonBenet's body in the home the day before, he observed a ligature around her neck and another ligature around her right wrist. "Also noted was a small area of abrasion or contusion below the right ear on...the right cheek. A prominent dried abrasion was present on the lower left neck" (JonBenet Ramsey documents web site). Dr. Meyer's report stated that JonBenet had suffered "ligature strangulation" and "comminuted fracture of the right side of the skull" with a displaced fragment of bone approximately 8-1/2" long; in addition, "subarachnoid and subdural hemorrhage" was present in the brain. He also reported the vagina mucosa "contain vascular congestion and focal interstitial chronic inflammation," which he said indicated chronic sexual abuse. Dr. Meyers stated, "Cause of death of this six-year-old female is asphyxia by strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma." (Autopsy report in JonBenet Ramsey documents web site). He was unable to ascertain which came first.

Evidence, which Dr. Meyer turned over to the police after the autopsy, included "fibers and hair from clothing and body surfaces; ligatures; clothing; vaginal swabs and smears; rectal swabs and smears; oral swabs and smears; paper bags from hands; fingernail clippings, jewelry, paper bags from feet; white body bag; sample of head hair, eyelashes and eyebrows; swabs from right and left thighs and right cheek; red top and purple top tubes of blood" (Autopsy report, JonBenet Ramsey documents web site).

During the days and weeks after the murder, the police department removed 1,058 items of evidence from the Ramsey home. They tested 500 pieces, interviewed 590 people, consulted 64 outside experts, investigated and cleared more than 100 suspects; gathered handwriting and non-testimonial evidence from 215 people; read and processed more than 3,400 letters and 700 telephone tips, and recorded all their findings in a 40,000-page case file" (the Denver Post Online: JonBenet Ramsey; and JonBenet Ramsey Case Encyclopedia web site). An overwhelming amount of evidence accumulated. According to Mary Lacy, the District Attorney for Boulder, all the evidence has been made public. The more significant evidence follows:

The ransom note, which was written on a pad of paper belonging to the household with a Sharpie pen also found in the house (Denver Post Online).

Two false starts to the ransom note were found.

Missing pages 17-25 from the tablet were never found.

Writing samples taken from dozens of people including John Ramsey, Patsy Ramsey, Burke Ramsey, John's children from his first marriage, Fleet White, Bill McReynolds (who was Santa Claus at the Christmas party), Joe Barnhill (a neighbor), and others (Denver Post Online).

5"x 8" legal pad was found, which investigators believe is the pad used to write the ransom note, and a Sharpie felt-tip pen like the one used to write the ransom note was found with other pens and pencils in a container on the kitchen counter. They collected five or more handwriting samples from Patsy including "historic" samples of her writing from the past. Handwriting experts did not eliminate her as the author, but they did not say definitively that she was, either. CBI handwriting expert Chet Ubowski wrote about one of the samples, "There is evidence that indicates the ransom note may have been written by Patsy. But the evidence falls short of that necessary to say definitively that she is. According to the FBI, a practice sheet of the ransom note was on the same pad of paper. No fingerprints were found on the note. The text of the note was peculiar and longer than most kidnappers write. The note demanded $118,000 -- an odd amount and rather low considering John Ramsey's net worth (Denver Post Online)

CBI handwriting experts examined the ransom note. They eliminated John Ramsey but did eliminate Patsy Ramsey (Denver Post Online: JonBenet Ramsey).

Investigators hired Donald Foster, a Professor of English at Vassar to analyze the content and rhetorical style of the note. According to ABC's 20/20, he told police that the ransom note "bears Patsy's rhetorical stamp" (cited in Bane, 1998).

Before he was hired by the Boulder County Police Department, however, he believed that a person called "jameson" who was posting comments about the case on the Internet was actually JonBenet's half-brother John Andrew Ramsay and that he was the killer. Convinced of it, he wrote to his literary agent that he had solved the case using a laptop computer and an internet hook-up. Actually, "jameson" was a 48-year-old housewife in North Carolina named Sue Bennett. After talking to Sue Bennett, he developed a theory that she was shielding John Andrew and allowing John Andrew to use her computer. He sent her a certified letter urging that she "come clean" ("Donald Foster gets it wrong, again and again," 1998). He also wrote a letter to Patsy Ramsey, which stated, "I know you are innocent -- know it absolutely and unequivocally. I will stake my professional reputation on it, indeed my faith in humanity." He said he had analyzed the ransom note, and it "leads me to believe you did not write it and the police are wasting their time by trying to prove that you did." He wrote this letter to offer his services to the Ramsays. After they rejected his offer, he went to work for the Boulder County Police Department. After "studying" the ransom note, he said it had Patsy Ramsey's "rhetorical stamp" ("Donald Foster gets it wrong, again and again," 1988; and CBS 48-Hours transcript, April 8, 1999).

When Dr. John Meyer examined Jon Benet's body, he observed she was wearing a long-sleeved, white knit shirt with a silver star embroidered on the front and a gold necklace with a cross. Her hair was in two puppy tails. She was wearing a yellow metal band on her right middle finger and a gold I.D. bracelet with "JonBent" engraved on one side with the date 12/25/96 on the other side (Autopsy report, JonBenet Ramsey documents web site).

Someone had drawn a red ink heart on the palm of her left hand (Autopsy report, JonBenet Ramsey documents web site).

Det. Linda Arndt, who attended the autopsy, said green Christmas garland was tangled in the child's hair. The garland was like the garland that decorated the spiral staircase in the family's home (Denver Post Online).

JonBenet was wearing long underwear. Underneath she wore a pair of white panties with rosebuds and "Wednesday" on the waistband. The panties were stained with urine and had several red stains on them. "According to the search warrant affidavit, Dr. Meyer told Det. Arndt the stains looked like blood" (Denver Post Online: JonBenet Ramsey web site).

A pink Barbie nightgown was found near her body.

No semen was found on the body. The coroner found evidence of vaginal injury, however, and reported that "the pubic area appeared to have been wiped with a cloth." The coroner also reported that her hymen was partially torn and there was blood from it (Denver Post Online: JonBenet Ramsey web…

Sources Used in Document:


Autopsy photos, Crime Shots True Crime Community web site:

Autopsy report JonBenet Ramsey documents web site.

Bane, V. (1998). Never ending story. People Weekly, 50 (22) 126-132.

Bardsley, M. (2006). JonBenet Ramsey murder case: An investigative analysis.

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