JonBenet Ramsey was only 6 years old when her body was found, murdered, in the basement of her family home. The identity of her murderer has not been uncovered, but her family has been scrutinized in the 22 years since JonBenet’s mysterious death.
A&E is premiering a new 2-hour special tonight entitled Hunting JonBenét’s Killer: The Untold Story; A&E’s description for the special reads “Elizabeth Vargas takes a fresh look at the most notorious cold case murder in American history. By tracking down new leads and with new DNA tests, this episode takes a deeper dive in hopes of bringing peace to the Ramsey family. Featuring an exclusive interview with John Ramsey, as well as many never-before-seen photos, the documentary also pursues numerous ‘intruder theories’ of the crime. Vargas and retired FBI agent Robert Clark investigate the possibility that the killer may have ties to a group that believed in extra-terrestrial life and the end of the world.”
Before the show premieres tonight, here’s what you need to know about JonBenét Ramsey’s family:
1. In Addition to Her Brother Burke, She Had a Half-Brother & 2 Half-Sisters
Although JonBenét and her brother Burke were the only two children Patsy and John shared, John had three children from his first marriage: John Andrew, Melinda, and Elizabeth. According to CNN, Elizabeth died in a car accident in 1992, when she was 22 years old.
According to Ranker.com, John Ramsey became involved in the investigation when his suitcase was found near the crime scene, but he was cleared from any suspicions.
2. JonBenét’s Mother, Patsy, Was a Former Pageant Queen
Before she put her daughter into pageants, Patsy was crowned Miss West Virginia in 1977. According to Romper, John said that Patsy and JonBenét “just did it for fun,” but that JonBenét first got interested in pageants after seeing Patsy perform on stage in a reunion pageant.
Although JonBenét had only competed in 9 pageants before her death, the media focused on her pageantry and the fact that the costumes and makeup made her look older than she actually was. According to Independent, JonBenet was laid in her casket with the crown she won at a Christmas pageant shortly before her death.
3. Her Father Wrote 2 Books About the Aftermath of Her Murder
In March 2000, John and Patsy Ramsey came out with a book entitled The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet’s Murder and How Its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth. The book is a first-person account of their side of the story and the ways in which their lives changed after the murder of their daughter. The book description on Amazon reads “The parents of the tragically murdered JonBenet Ramsey present their side of the traumatic tale, honestly discussing the publicity whirlwind full of persecution and slander that has surrounded them since their loss and explaining how faith has helped them survive.”
Then, in March 2012, John published a second book entitled The Other Side of Suffering: The Father of JonBenet Ramsey Tells the Story of His Journey from Grief to Grace, about the tragedies he overcame by turning to his faith; the description makes reference to the fact that “the case drew international media attention, and-compounding Ramsey’s woe-suspicion unfairly focused on Ramsey and his wife, Patsy.”
4. Burke Was Briefly Considered a Suspect in JonBenet’s Murder
Although Burke and his parents were major suspects for the police, Cosmopolitan reports that their names were cleared “because DNA found on JonBenét’s leggings and underwear did not match anyone of relation to her.”
In December 2016, Burke sued CBS and contributing producers over a mini-series they aired entitled The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey, saying it falsely accused him of murdering JonBenét. According to Rolling Stone, the documentary highlights the then 9-year-old’s behavior following his sister’s murder, which they describe as “playful and untroubled.” According to CNN, the complaint asserted “Since the time of the above accusations against Burke in 1998 and 1999, no member of the tabloid media or the mainstream media has ever again accused Burke of being involved in—or suspected of—JonBenét’s murder. That is, until CBS aired the Documentary.” According to NPR, a settlement was made in January 2019.
5. Patsy Died of Cancer in 2006
While JonBenét was still alive, Patsy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After going into remission, it returned in the early 2000s and Patsy passed away on June 24, 2006 at the age of 49. According to CNN, Patsy and JonBenét are buried next to each other in Marietta, Georgia.
The Denver Post reported that the family’s lawyer L. Lin Wood revealed that a couple of weeks before Patsy’s death “she said to me, ‘They need to hurry up.’ I think Patsy realized she was not going to survive this.”