Gary Oliva is a Colorado sex offender who has a “history of sexually abusing minors” and who lived near the home of JonBenet Ramsey at the time the young beauty pageant contestant was murdered.
Over the years, Oliva has been considered a person of interest or suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey death, according to a 2016 article in The Denver Post. However, he has never been arrested, charged or publicly accused by authorities in connection with the death of the girl, whose December 26, 1996 slaying in Boulder, Colorado is one of America’s most enduring murder mysteries. The child’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, and her brother, Burke, who was a child at the time, were also in the home when the 6-year-old was murdered in the family’s basement in Boulder, Colorado.
Now a new report in the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, contended on January 10, 2019 that Gary Oliva has confessed to murdering JonBenet Ramsey in a series of letters to a friend. Daily Mail has published what it says are excerpts of the letters. His full name is Gary Howard Oliva. However, Boulder police say they’ve investigated what they say are multiple confessions by Oliva.
According to a previous report by Rolling Stone, which placed him on a list of plausible suspects in 2016, Gary Oliva “was cleared by DNA testing for the JonBenét murder.” However, police have conducted new DNA testing and some news organizations have quoted experts as questioning whether the DNA in the case derived from the child’s killer. Oliva’s name has surfaced in connection with the case for years, and he’s made some odd statements about JonBenet, including allegedly saying he wanted to make a shrine to her.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Daily Mail Exclusive Accuses Gary Oliva of Confessing to Accidentally Killing Jon Benet Ramsey & Watching Her Die
The incendiary letters obtained by Daily Mail appeared in a January 10, 2019 report in the British tabloid that accused Gary Oliva of confessing that he murdered Ramsey. Daily Mail reports that Oliva, 55, allegedly sent the letters to “music publicist Michael Vail, a former high school classmate of Oliva’s.”
“I never loved anyone like I did JonBenét and yet I let her slip and her head bashed in half and I watched her die. It was an accident. Please believe me. She was not like the other kids,” Daily Mail accuses Gary Oliva of writing.
He’s also accused of writing, “JonBenét completely changed me and removed all evil from me. Just one look at her beautiful face, her glowing beautiful skin, and her divine God-body, I realized I was wrong to kill other kids. Yet by accident she died and it was my fault.”
Daily Mail also claimed that Oliva used an address 10 blocks from the Ramsey home at the time of the murder. The Daily Mail report also quotes Michael Vail as telling Daily Mail TV that Oliva made a disturbing comment to him on the day of the murder: “My suspicions began when Gary called me late at night on December 26, 1996. He was sobbing and said, ‘I hurt a little girl.'” He told the British tabloid that he tried to tell Boulder police about that at the time but couldn’t get through.
2. Boulder Police, Who Have the Letters, Say They’ve Investigated Oliva & ‘Several Previous Confessions’ He made About JonBenet Ramsey
The Boulder District Attorney’s office declined to comment on the Daily Mail’s report, telling Heavy that the JonBenet Ramsey investigation is being handled by the Boulder Police Department and that all comments should come from them.
The Boulder Police Department then released a statement that read:
The Boulder Police Department is aware of Mr. Oliva and has investigated his potential involvement in this case, including several previous confessions.
The department routinely receives information on this investigation. Information provided to the police department is reviewed along with the many tips and theories we receive.
There are no new updates in this investigation and the department will not comment further.
Daily Mail says the Boulder police have the letters and quoted the spokesperson as saying to the news outlet, “The Boulder Police Department is aware of and has investigated Mr. Oliva’s potential involvement in this case. We have passed the additional information you provided onto investigators. We will not comment on any actions or the status of this investigation.”
In 2016, at the time of his recent conviction, Boulder city spokeswoman Sarah Huntley told Crimesider: “There was a point in time in the investigation it’s fair to say he was a suspect.”
In 2002, CBS News reported that “police said Oliva is not a suspect. Sources say his DNA doesn’t match evidence at the scene.”
DNA testing – which at one point prompted the District Attorney to clear JonBenet’s parents in the death – has grown much more sophisticated since JonBenet’s murder. In 2018, The Daily Camera reported that the Boulder DA said that analysts had completed a “renewed wave of DNA testing in the JonBenet Ramsey case” but said that authorities wouldn’t discuss what was learned.
In 2016, the Daily Camera and 9News had reported that experts told them that the “DNA evidence that had been cited by then-District Attorney Mary Lacy as a basis to issue an exoneration of Ramsey family members in July 2008 did not, in their opinions, support her actions.”
DNA was found in “one location on JonBenet’s underwear and two spots on her long johns” but the experts told the news outlets that the DNA did not necessarily belong to the child’s killer, adding that “it indicated the genetic presence of two people in addition to the girl.”
The child’s cause of death was “asphyxiation and a fractured skull,” Daily Camera reports.
In 2016, JonBenet’s brother Burke Ramsey filed a $750 million defamation lawsuit against CBS for a documentary that he alleged falsely suggested he might be the killer. The case settled in 2018 for an undetermined amount. A prosecutor had cleared Burke as well as the Ramsey parents, the latter of whom were under a cloud of suspicion for years.
3. Gary Oliva Once Told the Denver Post That He Felt a Need to Build a Shrine to JonBenet Ramsey
In a 2016 article on Gary Oliva, The Denver Post quoted him as saying that he felt a need to build a shrine to the slain child. “JonBenet’s murder touched me very deeply,” Oliva told The Post. “I feel she was an exceptional girl whose death was an exceptional loss. I felt the need to build a monument, a shrine, to remember this little girl.”
The article calls Gary Oliva a “one-time person of interest” in the Ramsey homicide and says he was accused of child porn possession.
According to The Post, the above shrine comment was Oliva’s explanation at the time for why he “had a photo of JonBenet in his backpack when Boulder police arrested him on a drug charge in December 2000.” The Post reports that he also had a stun gun in his backpack, which has intrigued some observers of the case because authorities believe the JonBenet killer may have used a stun gun on the child. Oliva told the Post he had it out of safety concerns.
In 2002, Oliva made a disturbing comment about JonBenet Ramsey to CBS News. “I believe that she came to me after she was killed and revealed herself to me. I’d like to see a memorial set up for her. I haven’t seen that, anywhere,” he allegedly said.
4. Oliva Was Homeless for a Time & Is Up For Parole Eligibility in 2020 for Uploading Child Porn
Gary Oliva is serving a 10-year sentence in Colorado for child pornography, with a parole eligibility date in 2020, according to Colorado corrections records. The Denver Post also reports that Gary Oliva has given DNA samples to police and was homeless for a time.
According to CBS News, Gary Oliva is a registered sex offender. CBS News reports that his most recent conviction, in 2016, came after he was “accused of uploading explicit images of young girls under the age of 10 to an e-mail account in April.” Google had contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children “about a possible upload of child pornography to a Google email account from various IP addresses in Boulder,” reported CBS, which added that Oliva “uploaded images of prepubescent girls – one believed to be between 4 and 7 years old – to his email account.”
Daily Mail did indicate that it does not believe Oliva’s handwriting matches the infamous ransom note found at the family’s home. According to Daily Mail, though, he also allegedly had a poem called “Ode to JonBenét,” not just the photo. Daily Mail also alleges he had “335 photographs related to JonBenét on the phone” at his time of arrest.
In 2002, CBS News reported that Oliva “was a paranoid schizophrenic. He was convicted of assaulting another 7-year-old girl in Oregon, and spent time in prison.” That news report contended that Oliva might have been less than a block away from the Ramseys’ home when the murder occurred and quoted the private investigators for the Ramsey family as saying “Oliva frequented buildings owned by a local church, which fed homeless people.”
In the late 1980s, Vail and Oliva exchanged cassette tapes and, on Oliva’s, he “appears to be simulating a rape. On another tape, he talks about hurting a child,” CBS reported, adding that it took police four years to investigate Oliva.
5. The Ramseys’ Private Investigator Felt Police Should Have Taken Oliva More Seriously, Reports Allege
In 2016, Rolling Stone published a list of eight possible suspects in JonBenet Ramsey’s death. The way the news media may use the term, however, can be different from law enforcement officially declaring anyone a suspect in the case.
The article included Gary Oliva on that list, labeling him the “town drifter.” According to Rolling Stone, Oliva, then 32, was a convicted pedophile living in the area “off and on” who had a magazine cutout of JonBenet. Rolling Stone reported then that Ollie Gray, identified as the “Ramsey’s longtime private investigator,” had “lambasted the Boulder PD for failing to consider him as a more credible suspect.”
Vail described being troubled by “how the knots used to fashion the garrote that strangled JonBenét were similar to those used in an incident where Oliva attempted to choke his mother with telephone cord,” Rolling Stone reported.
In June 2018, Vail told InTouch that Oliva told him the day of the murder: “He kept moaning, ‘I hurt a little girl. I hurt a little girl.'” He is accused of telling Vail it happened in Boulder, Colorado. “Gary used to carry paintbrushes like that with him when he was an art student and he studied how to make knots. He had drawings of them, and put them in his collages,” Vail told InTouch.