JonBenet Ramsey‘s young, smiling face stared out from newspaper front pages and television screens all across the country in the months after the 6-year-old beauty queen was found dead in the basement of her family’s Colorado home. The crime stunned the quiet and affluent neighborhood in Boulder, Colo.
JonBenet, a beauty pageant winner, had been discovered beaten and strangled, with duct tape placed on her mouth and throat, on the day after Christmas in 1996. This was already disturbing enough to draw national attention — but JonBenet’s own family quickly fell under scrutiny, and many who had followed the story began to speculate on whether her parents were somehow involved.
JonBenet’s mother, Patricia, told police she woke up early that morning to find her daughter missing. She called 911 to report a kidnapping, saying she found a nearly 3-page ransom note demanding $118,000. Hours later, JonBenet’s father, John, told police he discovered his daughter’s body in the basement. An autopsy determined that JonBenet died of asphyxiation caused by strangulation, according to the Denver Post. Her death was ruled a homicide.
The Ramseys immediately fell under a cloud of suspicion, but no one was ever charged in connection with JonBenet’s death. Her parents addressed the speculation for the first time during an interview with CNN in January. John Ramsey said the suggestion that his family was behind the crime was “nauseating beyond belief,” according to the Post. “I did not kill my daughter,” he told reporters again in May.
Twenty years later, Boulder Police said the investigation is still open, although officials declined to comment on the case. “Our goal continues to be an arrest and successful prosecution,” Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa said last fall. “We have not and will not give up.”
The recent 20th anniversary of JonBenet’s death was met with a wave of major network specials and new documentaries that explored potential suspects. JonBenet’s brother Burke Ramsey also spoke out for the first time. The 29-year-old said on Dr. Phil that he burst into tears when he first found out his sister was dead.
“My dad told me JonBenet is in heaven now, and he started crying, then I started crying,” Burke Ramsey said. “I was kind of like, How is this possible? I started crying. I don’t think I said anything. I didn’t believe it at first.”