With the twentieth anniversary of the murder of JonBenét Ramsey fast approaching (you can read more about the case by clicking here), it is unsurprising that interest in the unsolved case has reached a peak. Television interviews and investigative documentaries seem to be debuting weekly – each purporting to have uncovered new evidence in the case and while that may be true, the question remains: will investigators ever identify the murderer(s)?
Just as it was twenty years ago, the spotlight has been shone on Burke Ramsey – the now twenty nine year-old brother of JonBenét who the media and armchair detectives alike have long believed to be responsible for his sister’s murder. However, from a forensic perspective, there is no physical evidence that links Burke beyond reasonable doubt to the crime or a supposed cover-up.
Read on to discover the physical evidence that contradicts this ever-popular theory – and in turn, casts crucial doubt on Burke Ramsey as the killer.
It’s in his DNA
A single strand of pubic hair, scrapings from under JonBenét’s fingernails as well as a single droplet of blood found in the six-year old’s underwear were the sources of DNA found at the scene. DNA testing of the droplet of blood specifically showed that it belonged to a male. More importantly, this and the other samples from the scene did not match any members of the Ramsey family, including Burke.
It is critical to point out that issues with crime scene processing and evidence contamination do cast doubt about the validity of this evidence. In fact, the DNA recovered from the scene points to at least six different perpetrators, an impossibility in and of itself. Furthermore, the DNA recovered from her JonBenét’s underwear was so severely degraded, its presence may be entirely unrelated to the crime.
The fact remains that not only do none of these samples match Burke, no other DNA evidence was recovered from the crime scene that points to him being in close proximity with his sister prior to her murder.
The fatal blow
JonBenét’s cause of death was determined by Dr John Meyer as being ligature strangulation associated with head trauma. Either of these injuries would have eventually led to her death but analysis of the wound and the degree of haemorrhaging suggest that the crushing head trauma came first.
The size and shape of the skull fracture indicate that she was hit with a large, blunt object such as a torch (like the one discovered in the Ramsey kitchen) or a baseball bat (discovered outside).
While the exact object is unknown, what is clear is that a significant amount of force would have been needed to create trauma of the severity observed. The assistant DA at the time, Bill Wise, was even quoted as saying that the force used was sufficient to “bring down a 350 lb. Green Packers [sic] lineman”. Qualitatively speaking, a nine year-old boy would unlikely be able to muster this much force, regardless of intention or emotion.
Furthermore, the garrote knot use to bind and asphyxiate JonBenét is highly complex knot, usually only used by someone who has had specific martial arts or military training (or an interest in sexual bondage). At aged nine, it is unlikely that he would have mastered cub scout knots, never mind intricate knots such as this. That is, of course, if we discount an adult’s involvement in this aspect of the crime.
The underlying motive
Abrasions and bleeding discovered on and around JonBenét’s genitals at autopsy suggest she had been sexually assaulted shortly before she died. It is also theorised that her body was washed after the sexual assault, thus explaining the absence of seminal evidence.
In light of this, a sexual motive has often been cited for the murder. Some have even gone as far as to say that it was the work of a sexual sadist due to the fact she was strangled with a garrote knot – a knot used in the context of sexual bondage. At the time of her murder, a startling thirty-eight registered sex offenders lived in the nearby area.
At the time of her murder, Burke was just nine years-old and while case studies of sexual deviants as young as this have emerged, they are few and far between. Likewise it would be hard for a jury to believe, and even more difficult for investigators to prove, that an attack by Burke at this age would be sexually motivated.
Before you go…
The purpose of this article is not to prove, or disprove any of the many (and we do mean many!) theories about what happened to little JonBenét Ramsey. Instead, it is to shed light on some crucial evidence that may very well throw doubt on arguably one of the most popular theories about what took place in Christmas 1996. In all likelihood, we will never know who is responsible for this heinous crime but without evidence to point to a suspect without reasonable doubt, we must evaluate what we have before reaching for our pitchforks.
Your turn: Do you know of any other evidence that contradicts Burke as a suspect? Or, do you think he did it and what evidence do you think proves it? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.