Image Source: CBS
By: Sara Al Jandal
22 years later, the infamous, seemingly cold, JonBenet Ramsey murder case has resurfaced with a confession from the killer. Gary Oliva, a convicted felon who was charged on counts of child pornography has confessed to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, a 6-year-old pageant queen. The confession comes in the form of discovered letters to a friend, containing “I never loved anyone like I did JonBenet and yet I let her slip and her head bashed in half and I watched her die. It was an accident” (DailyMail).
The murder occurred in Boulder, Colorado on 26 December 1996, in JonBenet’s home, although the case has remained unsolved. Several theories have been created and investigated about the chilling case and left many mixed feelings towards the Ramsey family and their involvement in the murder. Despite the fact that the family was exonerated of all charges, and Oliva became the prime suspect. The public has never really completely forgotten the reason the family were suspects in the first place
Boxing day of 1996, JonBenet Ramsey was found dead at her home after police arrived at the scene. Patsy Ramsey, her mother, had initially contacted the authorities about her daughter’s alleged kidnapping after finding a long ransom note demanding $118,000 USD in exchange for their daughter.
However it became obvious once detectives arrived at the suburban home, and alongside her father, John found the 6-year-old dead in the basement. She was found with tape covering her mouth, hands tied by a cord and was clearly the victim of sexual and physical abuse. Before detectives could take proper samples, the body had been moved by Mr. Ramsey upstairs and covered by a blanket, this was the first of many mistakes the investigation team made that would later be criticized by the public.
The night before Jonbenet’s disappearance reportedly happened as follows, the Ramsey family arrived home from a Christmas party, and supposedly JonBenet was asleep and carried straight to bed, the family following suite. There were no reports of JonBenet coming back down, or of the family spending time together before heading to bed. The supposed realization of Jonbenet’s disappearance by Patsy happened the following morning when she discovered a long ransom note on the staircase claiming that JonBenet had been taken, and demanding money for her safe return.
When looking back, at the scene, the basement window was open indicating someone had entered through the window, yet when authorities visited the house that morning, there were no footsteps in the snow, showing no evidence of intrusion. The initial theory proposed by the detectives was that JonBenet was strangled by a rope attached to her mother’s garrote and beaten to death as there was clear damage to the skull. After the autopsy, undigested pineapple in her stomach was found, which the host of the dinner party from the night before stated they did not serve, but there was a bowl of pineapple present at the scene. A wooden splinter was found in her vagina, as well as intense swelling. When the investigators tested the DNA found on her underwear and pyjamas worn that night, did not match any of the 1.5 million convicted violent offender samples in 2004.
JonBenet came from a wealthy and successful family as her father, John was a successful businessman, and she was a prestigious pageant queen. The pageantry lifestyle not only “beautifies” young girls, but sexualizes them to the public. The 6-year-old was no stranger to the glitz and glam of pageantry and the attention that follows, she was often seen as her families trophy child in comparison to her 9-year-old brother, Burek.
According to close family friend, Judith Phillips, whose children played with the Ramseys, her daughter had previously asked JonBenet about her row of crowns that she has won, and JonBenet replied that the crowns were for her mother more than they were for her, could JonBenet have been one of the many children forced into pageantry by a mother attempting to live through her daughter?
Phillips also mentioned many specific occasions of Burke, her brother being aggressive towards JonBenet. According to a former housekeeper, Burke had a “lack of empathy” in many situations.
The case instantly became a national sensation and flooded the news, it became a hotbed for theories about what happened to JonBenet, these theories more often than not accused members of the Ramsey family. As it is an open case, these theories became popularized by the media, the most popular being the theory that states that the murderer was, in fact, JonBenet’s brother, Burke. The mysterious bowl of pineapple also forms part of the theory, it is believed that Burke hit his sister in the head with a flashlight after she stole a piece of pineapple from him while he was eating that night, hence the undigested pineapple found in the autopsy, showing that the pineapple had to be consumed that night as it was from 2 and a half hours before her death. After a reenactment of the force used by the flashlight, it concluded that a nine-year-old could have easily produced the force used to kill.
In turn, the theory suggested that because the Ramsey family was seen highly by the public, the parents covered the murder by faking a 911 call, forging a fake ransom letter that requested the exact amount of money that John received as a bonus that year. They would then have given a false account of what occurred that night. The ransom note is a valuable piece of evidence as it was written in Patsy’s notebook and a pen on her desk was used to write the note. Rough drafts of the ransom note were found, indicating that the killer had a lot of time that night to think. Many detectives on the case mentioned that the Ramsey parents did not cooperate when speaking to authorities, and when they did it was noticeably odd and awkward. Although, as the theory was conjured by the public, there has yet to be any hard-core evidence proving the Ramsey family as guilty.
Fast forward 22 years to January 2019, where convicted pedophile, Gary Oliva confessed to the murder of JonBenet. The suspected killer claims to have “accidentally” killed the pageant queen in a confession through multiple letters to a friend. Oliva was already a registered sex offender in the Boulder area, with an address not far from the Ramseys. The 54-year-old supposedly called this friend the night of the murder telling Daily Mail, “He was sobbing and said, ‘I hurt a little girl.’ The friend contacted the police the next day after reading headlines, although no further questioning was done by authorities.
In 2000, Oliva was arrested for child pornography, though strangely enough when arresting authorities found a photo of JonBenet and a poem dedicated to her in his possession, the investigators still dismissed Oliva from the case when the DNA at the crime scene failed to match his. This created controversy as many believe that the DNA was mishandled at the crime scene as John moved JonBenet from the basement to the living room and as a result Oliva’s DNA could have been destroyed due to the accidental tampering.
The case has garnered a cult-like following in which its followers are hellbent on finding out who exactly killed JonBenet Ramsey, they are seeking answers to the question “Who killed JonBenet Ramsey?” but with a butchered crime scene and exoneration after exoneration, seems no one can ever be sure of who the murderer is.