A little after 5 a.m. on the morning after Christmas 1996, the police received a call from Patsy Ramsey, reporting the disappearance of her 6-year-old daughter, JonBenét. Mrs. Ramsey stated she awakened that morning to find a note on the stairs, announcing the kidnapping of her daughter, along with a demand for ransom. JonBenét was nowhere to be found.
Police immediately descended on the home, awaiting the call promised in the ransom letter. It never came. Patsy Ramsey called a number of friends to notify them of her daughter’s disappearance, and as news spread, the home filled with friends and neighbors. The hours dragged by, and police urged John Ramsey, JonBenét’s father, to search the house for anything out of place that could provide a clue to what happened. Just a few minutes later, John Ramsey staggered back into the living room, carrying the body of his little girl. He had found her in the wine cellar, the first place he looked.
The official cause of death was strangulation, but JonBenét also suffered a massive blow to the head. John Ramsey destroyed the crime scene when he moved his daughter’s body; few concrete clues were left, with the exception of the ransom note. No one has ever been charged with the murder. JonBenét’s case is referred to as an unsolved mystery, but it would be more accurate to say the crime has gone unpunished since there is no mystery as to the killer’s identity. The ransom note gives her away as clearly as if she signed it.
The writer begins by self-identifying as part of a “foreign faction”. This is an obvious lie. In the first place, no one ever describes themselves as foreign. ‘Foreign’ is a word a native may use to describe an immigrant or a visitor. The writer attempts to back up this claim using choppy sentences and misspelling common words like business (“bussiness”). But the halting foreign wording soon gives way to smooth American English, just as “we/our” becomes “I/my”. Although the letter is addressed to “Mr. Ramsey:”, the writer soon slides into “John” and reminds him that he’s not the only “fat cat” around.
Then there is the length of the letter. A typical ransom letter is a few lines, just long enough to communicate the demand. The Ramsey note was three pages. The police later found a “rough draft” of the note on the same pad of paper. The kidnapper/killer must have spent at least 30 minutes writing the notes. Someone with an imperfect grasp of the English language would require even longer to communicate clearly enough to be understood.
Breaking into a home and kidnapping a child while the parents are asleep in the next room is a bold proposition, and any successful kidnapper would understand that timing is critical. It takes an extraordinary amount of credulity to believe the perpetrator did not write the letter until after breaking into the Ramsey home, and then used paper and a pen belonging to the family. Money, after all, was the expressed motive of the crime. The ransom letter would hardly be an afterthought.
The ransom note directs John Ramsey to use “that good, Southern common sense of yours” and follow instructions. He is told to withdraw $118,000 from his bank account and put the money in an adequate size attaché. Well, that’s odd. A few sentences ago, the writer could not spell ‘business’. Now, she’s throwing around “an adequate size attaché” (complete with the accent mark) and is apparently knowledgeable about American southerners’ propensity for common sense.
The demand for $118,000 is significant. It’s a relatively small ransom and it’s oddly specific: why $118,000? Why not $100,000 or $150,000? It later came to light John Ramsey’s Christmas bonus was exactly $118,000. You have to assume the writer knew of John Ramsey’s bonus. The odds of landing on that exact figure are astronomical. Who knew about the bonus? Certain people at his company would have known about all the bonuses. Beyond that, however, who would John Ramsey tell beyond his wife?
The letter says John Ramsey should get the money from the bank. It’s unusual for a ransom note to say where the money ought to come from – most kidnappers wouldn’t care. Also, why is the writer sure the Ramseys have that kind of dough sitting in their accounts? Even someone well-to-do would not necessarily have $118,000 readily available.
On a related point, the letter directs John Ramsey to go to the bank to obtain the ransom money, and even assures him he is being watched. John Ramsey didn’t go to the bank, though. He sent a friend. Why would he deviate from those clear instructions?
In fact, both John and Patsy Ramsey repeatedly ignored specific instructions in the ransom letter. For instance, the letter bluntly states JonBenét will be “beheaded” if the Ramseys alert the FBI or anyone else about the kidnapping. Patsy Ramsey, however, elected to call the police for assistance. This is understandable. Some people would take the risk, some would not. However, she also invited several friends and a minister to come to the house. Why would she take a risk like that? Why was she confident the kidnapper would not carry out the terrible threat in the letter?
The letter ostensibly threatens the father, yet the animosity is all directed toward the child, which seems entirely out-of-place. There are multiple threats to execute or behead the little girl, and a reference to JonBenét’s “remains”. Contrast this to the gentle advice “to be rested” given to John Ramsey.
Finally, Patsy Ramsey is notable for her absence in the ransom letter. The letter deals with the daughter, and is addressed to the father. The mother is never mentioned. Yet the writer’s linguistic patterns match those of Patsy Ramsey, and graphologists agree the letter was written by a woman.
It’s clear nobody broke into the Ramseys’ home on Christmas night to kill JonBenét, and there was never any kidnapping plot. The ransom letter was a hasty cover-up. In my opinion, the unsolved mystery isn’t who killed the little girl, but why Patsy Ramsey killed her daughter.