This year marks 21 years since 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey was found murdered in her family home, and the cold case is still just as captivating as it was in December 1996. JonBenét's father, John, was the one who found her body on Christmas Day in the basement of their Boulder, CO, home roughly eight hours after her parents reported her missing after they found a ransom note. An autopsy of JonBenét's body later revealed that she was struck in the head and strangled to death.
Because the 20-year anniversary just passed, interest in the case is once again picking up steam. A number of TV specials aired, including The Killing of JonBenét: The Truth Uncovered, JonBenét: An American Murder Mystery, The Case Of: JonBenét Ramsey, and Who Killed JonBenét?. Netflix has picked up a documentary called Casting JonBenét, which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Here are six facts about one of the most haunting and heartbreaking murders in recent history:
1. JonBenét suffered a horrific death.
The stunning little girl was found wrapped in her white blanket with a nylon cord around her neck, her wrists tied above her head, and duct tape over her mouth. Evidence later showed that she was hit over the head with a blunt object, which knocked her unconscious. Sometime between 45 minutes to two hours after she was knocked out, she was strangled to death with a piece of cord and the handle from a broken paintbrush. Police also later confirmed that she had been sexually assaulted.
2. The ransom note posed more questions than answers.
JonBenét's mother, Patsy, told police that she realized her daughter was missing after she found a two-and-a-half-page ransom note in their home. The letter demanded the Ramseys pay $118,000 for their daughter's safe return, which was also almost the exact amount her father, John, had recently received as a work bonus. Police later determined that the note was written on a piece of paper from a notebook inside the Ramsey home. Both John and Patsy then underwent handwriting tests, and while police were able to say that John didn't write it, Patsy's test results were labeled "inconclusive."
3. There was no sign of a break-in.
Police found no signs of forced entry in or around the Ramsey home. The only people known to have been in the house on the night of the murder were Patsy, John, and JonBenét's older brother, Burke, who was 9 years old at the time.
4. Police were criticized for making crucial mistakes.
Shortly after police arrived, they failed to completely seal off the crime scene, allowing family members and friends to enter and leave the house. Critics of the case also claim that investigators failed to gather sufficient forensic evidence before and after JonBenét's body was found. Many people believe this is because they had already made up their minds that the Ramseys were guilty and didn't feel the need to gather evidence proving otherwise.
5. Both of JonBenét's parents as well as her older brother, Burke, were considered suspects.
Because it seemed so unlikely that kidnappers would kill their victim, leave the body in their own home, and still leave behind a ransom note, police were quick to turn their suspicions to John, Patsy, and Burke. Boulder police believed for many years that on the night of the murder, Patsy injured JonBenét in a fit of rage and either killed her while still angry or killed her to cover up the injury. In 1999, a Colorado grand jury voted to indict Patsy and John because they believed they were abusive toward their daughter, which eventually led to murder. In 2008, two years after Patsy died of ovarian cancer, prosecutors officially cleared the family of any wrongdoing. Burke also recently sat down for an interview with Dr. Phil about the case, which will air in mid-September.
6. There is still unexplained DNA evidence.
In December 2003, investigators retested a blood sample found on JonBenét's underwear, which was revealed to belong to an unidentified male who was not related to the Ramsey family. To this day, investigators have not been able to identify who the DNA belongs to, and the case remains open.