The murder case of 6-year-old beauty pageant queen JonBenét Ramsey shocked the world when her body was found in the basement of her home in 1996. With a lengthy ransom note, a dead body, and connections to the pageantry world, there was a lot to uncover to crack the case. The Boulder police notoriously botched the case.
Investigators immediately believed that JonBenét’s parents, John and Patsy, were responsible for the death of their daughter and didn’t take any other leads very seriously. With a contaminated crime scene and DNA testing in its infancy, it was hard to crack the case. However, with modern advancements in DNA testing, the Ramseys were acquitted in 2008. Still, some people think that the family is guilty or involved in some way.
A Happy Family
Back in 1996, the Ramseys were an ordinary upper-middle-class family living in Boulder, Colorado. From the outside, the family seemed perfect. The father, John, was the president of a computer system company, and the mother, Patricia, was a loving stay-at-home mother to her two children: 9-year-old Burke and 6-year-old JonBenét.
But JonBenét was not your average girl. On top of all her kindergarten activities, she was also an accomplished beauty pageant contestant who had won several titles, including Miss Colorado and National Tiny Miss Beauty.
The Ransom Note
After returning home from a Christmas party the night before, everything seemed fine at the Ramsey residence in the early hours of December 26th when Patricia woke up and noticed a strange letter on the staircase, which she picked up. What she read was alarming.
As soon as she began reading, Patsy was horrified and realized that this was a handwritten ransom letter for JonBenét. Whoever wrote it claimed to have taken the little girl and demanded $118,000 to get her back. That’s enough to terrify any parent.
Calling the Police
As you probably could have guessed, the ransom note specifically said not to call the cops, but Patsy didn’t listen; at 5:52 a.m., the worried mother called 9-1-1. Within just a few minutes, police showed up at their home at 749 15th street.
However, one thing stood out about that ransom request, and it didn’t take long for everyone to realize it. First of all, John had received a bonus that year, which added up to $118,000 – the exact amount the random demand asked for. Perhaps this was a jealous coworker trying to get cash out of him?
Let the Search Begin…
Authorities continue to wonder about the significance behind the weirdly specific number. Maybe it was referring to Psalm 118, which states, “O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth forever.” Could this crime have been religiously motivated?
After searching the home, investigators initially found nothing. Since this was considered to be a kidnapping, JonBenét’s bedroom was the only room in the house to be cordoned off as evidence. Distraught family and friends were constantly in and out of the house, contaminating the entire crime scene.
Waiting for the Ransom Call
At this point, nobody knew who the heck took her, but John Ramsey was ready to pay the total ransom amount, so they waited for a call. But as the hours went by, the phone didn’t ring… nobody tried to claim the money. This is where things started getting weird.
At this point, a detective asked John and a close family friend named Fleet White to search the house again, just to make sure they didn’t miss anything that could potentially lead them to the abductor. Even a tiny detail could be crucial for the investigation.
When JonBenét’s father went down to the basement, he opened one of the doors that the family usually kept latched, and that’s when he made the most horrific discovery and what every parent’s nightmares are made of: his little girl’s body covered in a blanket. She was dead.
Overcome with shock, grief, and complete devastation, John Ramsey carried his daughter’s body up the stairs. As you can imagine, he wanted to catch the guy who did this. The heartbroken father never anticipated the unspeakable accusations that would soon be made against him and his wife.
Looking in The Wrong Places
Right off the bat, John and Patsy Ramsey were placed under intense scrutiny. Sure, it’s essential to look into the parents, but detectives didn’t really investigate anyone else because they thought they knew the story: The note seemed staged. There was no forced entry, and they were reluctant to cooperate with the police. However, Patsy had a reason for the second accusation.
Patricia explained that she and John were hesitant to assist in the investigation against them because they wanted the police to use their resources to help find the actual killer. Instead, they felt that the investigators were just blaming the parents.
It should be noted that the Ramseys were never formally indicted; however, the rumors and speculations completely defamed the parents as they alleged that John and Ramsey were in some way involved in their daughter’s death.
The parents were finally cleared and received a formal apology from Boulder County in 2008. Sadly, Patsy wasn’t alive for her exoneration since she died two years prior, in 2006, from ovarian cancer. Although DNA evidence proved that the parents weren’t responsible for JonBenét’s death, there is still a shadow of doubt casting over the Ramseys.
Looking at Burke
One person who has never been considered as a suspect by the police was still dealing with the trauma of his sister’s death and the false accusations against his parents. That person was 9-year-old Burke Ramsey, JonBenét’s big brother.
For years, a bunch of unsubstantiated theories about Burke’s involvement flew around the internet. Here’s the gist of it: The little boy was fighting with JonBenét and hit her – with no intention of killing her, of course. But then, his parents wrote the ransom note to cover up the crime. The logic was that the only time a parent would cover up their child’s murder is to protect another child.
Slander and Defamation
Burke Ramsey sued multiple publications, media outlets, and tabloids between 1999 and 2000 for accusing him of killing his sister and slandering his name. After that, nobody dared to blame him for the heinous crime.
Well… that was up until 2016 when CBS aired a special accusing Burke in honor of the 20th anniversary of JonBenét’s death. If you watched the special, investigators re-examined the crime scene and evidence with more modern technology and made it seem like Burke was the only one who could have killed her. It gave a compelling yet completely one-sided version of events.
Her Brother Did It
But this was all too much for the young man just trying to live his life. He continued to be haunted by his devastating family tragedy two decades later. It was hard to tell if CBS was trying to get down to the truth, but it seemed like they went with “the brother did it” narrative because it is entertaining and convincing, not because it’s what really happened.
Burke thought so too. He didn’t understand why people were still slandering his name after he had already dealt with a heartbreaking childhood tragedy. The police didn’t even look at him as a suspect, but the public felt like they needed to blame someone.
Burke Sued CBS
Burke filed a formal lawsuit against CBS, claiming that they weren’t trying to crack the case or solve the crime; all they wanted was “to accomplish their goals achieving ratings and profits.” I would sue CBS too. After all, they really made the then-9-year-old look guilty.
After decades of keeping quiet on the subject, Burke finally opened up about his sister’s death. He gave one single interview (with television therapist Dr. Phil) in a last attempt to exonerate himself. Now, the lawsuit has finally been settled “amicably.” The exact dollar amount is unclear, but the initial lawsuit sought over $750 million in damages!
Stop Blaming the Parents
It was just so many years of heartbreak and torture for the Ramseys. First, they lose their daughter; then, they spent years being accused of her murder. If that wasn’t enough, Patsy got diagnosed with cancer and died before knowing she was exonerated. But despite their exoneration, people continue to blame the family for this unsolved crime.
The Ramsey’s attorney Lin Wood stated: “It is now my professional and personal wish for this family that they no longer suffer the pain of false accusations in the future. I sincerely hope the CBS case is my last lawsuit for these fine clients and friends.”
Never Giving Up
The JonBenét Ramsey case affected the entire country. This innocent little girl was brutally murdered in her own home. There was so much evidence, yet they couldn’t put the clues together. But the public needed answers and wasn’t ready to let the case go cold.
In 2016, private investigator Ollie Gray stated that he had made a major breakthrough in the case. John and Patsy initially hired him to catch JonBenét’s killer. Even after his arrangement with the Ramseys ended, Gray continued investigating the case and wanted to solve it.
A New Lead?
According to Gray, Michael Helgoth was a 26-year-old Boulder local in 1996, and he was the man responsible for JonBenét’s horrific death. A crucial part of his theory is John Kenady’s testimony, a guy who worked at the Helgoth family’s junkyard.
Apparently, Kenady had overheard Helgoth talking about a substantial financial gain. He also mentioned what it would “be like to crack a human skull” shortly before the murder. Although there have been other suspects throughout the years, they weren’t heavily investigated, and there was never enough evidence to make an arrest.
Kenady claims that he attempted to give this information to the police, but Gray believes they didn’t listen to anything he said. I mean, they thought they had their killers (John and Patsy Ramsey), so they weren’t interested in looking into other suspects from the get-go. They wanted to charge the parents and close the case.
As Gray put it, “I got the distinct feeling that the Boulder police had absolutely no interest in anything that took away from their theory that John and Patsy Ramsey killed their daughter,” as he told InTouch in 2016.
The Lost Confession
That wasn’t all, though. Kenady also claimed that there is a tape out there that contains Helgoth’s confession; unfortunately, the truth may never be known. Helgoth was found dead in his home in February 1997, just a year after JonBenet’s death.
The death was ruled a suicide, but Gray believes there is more to the story. He thinks Helgoth was murdered by one of his accomplices, who was worried he would talk. After almost 25 years, it’s unlikely that the JonBenét Ramsey case will ever be solved. We can only pray and hope that someone who knows something comes forward.
Gray still has hope that this crime will be solved one day. “If they could find out who killed Helgoth,” he said. “It could lead police to his accomplices in her murder.” Will justice ever catch up to JonBenét’s cold-blooded killer? With such a high-profile case, it’s safe to assume that new twists and theories will come to light.
JonBenét’s tragic death has since become a fascinating case for true crime fanatics with endless debates all over the internet. Even though there is so much evidence, no one could work out the puzzle. Sadly, the same could be said about countless other cold cases.
Where Is Mikelle Biggs?
On January 7th, 1999, little Mikelle Biggs was riding her bike in circles, just a few houses down from where she lived. The 11-year-old lived in Mesa, Arizona, with her parents and three siblings and clutched on to some quarters in her hand, waiting for the ice cream truck.
But less than two minutes after her little sister Kimber last saw her, Mikelle suddenly disappeared. Her bike was lying there in the middle of the street with the tires still spinning, and the quarters she was clutching on to were thrown on the ground. But Mikelle was gone.
With no sign of her missing daughter, Mikelle’s mother, Tracy Biggs, called 911, and police came right over. Immediate evidence showed that “she was running from somebody,” according to detective Jerry Gisse. “It wasn’t somebody that she knew or wanted to be with.”
And so, one of the most intensive investigations that the Mesa Police Department ever conducted began. National news outlets covered the sixth grader’s disappearance. Pictures of the honors student who dreamed of becoming a Disney animator made headlines with the hope that someone might recognize her and bring her home safely.
Let the Search Begin
The night Mikelle disappeared, detectives set up roadblocks and interviewed any motorists passing by. Meanwhile, law enforcement was posting Mikelle’s yearbook photo fliers all over Mesa to get her face out there. But that was just the beginning…
In the following weeks, police consulted psychics to get any clues about the 11-year-old-girl’s whereabouts. They even tracked down and questioned every single ice cream vendor in Arizona but came up empty-handed. No new leads or meaningful evidence turned up. It was like Mikelle just vanished into thin air…
Everybody’s a Suspect
Investigators also looked close to home. Just two blocks from the Biggs family house lived a man with a criminal record who was a registered sex offender, charged for inappropriate actions against minors. However, authorities found nothing that could connect him to Mikelle’s disappearance.
From there, detectives interviewed 20 sex offenders in the area. Unfortunately, that also proved to be a dead end. Leaving no stone unturned, authorities even looked at the family and suspected Mikelle’s father, Darien. But they were quickly able to rule him out and clear his name.
The Case Went Cold
Despite 10,000 tips from the public, conducting at least 500 interviews, gathering 800 pieces of evidence, and searching 35 abandoned Sat Tan Mountain mine shafts, police could not find Mikelle. Days turned into months, and the case had officially gone cold. Many years have gone by since…
But fast forward to 2009, 10 years after Mikelle disappeared, Mesa investigators received another tip. But this one didn’t come from an Arizona resident. Oddly, it came from Neenah, Wisconsin, which was 1,500 miles away.
An Interesting Dollar Bill
On March 14th, 2009, some guy just walked into the Neenah police department and handed over a dollar bill he discovered “in a collection of money for Girl Scout Cookies,” according to Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson. But this wasn’t just an ordinary dollar.
On the edge of the bill in childlike handwriting, a message was written: “My name is Mikel [sic] Biggs kidnapped from Mesa, AZ. I’m alive.” This crazy revelation was huge for investigators. Could this clue help crack this missing person case?
She Misspelled Her Name…
However, there were a few discrepancies with the dollar bill that couldn’t be ignored. Even though he was unfamiliar with the original 1999 case, Chief Wilkinson noted the issue. “The oddity of the note,” he said, “is that her first name is spelled wrong… it would sway you to believe that it might not be legitimate.”
However, other evidence suggested that it was worth following up on it. “Why would you pick that?” Chief Wilkinson pondered. “A case that is nearly 20 years old? It’s somebody who knew something about that case.”
Following the Lead
For that reason, that dollar bill was too significant to ignore. Plus, it was all they had to go on. “We don’t get a lot of tips anymore,” Mesa detective Steve Berry explained. “But we occasionally do. We always follow up on it. We always hope that might be the one that breaks the case.”
Unfortunately, investigators weren’t exactly optimistic. “There was a little spring of hope for a second, and then reality set in,” Neenah Detective Adam Streubel said. “There is nothing you can do with [the evidence], which is rather frustrating.”
Asking the Family
Think about it; what could they really do with that piece of evidence. Even if it was Mikelle who wrote it, how could it lead them to the missing girl? Collecting fingerprints from the dollar bill would have been completely useless. It’s probably touched hundreds of hands.
Still, if they find other significant evidence to compare it to, they could check if the handwriting could be matched. If it really is Mikelle and she’s out there alive, there is still hope for her. But what does the family think about this 10-years-too-late piece of evidence?
Anything for Her Sister
Obviously, the heartbroken family has been devastated since Mikelle went missing. They just want her back. Her sister Kimber was really close with her and held on to Mikelle’s red teddy bear for decades after she disappeared.
Kimber couldn’t do much since she was such a young girl when her sister went missing. Still, she never stopped trying to solve the case. Since the dollar bill evidence turned up, Kimber tried analyzing the handwriting repeatedly, but thinking about her sister’s fate made her sick. At this point, Mikelle would be almost 30.
A Clue or a Prank?
“Is [the bill] a hoax?” Kimber wondered. “Did someone play a cruel joke?” She suspected this was some kind of prank. “The fact that her name was spelled wrong [on the bill] is kind of discredited. I don’t think that would be something she’d do.”
The only thing more tragic than having a missing child is never to be able to find them. The family can’t bury her; they can’t visit her grave or even know whether she is dead or held hostage somewhere. As of 2018, the Biggs family said they remain committed to finding out what happened to their beloved daughter. “Someone knows something,” Kimber exclaimed, “and someday we will have answers.”