It was the morning of the 26th December 1996 when the USA were woken up by a tragic piece of news: the young beauty queen Jonbenét Ramsey of 6 years old, with many successes at her back, was found death in mysterious circumstances.
Ramsey’s family was apparently a model family, matching the perfect American ideal of success and physical as well as economical wellbeing. Father John Bennet was a businessman with a fruitful career while the mother, Patricia Ann, ex beauty queen herself, had given up to her career to completely focus on her family; the couple had also another child, Burke, 3 years older than Jonbenét.
Below: JonBenét’s tomb at the St. James Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia. Picture by Taurusrus – Panoramio shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons
According to the statements given to the investigators, Mrs Ramsey, woken up in the early hours of the morning while getting ready for a brief trip, had found on the stairs of their house a letter, written by an anonymous hand, informing the family about the kidnapping of their daughter who would have been released only after the payment of the ransom of 118,000 dollars.
The authorities were alerted straight away to start the search, but a brief exploration of Ramsey’s house revealed that the corpse of the baby girl was laying, hidden in the basement, with visible signs of violence, dead after a severe blow to the head and strangulation.
The attention of the investigators were immediately directed towards the family of the little victim: the letter had been written on paper coming from a notebook used by Mrs Ramsey and the sum of money asked for the ransom corresponded exactly to a prize recently received by the father of the little girl.
Below: scan of the letter with the ransom demand
They never clarified with certainty whether the girl had endured sexual violence, but throughout the time it started to form up the theory that either the father or the brother had repeatedly abused of Jonbenét’s body to the point that the killing was the only way to avoid being discovered or again an erotic game ended up badly.
The investigation ran aground soon enough even due to some mistakes carried out when the body had been found. In August 2006 it seemed that a turning point had been reached when the 40 years old John Mark Karr, teacher of elementary school, confessed to be the author of the sexual violence and the homicide to the girl. Sadly for the case though, that revealed itself to be a false trail, invention of a mythomaniac.
The news of the death of the baby girl shocked the US and showed how behind the smiling face of a child, famous for beauty and the early talent for the showbusiness, there was instead a reality of violence, harassment and forbidden childhood. Soon enough it was found out that the girl was suffering from panic attack and was victim of her parents who were forcing her to attend tens of beauty contests, fashion shows and photo shootings, creating a psychological pressure to the child. Forced to smile and winking when instead all that she want was playing carefreely with children of her age. The avid curiosity of the readers led to the publication of hundreds of articles, trying to fully examine the mysteries of that illusory sparkling world which instead was concealing many shadows.
After many years from the tragedy there are countless theories trying to give an explanation to the dynamics of the murder, but the more the time goes the harder it seems to dispel the fog fluctuating around the cold case of the child beauty queen Jonbenét Ramsey.