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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Prosecutor Alex Hunter And The JonBenet Ramsey Case: A Profile In Courage

     An early morning emergency call that a child had been kidnapped brought a pair of Boulder Colorado police officers to John and Patsy Ramsey's three-story house on December 26, 1996. Patsy Ramsey informed the officers that she had found a handwritten ransom note inside the house on the stairway. Fearing that her 6-year-old daughter JonBenet had been kidnapped for ransom, she called 911. After a cursory sweep of the 15-room dwelling the patrol officers called for assistance.

     During the next two hours, amid friends and relatives who arrived at the house to console the family, police set up wiretap and recording equipment to monitor negotiations with the kidnappers. At one point in the afternoon Boulder detective Linda Arndt asked John Ramsey to look around the house for "anything unusual." Thirty minutes later he and one of his friends discovered JonBenet's body in a small basement room. Her mouth had been sealed with duct tape and she had lengths of white rope around her neck and right wrist. The rope around her neck was tied to what looked like the handle of a paintbrush.

     In the months following the murder police officers, prosecutors, media and most Americans believed that someone in the family had killed the tiny beauty queen. But if this were the case, who had written the two and a half page ransom note? Forensic document examiners eliminated John Ramsey as the ransom note writer and all but one handwriting expert concluded that Patsy Ramsey had probably not authored the ransom document. Evidence also surfaced that an intruder could have entered the house through a broken basement window.

     On June 14, 2006, after a 13-year battle with ovarian cancer, Patsy Ramsey died at the age of 49. John Ramsey later remarried.

     When Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter's announced in 1999 that his office would not prosecute the Ramseys due to lack of evidence, the media reported that the grand jury looking into the murder agreed with the prosecutor's assessment. But on January 28, 2013, according to ABC News reportage, while the grand jury didn't find sufficient evidence to charge the Ramseys with murder, the grand jury did find enough evidence to indict the parents for child abuse that resulted in the victim's death. Notwithstanding this grand jury finding, Alex Hunter stood firm in his decision not to prosecute the parents.

     According to Ramsey family attorney Lin Wood, Alex Hunter was "a hero who wisely avoided a miscarriage of justice." Most true crime pundits familiar with the Ramsey case agreed with attorney Wood. The Ramseys were not only victimized by their daughter's killer and incompetent homicide investigators, they were victims of a tabloid-like media that falsely portrayed them as child murders.

       While the Ramsey case is still open, investigators do not appear close to solving the murder. JonBenet would have turned 27 this year. 


  1. Every age seems to have its incredibly mystifying murder case. The JBR case is ours. There are so many oddities about this case. And the brother was a rum character too. Thanks as ever, Jim, for you calm commentaries in these crazy days!

  2. The fake "ransom note" plus the fact that the "kidnappers" never called to arrange to get the money show the whole "kidnap/ransom" thing was a fake--a red herring that only the Ramseys could have pulled. If they did not kill Jon Benet, they know who did and lied about it to protect them--buy why? Someone murdered that little girl.