Child murder mystery haunts the US psyche

Two weeks after six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was found strangled and bludgeoned to death in the cellar of her house, residents of this quiet Colorado university town waited to hear the first statement from their police chief on what is rapidly becoming the United States' latest celebrity murder.

Tom Koby was due to meet five local reporters for a discussion to be broadcast on Boulder's municipal cable network last night. His police department, which has released virtually no information on its investigation, has pointed to no suspects or even tangible leads in the death of the child beauty queen.

Home videos of JonBenet - pronounced "Shaunbernay" - sauntering down catwalks, precociously belting out patriotic songs - have seared the image of the dead child into the public mind.

Early on Boxing Day morning, Boulder police were called to the home of John Ramsey, founder of a billion-dollar high technology company. His wife, Patsy, a former Miss West Virginia, told of finding a neatly written three-page ransom note that said "We have your daughter" and demanding the strange sum of $118,000. For eight hours, it is now reported, police waited for the kidnappers to call while a bank provided the cash.

In a highly unusual procedure, they then asked Mr Ramsey to search his house for anything odd. He found his daughter's body in the wine cellar, her mouth sealed with duct tape, a cord around her neck, her skull fractured, and reportedly sexually assaulted. Since then, the police department has responded to an invasion by the national press with silence.

Dribs and drabs of information, however, have pointed suspicion at the family. Only the couple and their nine-year-old son were said to be in the house that night, although Mr Ramsey's two grown children from a previous marriage had visited on Christmas Day. There was no sign of a forced entry.

The bizarre circumstances of her death have brought comparisons to the case of Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother who confessed to drowning her two picture perfect children - also captured on family videos - after claiming they were kidnapped by a carjacker.

Mr and Mrs Ramsey have both hired lawyers and a media adviser. They made a single tearful appearance on CNN, but have not so far agreed to be formally interviewed by police. When Mrs Ramsey warned of a "killer on the loose", city officials went out of their way to say there was no danger to the public.

The ransom note - and part of a "practice" note - were matched to a pad found in the house, according to newspaper reports.

But family friends have noted that with the Ramseys having spent a reported half a million dollars extending the house, numerous workmen had access. Others have suggested that a disgruntled employee of Mr Ramsey might have been behind a kidnap attempt.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor