JonBenét Ramsey’s father revisits daughter’s death 26 years later

Posted at 7:20 AM, January 18, 2023 and last updated 1:03 PM, June 14, 2023

ATLANTA (Court TV) – It’s one of the highest-profile unsolved cases in the nation. It’s been the subject of many theories and investigations, none of which have resulted in a successful arrest. 

On December 26th, 1996, 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey was found dead in her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado.

Her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, reported her missing early that morning. Patsy found a lengthy handwritten ransom note in the house addressed to her husband, about 7 hours after police arrived to investigate the kidnapping.

JonBenét’s body was found hidden behind a latch door in the basement of the home.

26 years later, JonBenét’s father speaks to Vinnie Politan for a LIVE interview.


VINNIE: 26 years later, how would you describe where you are… emotionally, when you think and talk about JonBenét?

JOHN RAMSEY: You don’t get over the loss of a child. I’ve lost two. And you, as one mother described to me, who had lost her child, sort of a hole in my heart that it will heal. And that’s just the facts. And you… you have to go on. But you’re a different person.

You know, we want answers, as you might expect. But also, to get those answers, the government’s got to do the right thing. And that’s what we’ve been working on, really almost from the beginning. And we’re making progress. But it’s slow. And… but we’re hopeful again.

VINNIE: Why isn’t this case solved from your perspective?

JOHN RAMSEY: It’s good there’s a good contrast between our case and how it was handled in this Idaho tragedy. In our case, we were dealing with inexperienced, no-experience-detectives in a small town, who refused help from the outside. And the results were bad. The Moscow police are saying… first thing when I heard about that murder, I looked to see how big a town Moscow was. 

It’s a small town. And I thought, Oh, boy, it’s another Boulder, Colorado. If they don’t bring in help and accept help that’s offered, it’s not going to be solved. Well, they did accept help! They brought in something like 70 FBI officers and they solved it within a few weeks. And that’s what was missing in our case, was the willingness to accept help.

The way our system is structured, if a town like Boulder or Moscow has a murder, it’s up to the local police. In our case, one of the detectives was an auto theft investigator. He became a homicide investigator overnight. If they don’t ask for help, help cannot come in. So, in the Moscow case, the chief of police did absolutely the right thing. He asked for help and he asked for a lot and he got it. Lots of help was offered. In our case, it was refused and it went that way and was why it hasn’t been solved in 26 years. That’s what I tried to change. And we tried to try to get that change almost from the first day, but we realized that the competence was just not there in the police department.

VINNIE: Has it changed now? As we’re sitting here right now, who’s working on the case?

JOHN RAMSEY: The Boulder Police Department. They have refused help to this day, still refuse help. You know, we petitioned the governor of Colorado recently to call the police. However, he chooses to do that, to have the DNA retested. There are a number of samples that have never been tested at cutting edge labs, which we know of. One for sure. There are several,  perhaps, to see if we can get a better DNA sample. Given the developments in DNA technology over the last 25 years and and then use the public DNA database, which has been used in the last couple of years, very successfully by police departments. So to find a killer of old cold cases, they have been solved using that technique. And that’s what we’re asking for. The government- and we were told this by the FBI, the government, whether it’s state or local, they don’t have the latest DNA technology. There’s only perhaps only one lab in the world that has this technology that can be employed. They’re willing to do it, but they have to be asked to do it by the police.

VINNIE: So are you saying there’s a potential other source of DNA or that the DNA that’s originally been tested could take further testing?

JOHN RAMSEY: Well, I think both. We know we know that there’s, I don’t know, 5-7 items that were taken to the crime scene for potential testing and they were never tested. 


JOHN RAMSEY: And there were some items that were taken as well, but weren’t tested necessarily. But the unidentified male DNA, those should be retested as well, because the technology is just so, so much so far advanced that they can as as one expert said, we can find a DNA sample on a gnat and that is that precise now. And that it’s nondestructive.

VINNIE: Do they give you an explanation as to why? Why won’t they do it?

JOHN RAMSEY: Well, the police public statement is, well, we don’t want to destroy the samples and we’re going to wait until DNA technology improves. And that’s nonsense. This technique used by at least one cutting edge lab somewhere is nondestructive, it doesn’t damage or harm the sample in any way. And so the the nonsense to say we’re going to wait, you know, months, years until technology really gets good. Well, it is really good right now. So we don’t have it yet. We’ll have it eventually, but we don’t have it yet.

VINNIE: Has there been any change in the leadership of the investigation? 

JOHN RAMSEY: Yeah, there has been the head detective who’s been on this case for 25 years was recommended for termination, along with several other investigators in that department recommended for termination. And the lead detective was taken off the case and put on night patrol. So, I don’t know who’s on the case right now, if anybody, in the Boulder Police Department.

VINNIE: Now, there was a second victim, I think was about nine months later, who was. Yes, connected or. Explain that to us. Explain that that connection, the second victim, and what happened in that case.

JOHN RAMSEY: We heard about that, you know, shortly after it happened. And it was in our neighborhood a few blocks. It was a little girl about JonBenet’s age. They were in the same dance class together.  And the mother heard a noise in her daughter’s bedroom after they’d all gone to bed and confronted a person over her daughter’s bed, and he fled and jumped out a window and was gone.

And at the time I thought, boy, that is too similar to what I believe happened in our case, that the parents had in that case had gone out for the evening, came home, set the burglar alarm and went to bed. Well, the killer was already in the house when they got home. I think that’s obvious. That and that’s what I believe happened in our case.

And so very similar method of operation, I guess, by a criminal. And the police blew it off. In fact, the father of that young girl was just asked, how would you rate the Boulder police? Well, on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give him a minus five. And I’m very distressed when their casual approach to solving his daughter’s attempted assault.

** FILE ** A Boulder Police detective walks to the home of John and Patricia Ramsey in Boulder, Colo., on Friday, Jan. 3, 1997, as investigators sifted through evidence in the home in which the couple’s 6-year-old daughter was found murdered on Dec. 26, 1996.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The chief of police, sometimes, well the cases aren’t the same because the second little girl wasn’t killed, which is just nonsense. But that’s what he said publicly. And so they never looked at the similarities and compare to the expert DNA. From the second case to our case, they had another identified palm print. And the second case we have an unidentified print- did the police ever compare that to it? I doubt it. So it needs to be looked at.

VINNIE:  I mean, that is insanity when you think about it. I don’t know how… we say this all the time, I don’t believe in coincidences, in this in this world of crime. You just don’t believe until you prove that it’s a coincidence, you assume it’s not a coincidence.

VINNIE: 26 years ago, 26 years ago. And from the beginning, I mean, one of the most bizarre parts of this entire mystery was this letter that was written. The amount of money for ransom. And then who it was from, as you look back on it, I know you’ve probably thought about it, you know, a million times. What’s your take on this letter?

JOHN RAMSEY:  Well, what really puzzled me was why? Why they asked for a ransom of 100 ransom money of 118,000? Or why not a million? Why not 500,000? Why? What was significant? About 118,000? Something obviously was significant to the killer. And that baffled me. And then, of course, how it was signed… victory SPTC? Well, what does that mean?

I don’t know. But, you know, whoever did this, this is a demented, evil person. You got to just take that as a fact and not try to figure out a warped mind. But, you know, we were hope we immediately, with the help of friends, arranged for the ransom money to be available to the killer. Said he would call tomorrow by 10:00.

And I didn’t know if tomorrow was for a day we were in. Or was it tomorrow? Tomorrow. And I thought, my God, if I’ve got to wait till 10:00 tomorrow, 24 hours, I’m gonna go crazy. That’s just what it’s like when I tell people, like when you- if you’re in a shopping mall and your 5-year-old child, is all of a sudden out of sight. 

You just have this panic feeling of, you know, where’s my child? There’s some punch in the stomach. And, you know, once you find him, then off you go. But we had that feeling for, you know, the morning, I thought, if I’ve got to wait till tomorrow at 10:00, I can’t sleep. Just horrible. But so that was going through my mind, you know, was, oh, tomorrow was.

So 10:00 came and went… no call and the whole police case against us that caused them to think we were the killers because they said we didn’t act right that morning. Well, I’m not sure how you’re supposed to act, but they said when 10:00 came and went, John didn’t jump up or down to cry and beat his head on the wall.

It was a silly observation on their part. But that’s that’s a lot the caliber of people we were working with. I don’t, I’ve never faulted the Boulder Police for being inexperienced, not knowing what they’re doing. I have faulted viciously for refusing help -the help that was offered, the skill help that was offered. That was their fatal flaw. It was a combination of arrogance and incompetence.

VINNIE: It seems like it’s continuing, John, if it’s still not accepting the help and being proactive in trying to solve the case. I mean, every now in this show, we are covering stories from around the country and we you know, every day, every week, there’s another cold case that gets solved and it’s because of all the help and all the resources and all the advances in technology, the testing, the retesting, the Delphi murders, they finally went back and started looking at some things and they were able to solve that one.

JOHN RAMSEY: Well, it’s just I think it’s a combination of arrogance. They can’t look any worse than they already do. They’re really I think pretty much people understand they really didn’t do their job well, I don’t know. It’s it just does not make any sense. And that’s why we’ve asked for help from the governor and the state and anybody that will help.

We tried early on to get the case moved out of the police hands because we knew pretty quickly they didn’t have the skill set. We petitioned the governor. This goes back to 1997, the position of the governor. We petitioned the attorney general of the state and no one would meet with us, but we knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere.

In fact, if the State put it in the border police hands and, you know, the district attorney eventually brought in a retired, very experienced, legendary detective out of Colorado and he he told the district attorney when he was hired to look at this on, I’ve been watching the news, I don’t think this is going to be hard to figure out.

We just got to figure out who it was. And so Lou came in, Lou Sweat. And so he spent about a month in all the evidence and became very clear to me here that there’s a lot of evidence of an intruder and nothing that would implicate us. In fact, there was contrary evidence, DNA for, you know, unidentified male defense lawyer Lou sadly worked on this case for the rest of his life, and he died in 2010.

 And we lost a real friend and ally. But he said I visited him on his deathbed. He said, John, if this case stays in the hands of the Boulder police, it probably never will be solved.

Candles surround a portrait of JonBenet Ramsey outside her home after a candlelight vigil on the one-year anniversary of her murder Friday, Dec. 26, 1997, in Boulder, Colo. About 60 people gathered for the vigil. (AP Photo/Michael S. Green)

VINNIE: And now we’re flashing forward, you know, another 13 years from when he last handled the case. Have all the registered sex offenders or unregistered sex offenders who were in the area, have they all been cleared of this? Have they been investigated?

JOHN RAMSEY: Well, I to my knowledge, no. And there’s a lot of them. We were shocked to learn. The father of it’s called the Abe case. The second case asked the police to bring him a list of photos of all the neighborhood sex offenders and they wouldn’t do it. So that’s not going to do any good. It was a very logical thing for him to ask them to do, and they they refused to do it. So I doubt that they’ve ever been looked at or investigated.

VINNIE: Unreal. Unreal. John, really appreciate your time tonight. And again, our thoughts are with you. I know this has been something you’ve been caring for years and years and years and I hope next time we speak, we’re talking about perhaps an arrest and maybe an arraignment, and we’re preparing for a trial. Let’s just hope for the best. John Ramsey, thank you so much.

JOHN RAMSEY: Thank you for your interest in our case, it really helps keep it alive and keep the pressure on the police.