Outline of events since Jon Benét’s body was discovered on Dec. 26, 1996.
Dec. 25: John and Patsy Ramsey say they last saw their 6-year-old daughter alive at bedtime at the family home in Boulder’s exclusive Chautauqua neighborhood. JonBenét’s 9-year-old brother, Burke, also is at home that night. Dec. 26 • Patsy Ramsey gets up to make coffee around 5:30 a.m. and reports finding a 2-and-a-half-page note on a back staircase of the house. The note says JonBenét has been kidnapped and demands $118,000 in cash. • The Ramseys call police, who begin an investigation into what they believe is a kidnapping. • That afternoon, John Ramsey searches the home and discovers JonBenét’s body in a spare room in the basement that was used to hide Christmas presents. She has a skull fracture and has been strangled with a garrote, and her mouth has been covered with duct tape. Dec. 30: Police take blood and hair samples from John Ramsey and other members of the family. Police also say that John Andrew Ramsey and Melinda Ramsey — JonBenét’s adult half-siblings — were out of town the day of the murder.
Jan. 1 • John and Patsy Ramsey grant an extensive interview to CNN in which Patsy Ramsey proclaims “there is a killer on the loose.” John Ramsey calls the idea that he or other members of his family could have committed the crime “nauseating beyond belief.” • Five detectives from Boulder fly to Atlanta, where the Ramsey family previously lived. Jan. 3 • Investigators announce that the ransom note appears to have been torn from a tablet of paper found in the house. If authorities are correct, this means that JonBenét’s killer wrote the note after arriving at the house. • John and Patsy Ramsey return to Colorado after JonBenét’s funeral. Feb. 13: Boulder Police chief Tom Koby and Boulder County district attorney Alex Hunter hold a news conference, at which they vow that the killer will be brought to justice. Hunter announces the formation of an Expert Prosecution Task Force, including forensic expert Henry Lee and DNA expert Barry Scheck. Both Lee and Scheck were part of the O.J. Simpson defense team. March 7: Sources tell The Denver Post that handwriting experts from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation determine John Ramsey did not write the ransom note. But their analysis is inconclusive as to whether Patsy Ramsey authored it. March 13: Veteran homicide detective Lou Smit joins the Ramsey murder investigation. Smit, a retired investigator from El Paso County, is best known for cracking the murder case of Heather Dawn Church in Colorado Springs. April 3: DNA testing begins at Cellmark Diagnostics in Maryland. This is a second round of testing of DNA in the case. The initial round was conducted at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation labs. April 18: DA Hunter for the first time publicly identifies John and Patsy Ramsey as the focus of the investigation. April 30 • Police conduct their long-awaited “formal interviews” with John and Patsy Ramsey — more than four months after JonBenét was found murdered. • Patsy Ramsey is interrogated for 6-anda-half hours. Her husband later is interrogated for approximately two hours. • Police release no statement about the contents of the interviews. May 1: John and Patsy Ramsey, in a rare interview with reporters, declare their innocence. “I did not kill my daughter,” John Ramsey states. His wife states: “Let me assure you that I did not kill JonBenét.” May 14: The much-anticipated results of additional DNA tests are delivered to Boulder authorities. Sources tell The Denver Post there are “no surprises” in the report.
Jan. 15: John and Patsy Ramsey refuse to submit to another round of interviews unless they can review the evidence, a condition unacceptable to police. Jan. 16: Gov. Roy Romer rejects a request by two friends of the Ramsey family to appoint a special prosecutor in the murder case. Jan. 29: More than a year after their daughter was murdered, the Ramseys turn over to police the clothing they were wearing the night before JonBenét was found dead. Feb. 6: Friends of the Ramseys join to form an “investor group” to buy the couple’s Boulder home. The 15-room Tudor-style house at 755 15th St. is put under contract for $650,000. The address is changed to 749 15th St. in 2001 at the request of a tenant who is negotiating to buy the home. March 12: After looking for the killer of JonBenét for 15 months, police say the best bet for solving the murder is a grand-jury investigation and formally call for such a probe after conferring with DA Alex Hunter. June 3: Mark Beckner, the lead investigator in the case, reports that he is excited about test results recently received on evidence taken from the Ramsey home. The case now includes 1,058 pieces of evidence. June 23: Although he will become Boulder’s new police chief, Cmdr. Mark Beckner says he will remain “connected” to the Ramsey investigation but warns that the city’s most notorious case has no “magic answers.” June 24 • John and Patsy Ramsey return to Colorado for interrogation by district attorney’s investigators and are reportedly questioned together and separately. • For the first time, the prosecution conducts an extensive interview with their son, Burke, now 11. Aug. 6 • In a stinging, eight-page resignation letter, an angry detective Steve Thomas says Hunter’s office is “thoroughly compromised” and has “crippled” the case. Thomas charged critical evidence had not been collected and maintained that other evidence wasn’t tested. • Romer later asks four area DAs whether he should intervene in the case. Aug. 12 • Revealing that the case is headed for a grand jury, Romer says he wants to help Hunter, not remove him from the case. He invokes a state statute that allows for “special deputies” to assist the DA. Aug. 19: Fleet White, who was with John Ramsey when he found his daughter’s body, renews his plea for someone other than Hunter to investigate the case. Aug. 20: Sources tell The Denver Post that an enhanced version of the 911 call Patsy Ramsey made the morning she found the ransom note includes Burke’s voice in the background. That would contradict earlier statements by the Ramseys that their son was asleep until police arrived. Sept.16: Five months after they were chosen, Boulder County grand jurors begin their investigation. Sept. 24: Investigator Lou Smit resigns, saying authorities are focusing too heavily on JonBenét’s parents. In his letter, he says the Ramseys did not kill their daughter and a “very dangerous killer is still out there.” Sept. 27 • Ramsey family lawyer Hal Haddon demands Boulder police shift their focus from his clients. • On ABC’s “20/20,” former detective Steve Thomas gives his first interview since his resignation, calling the case “very disheartening.” Oct. 13: Grand jury begins hearing forensic evidence, including analysis of handwriting, DNA and hair and fibers found at the scene. Oct. 20: John Ramsey returns to Colorado for a deposition in a civil case filed against him and the National Enquirer by photographer Stephen Miles. Miles has accused Ramsey and the paper of libel and slander after two 1997 articles labeled him a pedophile and used an unnamed source who said Ramsey believed the photographer killed his daughter. Dec. 1: The Denver Post reports the grand jury will meet just once in December and then take the rest of the month off. Dec. 3: It’s learned that five Ramsey family members have been asked to provide DNA samples to authorities. The five are not considered suspects. Sources say authorities want the DNA to see if it can be linked to unmatched DNA found in the Ramsey home.
Feb. 18: Lawrence Schiller’s book “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town” offers new insight and details into the investigation. The book describes the feud between police and prosecutors the moment the investigation began. March 17: Five alternate grand jurors who had been hearing evidence in the case since September 1998 are sent home. March 18: Boulder police Detective Linda Arndt, the first detective at the Ramsey house on Dec. 26, 1996, resigns. She has endured stinging criticism and ridicule because of what she did and didn’t do once she arrived on the scene and later sues her then-boss police chief Tom Koby for not publicly coming to her defense and for not letting her defend herself. April 8: A six-month extension of the grand jury’s investigation is granted. May 19: Burke, now 12, is secretly questioned by the grand jury. The next day Boulder authorities publicly affirm he’s not a suspect, only a witness. Sept. 13: Arndt appears on “Good Morning America” claiming she knows what happened the night JonBenét was killed. In the five-part interview she says she knows who killed the girl but does not reveal the name. Sept. 23: After almost four months off, the grand jury returns to work. During the time off, investigators were collecting additional DNA evidence. Sept. 30: John Ramsey’s grown children, John Andrew Ramsey and Melinda Ramsey Long, testify before the grand jury. They had been publicly cleared as suspects in March 1997. Oct. 13: DA Alex Hunter announces after the grand jury has completed its work that his team doesn’t think it has “sufficient evidence to warrant filing of charges.” In 2013, documents are released that show a grand jury indictment in 1999 accused John and Patsy Ramsey of two counts each of child abuse resulting in death in connection with their daughter’s death. The charges allege that the parents permitted the girl to be placed in a dangerous situation that led to her death and accused them of helping her killer. Because Hunter refused to sign the documents, the Ramseys were never officially indicted or prosecuted.
June 24: Patsy Ramsey dies after battling ovarian cancer for more than a decade. Aug. 15: John Mark Karr, a 41-year-old elementary-school teacher, is arrested in Thailand after confessing he accidentally killed JonBenét while attempting to sexually assault her. The case against Karr collapses later in August. DNA test results proved the tipping point in eliminating Karr as a suspect, despite his public statements that he had been present during her death. Those results, coupled with a lack of evidence placing Karr in Boulder at the time of the murder, lead Boulder County DA Mary Lacy to drop the case.
July 9: Armed with new DNA evidence that points to an unknown male as JonBenét’s killer, Lacy publicly exonerates the child’s parents and immediate family. In a letter hand-delivered to John Ramsey, Lacy says she is confident that a “touch DNA” analysis done by a private lab has determined that genetic material left on the waistband of long johns JonBenét was wearing when her body was found matches the DNA left in her underwear.
September • TV programs from A&E, Doctor Phil, Dateline NBC and CBS News air in advance of the 20th anniversary of JonBenét’s murder. • Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa says in a Sept. 1 videotaped statement that he wouldn’t do interviews about the case to maintain the investigation’s integrity. He points out that the department has processed 1,500 pieces of evidence, took 200 DNA samples, interviewed more than 1,000 people in eight states and investigated more than 20,000 tips, letters and e-mails. October: • Forensic experts who examined the results of DNA tests obtained exclusively by the Daily Camera and 9News dispute former DA Mary Lacy’s conclusion that a DNA profile found in one place on JonBenét’s underpants and two locations on her long johns was necessarily the killer’s. The experts say the evidence showed that the DNA samples came from at least two people in addition to JonBenét — something Lacy’s office was told, but that she did not mention in clearing the Ramseys. Dec. 13: Boulder police and prosecutors plan a new round of DNA tests on key evidence in the unsolved 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey, the Daily Camera and 9NEWS report. Boulder County DA Stan Garnett and Testa confirm that they and members of their staffs discussed the issue with Colorado Bureau of Investigation administrators, who are on the verge of unveiling new, more sophisticated DNA tests than their lab has ever used before. The Denver Post