If the name Patsy Ramsey doesn't ring a bell, that's because she's not the international superstar she was aiming to be when she tried out for Miss America in her youth. While she attained the Miss West Virginia title, she failed to go any further & ended up getting married to a man named John Ramsey & having two kids--one of whom had the one-of-a-kind name of Jonbenet. Ring a bell yet?
|Sexy Patsy in her pageant days :)|
Since Jonbenet's mysterious death on Christmas night 1996, speculation has been rampant about whodunnit. The Ramsey parents were always the prime suspects, along with an elusive "intruder" who allegedly broke in before the family left for a Christmas party, wrote a 2.5 page ransom note & then took Jonbenet to the basement to abuse & kill her while her family lay sleeping. I'll let you decide which scenario sounds more plausible.
One thing that's always thrown people off about the case is that John & Patsy Ramsey projected the image of the happy All-American family: wealthy, clean-cut Christian WASPS without criminal records or a history of (reported) child abuse. How could they kill their daughter in such a brutal manner? I have no answer other than to quote what FBI Agent Ron Walker said [paraphrasing]: "Parents have killed their children in as many ways as you can imagine." Jonbenet was not a typical high-risk child but that doesn't rule out the possibility of a one-time explosive rage incident that went too far. Sometimes good people do bad things. Adults have accidentally killed other adults with a single punch. Children are far easier to injure critically.
Detective Steve Thomas's theory placed Patsy firmly as the killer. He claimed she blacked out in a rage after Jonbenet wet the bed, inflicted a mortal head wound & proceeded to stage the scene as a kidnapping gone wrong to avoid going to prison for child abuse. But what would cause a proud pageant mom to harm her beloved daughter so grievously? To find out, we must delve into Jonbenet's home life a bit. In 1993 when Jonbenet was only 2, Patsy was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer--the most fatal of all gynecologic cancers. Miraculously she was able to live 13 years after this diagnosis which is NOT usually the case: the disease has taken the lives of Gilda Radner, Madeline Kahn & Dinah Shore to name a few.
|Saved By The Cross?|
When she started recovering, Patsy took on an almost manic "seize the day" attitude according to friends, enrolling her kids in every activity available including beauty pageants for Jonbenet. Shortly before Jonbenet's death, family friends were planning an intervention with Patsy to encourage her to slow down with the pageants & let Jonbenet be a kid. Patsy was taking Paxil & anxiety medications to deal with the fear of the cancer returning at this time. (In some people prone to bipolar disorder, antidepressants can trigger mania). Both she & John took Klonopin (clonazepam) to deal with sleep problems & stress--another medicine that can trigger or worsen mania. There were also rumors she was using ephedra-based diet pills to lose weight. I took those myself for years and lemme tell ya, they can be every bit as potent as Adderall or other Schedule II stimulants in high doses. Patsy also claimed to drink "two cocktails" the night her daughter was killed. We all know how drinkers tend to round down when pulled over by cops: "How many beers did you have tonight?" "Just a couple." We have no way of knowing how sloshed she was that night or whether she combined booze with pills, but let's pretend for a minute that she did the following:
Took her daily SSRI + ephedra + 2 party cocktails + Klonopin over the course of Christmas Day & night (she was stressed about the holidays & their busy traveling schedule according to their own reports, which might've prompted the Klonopin use before bed). Let's assume she popped a Klonopin or two upon returning home late & packing for the trip before she retired to bed, only to be woken up by Jonbenet who had wet her bed...again. Patsy then storms downstairs to her bedroom, drags her into the bathroom where she strips off her wet clothes in an exhausted haze. An argument ensues. She accidentally or purposefully bashes Jonbenet's head against the corner of the bathtub or cabinet in a rage. Then in her panicked state, Patsy proceeds with the staging of the kidnapping scene perhaps enlisting John to help with the strangulation while she writes the ransom note. But why would he go along with it?
Well, there were signs of chronic (i.e. past, ongoing) sexual abuse in the autopsy, which could've been perpetrated by John or one of his family members/friends. They couldn't risk taking her to the hospital with a head wound & vaginal trauma or they'd be arrested on the spot. Jonbenet would've appeared dead or irreparably damaged after the head injury, with shallow breathing & a weak heartbeat until the Cheynes-Stokes breathing kicked in, which is a horrific thing to hear. It's the "death rattle" that occurs prior to one's passing. This may be the point at which they decided to put her out of her suffering with the garrote, which was determined to have happened 45 minutes to 2 hours after the head wound. There's no physical evidence suggesting John helped with the staging but he most certainly knew his wife was involved to some degree by morning.
Looking back now it's clear Patsy was medicated for many of the interviews & heavily sedated for others. She also refused to take a polygraph test if the polygrapher drug tested. (Benzos are known to help you pass a lie detector test by affecting memory, emotion & blood pressure). Jonbenet's pediatrician brought a pocketful of Valium directly to Patsy the day her child was killed. Imagine getting Schedule IV drugs from your kid's pediatrician...delivered to your house! Was she still taking painkillers too? We have no way of knowing.
|Looking a wee bit high...|
The ransom note is another thing that suggests drug use or mania. It's long, rambling & dramatic which instantly brought to mind images of a tweaker who doesn't know when to shut up. Most ransom notes are short & sweet: "Bring $____ (amount) to ____ (place) at ____ (time) or your kid dies." But this one rambled on for 2.5 pages & was written on paper from inside the Ramsey home. This mindstate can be caused by mania OR the abuse of stimulants like meth, Adderall or ephedra based diet pills. Or maybe just the mind of a histrionic journalism major & ex-pageant queen who was skilled in improvisation & wanted to prove a point.
Lastly, we can't overlook the severe effects of chemotherapy drugs on mood & behavior. Patsy was taking Taxol, cisplatin & cyclophosphamide during her bout with cancer, which is a brutal combo. Ovarian cancer patients often experience hormone-related mood swings due to the chemo & the removal of reproductive organs that produce hormones like estrogen & progesterone that regulate mood. "Chemo brain" is a very real phenomenon among cancer patients of all kinds too; it entails cognitive impairment, problems with memory & brain fog. Patsy's chemo ended in 1994 but the effects on the brain can take a long time to fade out...if they ever do completely.
Michael Piehl short film: "Who Killed Jonbenet Ramsey?" (2016)
So it looks like we have our killer then, right? Wrong. Since Patsy Ramsey died in 2006, a lot of people have been quick to put the blame on brother Burke, who was 9 years old when his sister was killed. He did exhibit some troubling behaviors if the reports are accurate, such as smearing feces & being quick to anger. Several books & TV specials have fingered Burke as the real killer, theorizing that he inflicted the head wound & his parents staged the kidnapping scene to cover for him. But according to Colorado law, Burke wouldn't have been considered criminally responsible due to his age at the time anyway. Even in that scenario, the parents still committed a crime by tampering with the body & misleading the police after the fact. But they were never held legally accountable for any of it. In my opinion, Burke was a victim in this tragedy along with his sister...even if he DID have something to do with her death.
But I don't think Burke did it--I still believe it was Patsy, possibly with some help from hubby John. Filicides (parental child murders) are far more common than killing of a sibling by a pre-pubescent child. Furthermore, Burke's "suspicious" behavior in interviews with the child psychologist looks like a kid who's been heavily coached on what NOT to say as well as being obviously led by the interviewer about the pineapple. He appears socially uncomfortable & antsy like a boy who's either hyperactive or shy (or both). Which fits perfectly as he has claimed publicly to have ADHD. Plus he's talking about a highly unpleasant subject!
He comes across as awkward, sure, but have you SEEN his parents? They've got to be the most shady acting people on the planet. It's very likely genetic or learned behavior for Burke. His mom also had that smug-looking smirk. Burke was grinning from ear-to-ear leaving Jonbenet's funeral but he also did so at Patsy's funeral & on the Dr. Phil show, which points to either a nervous habit or some other benign reason. To believe otherwise is to believe he was a 9-year-old evil genius capable of keeping the ultimate secret for all these years. That's not how any of this works.
|Burke = black eye?|
I don't find any of the Ramseys to be true psychopaths or typical "evil" killers, though their behavior over the years has been repulsive in many ways. They are egotistic to a fault & care more about their image than finding the killer of their daughter. Always have. No telling what the atmosphere was like in the home leading up to Christmas '96. If Burke was living in an abusive or neglectful household, it's likely he would've been traumatized in the same ways as Jonbenet, who also had toileting issues right up until her death at age 6. But for some reason, Burke's toileting/fecal issues are interpreted as acts of calculating aggression rather than a sign of maladjustment or an unhygienic sensory behavior. Maybe they were a cry for help? The possibilities are endless really. In fact this is the first time I've EVER seen feces smearing in a child interpreted as a "sexual behavioral problem" as Chief Kolar calls it in his book (a great read by the way). Nor are "sexual behavioral problems" included in the DSM-V, aka the Bible of psychiatry. It's not a legit diagnosis.
I could go on & on about this case, as there's more info about it online than the JFK assassination. But I just wanted to shine a light on Patsy's mental health & substance use since it seems to get overlooked in many discussions...and this is a blog about substances after all. I also wanted to state publicly that the "Burke Did It" stuff is not a foregone conclusion. Just because CBS did a special on it doesn't make it true. For years the focus was on Patsy, then she died & people had to shift that rage onto someone who was still living to feel any hope of ever getting closure. You can see the shift if you go back & read old True Crime forum posts from pre- vs. post-2006.
The only forensic evidence that exists besides the (useless) partial touch DNA (i.e. the red sweater fibers in the duct tape, beaver hair from Patsy's boots, the paintbrush used in the garrote & the inability to exclude her as the ransom note writer) points to Patsy. There's literally zero forensic evidence pointing to Burke; only theories about how he acted oddly in interviews and the assumption that his parents would've divorced if one of them killed Jonbenet. That's faulty logic though. There are plenty of scenarios in which a partner might stay with a killer: denial, money, image, loyalty to a partner, fear, partial involvement in the crime, etc. The sad fact is some parents truly don't love their kids more than themselves.
The real crime here is that two District Attorneys (Alex Hunter & Mary Lacy) as well as other people in power went out of their way to leak evidence to the Ramseys ahead of their police interviews & prevented police from pursuing them as suspects. They let the Ramseys' lawyers set the terms for every interrogation & Alex Hunter--who had prosecuted a grand total of one case in his entire stint as Boulder DA--caved to the the Ramseys' prestigious lawyers in the end. Hunter lied to the public & claimed there were no indictments by the grand jury in 1999 after months of tedious waiting, only to be proven a liar when the truth came out in 2013: the grand jury voted to indict BOTH parents on charges amounting to child neglect/endangerment! And the DA who followed him, Mary Lacy, went even further & "exonerated" the parents, offering a sniveling apology to them on the basis of touch-DNA fragments that she knew at the time might not even belong to a single individual or be relevant to the case at all...which she technically is not allowed to do with a cold case that she wasn't even involved in. This points to more than incompetence or confirmation bias in my opinion: it borders on prosecutorial malfeasance.
In the end, Patsy Ramsey didn't become Miss America but she did end up becoming (in)famous in her own way. Before the Kardashians, the Ramseys were the first family to revel in bad attention if it meant getting a chance to look smart & act dramatic in front of a camera. A real-life soap opera, as Patsy called it in one interview. They were parodied harshly on shows like MadTV & South Park but that didn't deter them from putting out several books & continuing on their talk show tour. In 2004, John Ramsey ran for office in Charlevoix, Michigan with Patsy by his side. She finally got to play the role of his "Jackie Kennedy," a pet name he called her early in their courtship according to a Vanity Fair article.
He didn't win the election. Patsy died of ovarian cancer in 2006.
|Patsy at Jonbenet's grave in 2001|
|Meeting a "fan" in 2000|
|Painting by Patsy shortly before dying|
|Patsy's icy mom, Nedra.|
|Patsy & Burke at Jonbenet's funeral|
|14 hours before Jonbenet's death (Christmas morning)|
|...still looking stoned to the bone.|
|Addicted to the spotlight? John's 2004 campaign.|
|Pam Paugh (Patsy's sister) Miss WV, 1980|
|Candid shot of a kid being a kid. R.I.P.|