The first images of JonBenet Ramsey that were broadcast to the world showed a pretty little girl in heavy make-up and flamboyant costumes parading across a stage. At the time, the media described her as "a painted baby, a sexualized toddler beauty queen."
From the day in 1996 when JonBenet was found dead in the basement of her home in Boulder, Colorado, the Boulder police and a large proportion of the world's media believed that her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, were responsible for her death.
Prior to the murder of their daughter, John and Patsy Ramsey's life seemed almost ideal. Patsy, a former beauty queen, was married to a successful businessman. They had moved to Boulder where John ran a computer company that he had started in his garage, in 1991. The Ramseys readily adapted to their new life in Colorado and made many new friends. They built a large house in an elite suburb, and entertained often. Their last party in Boulder, just three days before the murder, was particularly happy. Over a hundred guests were present at a Christmas function. The Ramseys believed that they had good reason to celebrate. Patsy had warded off a recurrance of ovarian cancer and John had been voted Boulder's "businessman of the year."
According to the Ramseys' testimony, they drove home the few blocks from a party at a friend's house on Christmas night. JonBenet had fallen asleep in the car so they carried her up the stairs to her room and put her to bed at 9:30 p.m. Shortly after, Patsy and John went to bed, as they planned to get up early to prepare for a trip to their holiday home on Lake Michigan.
The next day, Patsy woke just after 5:00 a.m. and walked down the stairs to the kitchen. On the staircase, she found a two-and-a-half page note that said that JonBenet had been kidnapped by a "small foreign faction" and was being held for a ransom of $118,000. She was to be exchanged for the money the next day. The letter warned that if the money was not delivered, the child would be executed. Patsy yelled to John as she ran back up the stairs and opened the door to JonBenet's room. Finding she wasn't there, they made the decision to phone the police. The 911 dispatcher recorded Patsy's call at 5:25 a.m. The police arrived at the house seven minutes later.
The uniformed police officers that attended were openly suspicious from The Start. The Ramseys, treating the ransom demand seriously, were already taking steps to raise the ransom money. The note said that the kidnappers would call John Ramsey but no call came.
It was while the police were waiting for the call that they made several critical mistakes. They did not conduct a proper search of the house, the area was not sealed off and friends were allowed to walk in and out at their leisure. No moves were made to protect any forensic evidence. The scale of their mistakes became apparent later that afternoon when a detective asked Fleet White, a friend of the Ramseys, to take John and search the house for "anything unusual." They started in the basement. Later, during the documentary Who Killed JonBenet?, made by Channel Four in London, John Ramsey describes what they found:
"As I was walking through the basement, I opened the door to a room and knew immediately that I'd found her because there was a white blanket — her eyes were closed, I feared the worse but yet — I'd found her."
- tru tv crime library