When it comes to famous and unsolved child murders, there are few that have caught the media and public’s attention as much as the murder of six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey.
Now Netflix has created a documentary that reconstructs the events leading up to her death and the possible homicide scenarios using all local actors from JonBenet’s hometown of Boulder, Colorado, USA.
What is Casting JonBenet about?
Netflix describes Casting JonBenet as: “hybrid of fiction and non-fiction filmmaking that examines the macabre legacy of this tiny starlet.”
The film will cover the auditioning and filming process of key figures in the JonBenet murder case as well as recreating the potential murder scenarios.
Each actor auditioning is a local resident of JonBenet’s hometown Boulder and they share their own personal theories on why JonBenet was murdered and by whom.
Who is JonBenet Ramsey?
JonBenet Ramsey was the daughter of former beauty queen Patsy Ramsey and wealthy businessman John Bennett Ramsey. Sister to Burke Ramsey, the Ramsey family lived in a large home in the affluent town of Boulder, Colorado.
Although she was only 6-years-old JonBenet had competed in dozens of beauty competitions and won first place for Little Miss Colorado, Little Miss Charlevoix, Colorado State All-Star Kids Cover Girl, America's Royale Miss, and National Tiny Miss Beauty.
Her mother Patsy managed her appearances and she was often dressed and styled to appear much older than her very young age. Her father John has since spoken out that he often felt uncomfortable at the pageants and with hindsight would never have allowed his daughter to partake in them.
What happened to JonBenet?
JonBenet was killed in her family home in Boulder, Colorado at some point between the evening of Christmas Day 1996 and the early hours of 26th December 1996.
John and Patsy claim that the last time they saw JonBenet Ramsey alive was when they said goodnight to her and her 9-year-old brother Burke on the evening of Christmas Day.
They then claimed to police that they discovered a 2 ½ page note on the non-main staircase of the house at approximately 5.30am. The note states that JonBenet has been kidnapped and the kidnappers demands an $118,000 ransom.
At 5.52 am Patsy called the police and they immediately treated it as a kidnapping.
That afternoon John searched the house and discovered JonBenet’s lifeless body in the basement of the family home. Her mouth and neck had been taped with duct tape and a nylon cord was wrapped around her neck and hands. John then alerted the police and at 10.45 pm the coroner’s police remove JonBenet’s corpse from the home.
Upon her autopsy it was revealed that she had been strangled with a garrotte, suffered a serious skull fracture and there was potential evidence of sexual assault. Her death was ruled a homicide.
Who killed JonBenet?
The case of little JonBenet Ramsey has never been solved and no one has ever been formally charged with killing her. However, there have been countless conspiracies and theories as to who would want to end of the life of the little beauty queen:
A family member
As the killing happened in her home, police and media focus has predominantly circled around JonBenet’s immediate family members. The local Boulder police have spoken out that they had suspicions that it was either her mother Patsy or brother Burke that killed her.
Police were particularly suspicious of the ransom note. The location of where it was found (on a secondary staircase) and the fact that it was so lengthy were both extremely unusual and appeared by many as highly staged.
What’s more, there was very little evidence of a break-in or intruder and neighbours did not report seeing or hearing anything suspicious or unusual that Christmas Day eve. Police were also alarmed that it took both so long for the Ramseys to notice that their daughter was missing and to find her. Overall, the Boulder Police Department found the Ramseys to be uncooperative throughout the case.
One police theory was that Patsy had struck JonBenet for wetting her bed, and believing her to be already dead, strangled her as part of a grand cover-up. However, Patsy did not have a known history of violence and her son Burke remarked that neither he nor his sister were ever hit or beaten by their parents.
A secondary theory emerged in the 2016 CBS documentary “The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey” that it could have been 9-year-old Burke that killed his sister. Using a team of experts and reconstructing the scenes that supposedly led up to her death, they theorised that Burke may have fatally hit JonBenet on the head in anger, and their parents staged a cover-up for the sake of their son.
New technology to analyse the initial police call also revealed last year what appears to demonstrate Patsy say “What did you do? Jesus, help me” and Burke ask “What did you find?” despite his parents alleging that he was asleep in his upstairs bedroom at the time of the phone call.
Were JonBenet’s parents ever charged?
Jonbenet’s parents were never formally charged for killing their daughter. In 1999 a Grand Jury voted for the parents to be indicted for JonBenet’s killing but Alex Hunter (District Attorney) refused to sign it because he claimed there was insufficient evidence.
In 2008, the Boulder District Attorney’s Office announced that after using modern DNA techniques and methodologies (that had advanced significantly since 1996) JonBenet’s immediate family members were no longer considered suspects in the case.
Although the Boulder Police claim they held the Ramsey family under “an umbrella of suspicion” throughout the case the Boulder District Attorney's office did follow leads that an intruder had entered the house and killed JonBenet.
The main piece of evidence to support this is that an unidentified boot mark was discovered in the basement of where JonBenet was found. Colorado Police Detective “Lou” Smit theorised that an intruder had broken into the house through an already broken basement window, removed JonBenet from her bedroom and proceeded to murder her in the basement.
Hundreds of DNA samples were taken, including several of JonBenet’s neighbours and family associates and friends. However, a conclusive match was never found.
A paedophile ring
One conspiracy theory is that JonBenet was somehow involved in and the victim of a high-end paedophile ring. Male DNA was found on JonBenet’s underwear, but it was never matched to any of the suspects.
A licensed therapist, Mary Bienkowski, has also come forward claiming that her client of ten years has spoken about being a child victim in a Boulder, Colorado paedophile ring in the mid 1990’s and had direct and traceable links to the Ramsey family.
This particularly shocking theory is mentioned by several of the local Boulder resident participants in Netflix’s Casting JonBenet.
However, so far the Boulder police claim there is insufficient evidence to take this theory beyond its current conspiracy status.
Where are her surviving family members now?
Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer in 2006. John has gone on to remarry and has spoken out that he has struggled to maintain regular work since his daughter’s homicide and his once great fortune has since dwindled.
Burke now works from home as a software engineer. In response to 2016’s CBS documentary “The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey” which suggests he killed his sister, he is suing the television network for $750 million. He also appeared on Dr Phil shortly after the show aired to claim his innocence. Burke smiled throughout much of the Dr Phil interview, which only further sullied the suspicion surrounding his involvement.
Where can I see the Casting JonBenet trailer?
Here is Netflix's most recent trailer for Casting JonBenet:
When is Casting JonBenet on Netflix?
Watch Casting JonBenet now on Netflix.
Browsing and watching Netflix directly through your BT TV box is quick and easy. Press the YouView button on your remote, go to Players & Apps, select Players and click on Netflix.
Photo credits: SipaPress/REX/Shutterstock