This Christmas marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic, enigmatic death of six-year-old pageant starlet JonBénet Ramsey, and what would an unsolved cold case be without renewed publicity and scrutiny? I’ve had an admittedly morbid fascination with this case since shortly after it happened and a number of my parents’ friends began to comment with wonder how much I resembled the young victim with my permed, blonde hair, penchant for frilly dresses, and similar facial features.
Now, almost 20 years later, I find myself obsessing over the various anniversary specials that have predictably begun flooding the networks. Everyone is suddenly an expert, and everyone has a theory, but are any of them digging up this case for the right reasons? Is there actually any new concrete evidence to uncover? CBS’s The Case of: Jon Bénet Ramsey follows investigators both familiar and new to the two decade old investigation as they re-examine evidence and utilize their expertise to attempt to solve the child murder once and for all.
The investigative team, led by retired FBI profiler Jim Clemente and former Scotland Yard behavioral analyst Laura Richards, revisits the existing theories revolving around who committed the heinous crime, largely focusing on disproving the predominant accusation that an intruder broke into the house and murdered JonBénet. The approach each of the members of this task force takes sheds a unique light on several of the existing aspects of the case that have posed some of the most burning questions over the years.
The most effective methods displayed in this documentary, however, aren’t necessarily the ones that are a result of the use of the more advanced technology of today. The investigative tactics that prove to be most impactful are the most disturbing to watch. When a young boy is recruited to demonstrate the strength that would be required to inflict the sort of blunt force trauma that was concluded to be responsible for JonBénet’s death, used a large flashlight to strike a life-size skull covered in pig skin and a wig. The image of this child using all of his might to strike this replica version of a young child’s head is haunting, to say the least, making the implied conclusion that someone as small as Burke could have inflicted this deadly wound is not only likely, but is in fact the image we cannot help but associate with that act from that point on.
Startling moments like these only continue as their demonstrations proceed to include a police officer who volunteers to have a Taser used on him twice in order to debunk the theory that one produced the two puncture wounds found on JonBénet. The shock value of these visuals cements the angle Clemente and Richards are steering the audience toward, and not in a subtle direction. Although brand new evidence and discoveries are promised, this four hour special uses speculation rather than fact to point a heavy handed finger at their selected suspect. We are presented with expert opinions that support what they think the murder weapon was. We are shown how the foreign DNA left on JonBénet’s clothing could be irrelevant and unrelated to the case. We’re also told how Burke Ramsey should have reacted to certain questions during his subsequent interviews following his sister’s murder.
The Case of: JonBénet Ramsey doesn’t conclusively solve 20-year-old murder, but it does poke holes in several of the existing theories, probably enough to warrant a more official re-investigation. I’ll admit, their conclusion is one that packs a punch and lies at the end of a convincing trail, but the trail is one we’re led to very deliberately without much of an option to explore any of the other directions. Did Burke Ramsey murder his baby sister? Maybe. One could even say probably. But if he didn’t do it, CBS potentially ruined this man’s life all over again, and is that worth the ratings boost? It’s quite possible we still might never know.
Featured Image: CBS