America reeled when, in 1996, six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey was discovered strangled and sexually assaulted in the wine cellar of her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado.
The former Little Miss Merry Christmas’s painted Kewpie-doll face became a nightly news fixture, and America was gripped by a necromantic furor. Armchair detectives pondered clues such as the undigested pineapple found in her stomach and the unidentified male DNA found in her underwear. As the case ground on, everyone from the police to supermarket tabloids to Colorado’s governor began to suspect the parents’ involvement. Allegations of a cover-up raged; grand juries were convened. But no one was ever charged.
In 2006, just as public interest had waned, ex-schoolteacher John Karr confessed to Ramsey’s murder. Karr fit the profile–if the profile is looking like someone you’d never leave your six-year-old alone with. But no positive DNA match was made, and Karr was found to be living in Alabama at the time of the murder.
In July 2008, the Colorado D.A. officially cleared the girl’s parents of any wrongdoing in her death. “JonBenét” can now be filed away in the bulging Cold Case album of American scandals. — Charles Bottomley