Detective Steve Thomas was the former lead detective on the Ramsey case. He had a strong case, and a good theory on who wrote the Ransom Note, not so much who killed JonBenet Ramsey. Thomas’ book when it came out in 2000 provided valuable firsthand insight into what was going on on the ground inside the troubling case that rocked Boulder, Colorado in the Christmas of 1996.
As valuable as Thomas’ narrative was then, and remains now, Detective James Kolar’s case was stronger, his theory better and more refined, but then he had twelve years to fine-tune the theory.
But even after twelve years of editing and adapting and fixing the theory, when James Kolar actually put his hypothesis on the record, it was highly simplistic. You can listen to and watch it in full at this link, but what it amounts to is:
- JonBenet arrived home at about 21:30 and went to bed.
- She did sleep.
- John Ramsey did carry her upstairs to bed.
- Patsy remained downstairs with Burke.
- She served him the tea and the pineapple.
- “I think that accounts for the physical evidence as well as the latent print…”
- “Then I think [Patsy] got JonBenet up to make sure she used the toilet so she didn’t wet the bed that night.”
- “JonBenet was up. She may or may not have brushed her teeth that night.”
- “Maybe she was still hungry. And she went downstairs.”
- “In the meantime Patsy continued packing for the Michigan trip.”
- “I think if Burke was upset about circumstances, or Christmas presents, he probably would have been upset about [JonBenet] trying to snag a piece of pineapple.”
- “Out of anger he may have struck her with that flashlight.”
- All the experts around the table then sign off on this theory, saying they agree with it, and it’s not actually intentional murder, it’s an accident.
It seems like a pretty darned good theory, doesn’t it? Well, it’s a good theory if you’ve been snoozing through at least half of the sizable archive of evidence that’s out there! This theory makes zero provision for a garrote, and also zero provision for sexual interference. There were actually tiny drops of blood on JonBenet’s underpants. How did that happen when she got bashed on the head? Why were her genitals wiped down and her panties changed? Why was that necessary if she’d simply been hit on the head, presumably in the kitchen?
The TCRS take on the 13 points of Kolar’s hypothesis is that all 13 points are probably not true, and a few only half true. The gist of Kolar’s hypothesis nevertheless may be true, if that makes sense.
What does this mean?
Going through Kolar’s list one-by-one:
1. JonBenet likely never went to bed that night and thus 2. Never slept that night. An initial knee-jerk explanation for this is to simply look at her bed. Does that look like a bed someone went to sleep in, or a bed parents would have tucked their daughter in and left pillows and clothes on?
Beyond the low hanging fruit, there’s plenty of evidence from the housekeepers [plural] who worked for the Ramseys that JonBenet was a problem sleeper. She was often put to bed with a video and a bottle, the latter causing her to wet the bed. Since this was the only reliable way to settle her down, the Ramseys adopted it and had others [the housekeepers] clean up the mess the next morning. JonBenet was also very late in getting weaned off her bottle, a factor that’s not relevant strictly speaking in the circumstances that Christmas in 1996, but is nevertheless generally relevant, as I’ll explain in a moment.
3. John Ramsey probably didn’t carry JonBenet to bed that night. He just wasn’t that kind of dad.
4, 5 and 6: Patsy’s fingerprint on the bowl doesn’t mean that she served Burke the pineapple, though it might. The fingerprint could have left earlier when Patsy handled the bowl, or after the incident. One reason it seems unlikely Patsy served Burke is the over-sized spoon. Patsy cared about appearances, from matching outfits for herself and her kids, to Christmas trees in every room, and candy sticks on the lawn. It’s unlikely she would have not cared about her son using an oversized spoon. That seems to be the sort of error a little boy, and perhaps a hungry little boy, might make. The oversized spoon and the messy bed speak of the same thing – neglect.
7. Patsy didn’t care whether JonBenet wet the bed, just as she didn’t do anything about Burke’s scatalogical behavior. The bedwetting was a chronic pattern, so chronic it was happening virtually every night. The Ramseys’ response to this was to simply cover the mattress with a protective [water/urine proof] plastic sheet, and then have the housekeeper wash the urine-soaked pajamas the next morning. Patsy would habitually strip the urine-soaked sheets each morning, and load them into a conveniently situated washing machine right outside JonBenet’s bedroom.
The extract below is from the long form Vanity Fair article Missing Innocence, written in October 1997 by Ann Bardach. The original article has since been taken offline.
If Patsy wasn’t taking care of chronic bed wetting issues with both her children, isn’t it doubtful that she was preparing special snacks for them late at night, and taking her daughter to the bathroom before bed?
8. This is probably the most true fact in Kolar’s hypothesis: JonBenet was up. Yes she was, and Burke was too. They were both up late at night – it was Christmas after all. If she and her brother had been taken care of generally in a more consistent manner by her parents, probably they would have been in a routine to go to bed at a specific time. As things stood, they weren’t, and there were consequences for this ongoing oversight.
9. Was JonBenet hungry? Was Burke hungry? The pineapple bowl is hardly eaten, which suggests either that someone made the snack for Burke and he lost interest, or that he made it for himself, and then got sidetracked. He did seem to be thirsty as the glass of tea is completely drained.
Besides the evidence in her stomach, there’s no evidence JonBenet was hungry or actively eating, and one should bear in mind that Christmas tends to be a time when there is plenty to eat, including confection. There is a small amount of pineapple in JonBenet’s stomach contents. The autopsy report suggests 10 cc of mucous material remained in the stomach, while fragments of pineapple appeared even lower in the small intestine.
Although the pineapple isn’t irrelevant, if Kolar’s scenario is accurate, moments after ingestion a single piece JonBenet was smashed over the head. This would suggest the fragment would have lodged in her throat or esophagus, maybe her stomach. So how did it get all the way down to her small intestine?
The dramatization shows JonBenet heading downstairs with her pillow, and in the photo of her bed, the pillow is missing. A pillow was found on the kitchen counter, however crime scene photos in this respect are inconsistent.
10. According to Kolar, both children were in the kitchen – eating – while Patsy was upstairs [elsewhere] packing for their trip first thing the next morning to Michigan. The evidence doesn’t support the fact that Patsy was packing. Nothing was packed. In fact the only suitcase that’s worth noting is the almost empty one belonging to Andrew that was found in the basement below the window, likely as part of a staged scenario.
According to Patsy’s interview with the Boulder cops, all she packed was a single plastic bag. Have you ever heard of a pageant queen going on a glamorous trip via chartered jet carrying her clothes in a plastic bag?
[The screengrabs below are from this link]
Does this look like anything was packed?
I do think Kolar is generally correct that wherever the Ramsey children were, the parents were likely somewhere else that night. I don’t think the incident, as Kolar describes it, happened in the kitchen however. I’ll get to why I think that in a moment.
11. “I think if Burke was upset about circumstances, or Christmas presents, he probably would have been upset about [JonBenet] trying to snag a piece of pineapple.” This is Kolar’s best and most prescient insight, but in the terms expressed here only half true. The pineapple is valuable evidence in calculating time of death, and in confirming that JonBenet was up and eating when she was supposedly in bed and asleep. In terms of the merits of the crime itself I believe it’s completely irrelevant.
12. “Out of anger he struck her with a flashlight.” Kolar’s right, Burke probably had reason to resent his sister, and he’d struck her in past in a fit of pique on JonBenet’s fifth birthday, so why wouldn’t those same events play out on the night JonBenet was killed?
For one, no fingerprints were found on the flashlight. If the flashlight was the murder weapon, and the little girl was killed in the kitchen, why leave the flashlight there to “explicate” the circumstances? Let me be more clear. If Kolar’s version is accurate, then the Ransom Note was an elaborate ruse meant to mislead investigators about what really happened. If the Ramseys went to so much trouble to cover up evidence, why would they leave something as instrumental as the murder weapon at the crime scene? Why not get rid of it? Why not put it somewhere else?
In my opinion Kolar [and his cohorts in the documentary] are a tad unsophisticated in their assumption that pineapple + pineapple fragments + flashlight = death by flashlight in the kitchen. It’s too simplistic, and it doesn’t account for the fashioning of the garrote, the tying of the hands in nylon rope or the sexual interference. If Burke struck his sister, it was out of fear – in my view – of being found out about said sexual interference.
13. The thirteenth and last point is the most absurd of them all. The experts – from the FBI, the world’s leading forensic minds – are all unanimous. JonBenet wasn’t murdered, it was an accident. It wasn’t an intentional murder.
If it wasn’t an intentional act, why the intentional cover-up of an accident? Why cover-up an accident for 22 years? Why construct a Ransom Note? And when the police asked Patsy if it might be some sort of accident, why didn’t she tell the cops investigating and interrogating them that it was?
According to CBS:
“JonBenet got up and somebody in that house – legally, lawfully, one of the three of you – also happens to be up, or gets up because she makes noise,” Haney said during the questioning. “There is some discussion or something happens, there’s an accident.”
“You’re going down the wrong path, Buddy,” said Patsy.
Haney continued: “OK. Somebody accidentally or somebody gets upset over bedwetting, that’s one of the things that’s been proposed.”
“Didn’t happen,” said Patsy. “If she got up in the night and ran into somebody, it was somebody there that wasn’t supposed to be there. I don’t know what transpired after that, whether it was accident, intentional, premeditated or what not. It was not one of her three family members that were also in that house. Period. End of statement.”
If Patsy ever admitted it was an accident, she’d be throwing Burke under the bus, and herself [for misleading the cops], and implicating her husband as an accessory too. If one was implicated, all would be.
On October 18, 2018, an interesting update occurred in the Ramsey case. InTouch reported on Burke Ramsey “urging investigators to release files proving his innocence…” as well on Burke’s lawyers responses to Kolar’s Hypothesis:
Burke’s lawyers say key evidence about the contents of JonBenét’s stomach was deliberately left out of the docuseries in order to frame him. The scenario alleged that a then-nine-year-old Burke was furious at JonBenét for stealing pineapple from his bowl, so he smashed her over the head with a flashlight and killed her.
But Burke’s lawsuit claims the pineapple found in JonBenét’s body was in the intestinal tract below her stomach — meaning it had been eaten two to three hours before she died. Additionally, grapes and cherries were found in her system, which the series failed to disclose.
Experts — who testified in the case — said JonBenét would have died within three minutes of a blow to the head, so she wouldn’t have digested the pineapple. In other words, the docuseries’ theory is impossible.
TCRS’ assessment of this: the docuseries rather than “framing” Burke, implicates him in an accident. The 2-3 hour claim seems about right in the sense that it would take time for food to move through the stomach and into the small intestine. Three hours however seems excessively long. The mention of grapes and cherries in JonBenet’s system actually points to the little girl eating a small fruit cocktail, or the remains of one prepared earlier, before her death. The additional fruit pieces obviously pours cold water on the theory that JonBenet plucked pineapple out of her brother’s bowl.
The docuseries theory is implausible, but the theory that Burke smashed his sister over the head is not. As noted, he’d smashed his sister in the face before with a golf stick just one year earlier. The findings of the Grand Jury accusing both parents of child abuse, and accusing both parents of being accessories shows further reinforcement of Kolar’s contention.