In the two-plus decades after JonBenét Ramsey‘s mysterious death, a number of theories have emerged about what really happened to the young pageant queen. All we know for sure are a few things that occurred in the hours leading up to and following the six-year-old’s murder in her family’s Colorado home.
The Ramseys’ Christmas festivities were tragically cut short on Dec. 26, when, hours after reporting their daughter missing, they found her lifeless body in the basement. As we approach the anniversary of the day JonBenét was killed, we’ve complied a timeline of events that police know for a fact took place.
Keep scrolling for a breakdown of what happened in those life-changing 24 hours. Who knows if the gaps will ever be filled.
Dec. 25, 1996
10 p.m. — John and Patsy Ramsey maintain they last saw their daughter alive when they put her to bed on Christmas night. JonBenét had been up late with her parents for a family friend’s party.
Dec. 26, 1996
12 a.m. — The family’s neighbor, Scott Gibbons, remembers seeing a light on in the Ramseys’ kitchen.
2 a.m. — Neighbor Melody Stanton allegedly hears a scream from the Ramseys’ home. Her husband then reportedly hears the sound of metal on concrete “sometime after the scream.” Years later, Melody backtracked on her statements, stating she actually heard the noise two nights prior — if at all.
5:30 a.m. — Patsy Ramsey gets up to make coffee and reports finding a two-page note on the back staircase stating that JonBenét had been kidnapped. The note claims to be from “a small foreign faction” demanding a ransom of $118,000 in cash.
5:45 a.m. — Shortly after finding the note, Patsy calls family friends Fleet and Priscilla White and John and Barbara Fernie.
5:52 a.m. — Patsy finally calls the police, detailing the supposed kidnapping and the demands on the ransom note.
5:59 a.m. — Officer French arrives on the scene — the first of many from the Boulder Police Department to respond to the call.
6-8:00 a.m. — Four more officers arrive at the Ramsey residence: policemen Veitch, Weiss, and Barcklow, and their supervisor, Reichenbach. JonBenét’s parents have friends come to help search the home, including the aforementioned Whites, Fernies, and Reverend Hoverstock. Victim advocates and crime scene investigators are also present in the house.
8:10 a.m. — The first detective on the case is Linda Arndt, who immediately begins her investigation. She fails to secure the crime scene.
10:30 a.m. — John Ramsey goes missing for at least an hour, leaving the house to supposedly “pick up the mail.” It’s later determined this couldn’t be true, given the family’s mail was delivered through a slot in the front door.
1:00 p.m. — Detective Arndt tells a resurfaced John Ramsey that police will be conducting a search of the house. He and his friend, Fleet White, join in.
1:05 p.m. — John and Fleet discover JonBenét’s body in a spare room in the basement. She’s suffered a skull fracture and strangulation by a garrote. Her mouth and neck are bound with duct tape, which the investigators remove. Officials further tamper with evidence by moving her body upstairs to the living room.
1:30 p.m. — Boulder policemen Ron Walker and Larry Mason arrive and search the basement and wine cellar for further clues into JonBenét’s death. They finally secure the home, preventing further arrivals.
1:40 p.m. — John Ramsey calls his pilot and is allegedly heard asking him to prepare a plane to Atlanta. Meanwhile, law enforcement instructs the family not to leave town.
1:45 p.m. — Heeding the officer’s warning, the Ramseys leave their house with plans to stay the night at the Fernies’ home.
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2:30 p.m. — Police conduct an interview with JonBenét’s brother Burke, which reveals the nine-year-old had allegedly slept through the events of the previous night. At some point after this, his father is advised to procure an attorney, which he does by hiring friend Mike Bynum.
To this day, police still don’t know who killed little JonBenét, though many believe someone in the family was involved.
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