One of John Ramsey’s final memories of his daughter JonBenét is from a few days before her death on December 26, 1996. The tech exec had arrived late to what turned out to be her last performance in a beauty pageant. The bubbly blond 6-year-old — who was found beaten and strangled in the basement of the family’s Boulder, Colorado, home the morning after Christmas — had won the award for most talented. “She came running through with the medal and said, ‘Daddy, look what I won for you,’” John recalled. “She was so proud of that. Shortly after,” he added, “she was gone.”
The emotional recollection is one of many John, now 79, shared in a bombshell new interview. In it, he said he’s haunted by guilt over JonBenét’s murder, which rocked the country and remains unsolved 26 years later. “She knew she was loved, I used to tell her every day, but a father has to protect their children,” said John, who along with his late wife, Patsy, was initially a suspect in the gruesome killing (they were cleared of any wrongdoing in 2008 via DNA evidence, along with JonBenét’s brother Burke). He says if he could tell his daughter anything, he’d say, “I’m sorry I didn’t protect you. That’s a dad’s job.”
At the time of the murder, John and his late wife were criticized for letting their daughter compete in child beauty pageants — something he now regrets. By age 6, JonBenét had won five crowns, including Little Miss Colorado. Despite talk that Patsy, a former beauty queen herself (who died in 2006 of ovarian cancer), had forced JonBenét to compete, John told The U.S. Sun Jon-Benét wanted to follow in her mom’s footsteps — and that pageantry was just one of her varied interests, in addition to music, dance and rock climbing. “This child pageant stuff was something else they had fun with.”
Now he realizes they were “naive” about who JonBenét may have been exposed to on the pageant circuit. “I thought these pageants were just attended by moms and dads and grandparents,” he said. “We later learned there were people attending these pageants that had no business being there: pedophiles.” (In 2019, the Boulder PD said they had investigated the “potential involvement” of convicted pedophile Gary Oliva in the murder, but didn’t elaborate on the case.) “John’s had to live with so many regrets,” a source tells In Touch. “One of them is that he didn’t protect his daughter when she needed him most.”
The still-grieving dad is hoping his recent sit-down will push the Boulder PD to do more. “He believes that with new breakthroughs in technology, the case could be solved,” says the source. John revealed that five or six samples from the crime scene have yet to be tested.
Nearly three decades after the tragedy, the Ramsey family remains devastated. The source says JonBenét’s older brother Burke, 36, has been “living a relatively quiet life as a software engineer,” adding, “He would prefer to live out of the spotlight.” As for John, the source says he refuses to rest until his daughter’s killer is caught. “He won’t stop trying until his last breath.”
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