No gruesome murder is complete without at least a few true-crime TV series or specials in its wake. But when it comes to the 20th anniversary of one of the most famous unsolved home crimes in modern history -- the murder of 6-year-old JonBent Ramsey in her Boulder, CO, abode -- broadcasters and cable news outlets are struggling to outdo one another in finding new ways to present the (disturbing) story.
The most ambitious of the bunch, at least in the unlikely category of real estate: CBS' " The Case of: JonBent Ramsey," which features full-scale replicas of large portions of the Ramsey home, all in a bid to shed some new light on the puzzle.
So, what was this infamous home like, anyway? And what possible clues does it offer?
Well, according to a preview of CBS' six-hour docuseries (which kicks off at 8 p.m. PT on Sept. 18), the Ramsey home certainly seems to suggest a cheery childhood. The first-floor dining room, for instance, sports floral patterns on the walls and chairs -- what child beauty queen wouldn't love that? -- and a glass table topped by a gingerbread house.
The second floor is filled with yet more evidence of happy times in JonBent's bedroom, which has plenty of toys strewed on the floor and its own Christmas tree (the crime happened over the holidays).
Meanwhile the basement boasts a huge train set. This is the level of the home where dad John Ramsey found his daughter's body on Dec. 26, 1996, in the nearby wine cellar. The cause of death was deemed to be strangulation and a skull fracture. To this day no one knows for sure who killed JonBent.
So does this peek inside the house offer any new clues about what happened? A number of the original investigators (who are featured in the series) certainly think so. For instance, they point out how the basement window where the murderer (or murderers) was believed to have entered was too small to allow an adult to pass through.
Still, though, perhaps the biggest takeaway viewers will glean from stepping inside this house is just a huge case of creeps. Seeing that Christmas tree, train set, and other signs of childhood innocence vividly drives home just how heart-wrenching this murder was.
Which may also explain why the actual house in Boulder is literally shrouded in darkness -- empty, without a buyer in sight.
According to property records, the 11,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home was put on the market after the murder and, astonishingly, sold for $1 million in 2004 to Carol Schuller Milner, daughter of televangelist Robert Schuller. Carol and her husband, Tim, lived there for less than two years before moving. Over the past eight years, they've tried to sell the house numerous times with no takers.
But that doesn't mean this house is cursed to stay vacant forever. So-called "murder houses" may not be every homeowner's cup of tea -- in our analysis they sell for 15% less than comparable houses in the same ZIP code -- but in fact some buyers are willing to overlook a home's dark past in favor of a bargain. Others may even find the notoriety a plus.
Case in point: The Beverly Hills, CA, home where O.J. Simpson's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered (a case with more than its own share of true-crime TV fodder) was sold in 2006 for $1.72 million -- at least after some major remodeling and a change of street address. Meanwhile, the former Houston home of Andrea Yates -- who drowned her five children in 2001 -- sold in 2004 for an undisclosed sum. It is currently valued at $158,926.
So who knows? Maybe this new wave of publicity on the anniversary of JonBent's tragic death will scare up a buyer.