It’s been nearly 26 years since pageant star JonBenét Ramsey was murdered – and her father is determined to get justice in his lifetime.
On Dec. 26, 1996, the 6-year-old was found dead in the basement of her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado. The child was discovered several hours after her mother called 911 to say her daughter was missing and a ransom note had been left behind. An autopsy revealed that the slain beauty queen died of strangulation and a blow to the head.
The Boulder City Medical Examiner reported an 8 ½-inch fracture on her skull. Ramsey’s death was ruled a homicide, but nobody was ever prosecuted. The case remains unsolved.
Public suspicion immediately focused on Ramsey’s parents and her brother Burke. The case also sparked intense media coverage focusing on Ramsey’s success in beauty pageants. The scrutiny the family faced following the tragedy, and their quest for answers, is chronicled in a new true-crime documentary on Tubi titled "Suburban Nightmare: JonBenét Ramsey."
The details of the crime and video footage of the child from the pageants propelled the case into one of the highest-profile mysteries in the United States, unleashing a series of true-crime books and TV specials.
It wouldn’t be until 2008 when the family was officially cleared by prosecutors. According to investigators, DNA found on the girl’s underwear didn’t match anyone in the family. After finally being cleared as a suspect in the crime, the patriarch has pushed for DNA evidence that was never tested before to be transferred from Boulder police to a different agency.
"There’s no greater pain in life that I know of or can imagine," the 79-year-old told Fox New Digital. "All the accusations [and conspiracy theories] that the family faced, it was noise compared to the pain we were suffering from the loss of our child. You can’t hurt me anymore… But we also had a lot of support from the very beginning. People would always stop us on the street and say, ‘I’m so sorry’ and give us big hugs."
"I remember when [my wife] Patsy was in downtown Atlanta where we lived for years," the father of five shared. "On a busy street corner, this taxi comes screeching right in front of her. This big guy gets out of the car and goes, ‘So you’re Patsy Ramsey.’ She said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘I just want to give you a hug. I’m so sorry.’ He blocked traffic just to give his condolences. We were just overwhelmed by the people who would approach us… It was very uplifting for us. It made me a different person. I became more compassionate toward my fellow man. Everyone’s carrying a burden. Everyone has something heavy on their minds. Life isn’t easy and we all struggle. But I believe that support kept us strong."
Ramsey’s wife passed away in 2006 at age 49, not knowing who murdered her child. The patriarch, who noted that "the time for answers is running out," is supporting an online petition asking Colorado’s governor to intervene in the investigation by putting an outside agency in charge of DNA testing. The petition notes that advancements in DNA and the use of genetic genealogy are leading to the solving of more cold cases across the country. The Change.org petition, titled "Justice for JonBenét Ramsey," currently has nearly 30,000 signatures.
"All we’re asking for the government to do is to utilize the latest technology to test the samples that have not been tested for DNA," John explained. "And then, if we recover DNA that’s unidentified, take that new DNA sample to the public database, which has been used to solve lots of cold cases today. All we’re asking is for the government to do the right thing and the most aggressive thing using the latest technology."
"We tried to meet with the governor, we tried to meet the state attorney general," John shared. "I even wrote a letter to the director of the FBI. We couldn’t get anywhere. You do get weary after 20, 25 years of fighting with roadblocks and nobody listening. My son, John Andrew, really took up the drum [recently] and kind of gave me a rest, I guess, in a way. But you have to keep fighting. And I was just overwhelmed by the support we’ve received. It re-energized me. It frankly put energy back into me. I felt we could really get something done here. It's like having a whole new resource of people who want to help with the effort. It’s got me going again. And the only way we can get a reaction out of the government is by putting on pressure from a lot of people."
John said he’s feeling hopeful now more than ever that he’ll finally get answers.
Recently, John sent a letter to Colorado Governor Jared Polis asking to meet in person. He said the response was "encouraging."
"We did get a response from the governor," said John. "The meeting isn’t required. We just want things to happen. I felt if we could meet, I could tell him what needs to happen. The response we got from the governor was encouraging. He did listen to us. He didn’t make any firm commitments, but he gave us some avenues that are going to be available to pursue. The face-to-face meeting isn’t important, but the fact that there’s some movement is. He listened to us. And I thought it was a very sincere response."
On Dec. 7, five Boulder Police officers, including one of the original lead investigators in the Ramsey case, were disciplined after an internal audit found misconduct in the department’s investigation division. Boulder spokesperson Sarah Huntley told Fox News Digital that none of the cases that were not investigated or not fully investigated were homicide cases.
"I wouldn’t have thought that would ever happen," said John. "We knew the detective handling our case was not competent. He was arrogant and probably believed we were the killers. He was there when all of this started. So we knew until he retired, quit or got his pension that nothing was ever going to happen. So that was a big step forward to get him out of there."
Commander Thomas Trujillo received an involuntary transfer from the investigations unit to night patrol and a three-day suspension. Trujillo was also placed on a Performance Improvement Plan. At the time of the announcement, Trujillo didn't immediately respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment.
The Boulder Police Department said it has been working with state law enforcement agencies and the FBI on the Ramsey investigation. It noted that DNA from the case is regularly checked for any new matches.
"We have a shared goal to bring justice – and hopefully some peace – to JonBenét's family and everyone who was impacted by her loss," Police Chief Maris Herold said in a statement released in May of this year. "Our investigation with federal, state and local partners has never stopped. That includes new ways to use DNA technology. We’ve always used state-of-the-art technology as it has been at the forefront of this investigation. Every time the DNA technology changed, we worked to make sure the evidence could be tested. This investigation has always been and will continue to be a priority for the Boulder Police Department."
John said he will continue to push forward in hopes that an outside agency can finally shed new light on the DNA evidence. He shared that "it’s time to make it right."
"My daughter was a basket of energy," he recalled. "She was very extroverted and loved to perform. She loved to put on little plays at home with her friends. She was intuitive and very mature for her age, I always thought… The pain of losing her is intense… [But] I’m grateful I had her in my life for six years."
Authorities are asking anyone with information related to the JonBenét investigation to contact 303-441-1974, BouldersMostWanted@bouldercolorado.gov, or Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
"Suburban Nightmare: JonBenét Ramsey" premieres Dec. 21 on Tubi. Fox News Digital's Audrey Conklin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.