JonBenet Ramsey. Photo: Zuma Press

For more than 20 years, the death of JonBenet Ramsey has fascinated the media and public at large. The death of the child beauty pageant star over Christmas 1996 shocked America. The death of any child is tragic, but what made the case of JonBenet Ramsey so interesting to people?

The fact that the case is still unsolved is obviously a major cause of fascination for people. It has led to people speculating online as to what happened to the six-year-old. To this day there are subreddits dedicated to the subject. There are two main theories as to what happened to her. The first is that an intruder broke into the house and tried to kidnap JonBenet, there was a struggle and the child was murdered. The second theory is that a family member murdered her and staged the break in to cover their tracks.

Another obvious draw for the media was the fact that JonBenet had competed in child beauty pageants. Today there are a number of reality shows dedicated to this hobby, however in the mid ‘90s they weren’t as common. Images of JonBenet wearing make-up, looking much older than her 6 years were plastered across tabloids around the country. The pros and cons of these pageants have been debated for years but it no doubt played a part in case receiving such intense media coverage.

In late 2016, 20 years after the death of JonBenet, there were numerous TV specials discussing the case and theorizing as to what actually happened. Some claimed that a convicted pedophile was responsible for the murder. Another said it was her brother Burke (he went on to sue CBS for defamation). The case has also been discussed at length by many true crime podcasts. Fictionalized versions of the crime have also been produced, including the Netflix show Casting JonBenet, as well as episodes of Bones, Criminal Minds, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and CSI.

What is sometimes lost in the telling of this story is the fact that a 6-year-old girl was murdered, and her killer has not been found. Despite the fascination and media intrigue; JonBenet has not received justice.

-Michelle O’Brien
Contributing Writer
Girl Museum Inc.

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