Did Burke Kill JonBenet?

a theory by Troy Cowan

A ny theory on JonBenet Ramsey's murder must reveal why she was killed and it must also clarify the inexplicable behavior of JonBenet's parents. JonBenet's mother loved her daughter dearly. She devoted endless hours preparing JonBenet for her pageants. So much attention was given to JonBenet that there was little time left for JonBenet's older brother, Burke.  At the time of JonBenet's death, Burke was a few weeks away from having his tenth birthday. With all of the attention and admiration  given to his sister by his parents,  his parents friends, neighbors, and visitors, his envy and  curiosity about JonBenet must have been magnified.

The "Burke did it" Theory

  Wednesday, D ecember 25, 1996

The children have opened their Christmas presents and have spent the morning playing. It is now time to get ready to go to the White's for Christmas dinner. JonBenet has regressed in her toilet habits and will have to wear pull-ups to the dinner party. In getting JonBenet ready, Patsy helped her put on the pull-ups, the oversized panties that went over the pull-ups and the rest of her clothing. Later, the Ramseys arrived at the home of Fleet and Priscilla White. Shortly after arriving JonBenet had an accident that needed attending. From the bathroom, JonBenet's call for assistance was soon answered. She needed help in cleaning up. He wiped down JonBenet with a damp cloth leaving trace fibers found during the autopsy. He helped her get dressed, but he did not replace the pull-up. JonBenet returned to play with the other children wearing the oversized panties.

The children spend some of their time alone watching TV in another room while the adults are visiting with each other. They are bored and decide to play "doctor". JonBenet will be the patient. At some point, JonBenet is poked with an object that scrapes the inside wall of her vagina. It hurts JonBenet and she begins to cry. The children know that they will be in big trouble if they seek help, they have been warned before, so they decide to keep quiet. Soon JonBenet begins to recover and she is able to finish the day. Her injury created a small red stain on her underwear. While playing doctor, the children left traces of their DNA on JonBenet's underwear.

Later that evening the Ramseys are on their way home from Christmas dinner. They make a few stops to deliver packages. JonBenet is seen asleep in the back seat of the car.

The Ramseys arrive home at about 9 o'clock 12 and John carries JonBenet to her room and he puts the sleeping child to bed in the same clothes she wore that day. Patsy will come up and dress JonBenet for bed in a few minutes. Shortly, Patsy went to JonBenet's room and removed the sleeping child's black velvet jeans and black vest and put Jonbenet in white thermal long-johns, leaving on her crew neck top and oversized panties. Burke is allowed to play until he becomes sleepy. He remains downstairs to assemble a miniature parking garage he began earlier. John is tired and has a long day tomorrow so retires. Pasty wants a little time to herself and also needs to do some last minute house cleaning and finish preparing for tomorrow's trip to their vacation home in Charlevoix, Mich.

JonBenet, asleep in her bed, awakens. She gets out of bed,  grabs her heavy, black, rubber-coated flashlight and begins to go down the hall to Burke's room as she has done many times before. She notices dimmed light emanating up the spiral staircase coming from the living quarters. Hungry, she heads down to the living room where she finds Patsy and asks her for something to eat. Patsy tells her that there is some left over pineapple in the refrigerator. Burke wants some pineapple too. Patsy helps the children find the pineapple and JonBenet plays with her lit flashlight as she is eating. When JonBenet is finished eating she goes back into the living room and watches TV with Patsy. Burke returns to his model. After watching some TV with JonBenet, Patsy decides to go upstairs to check the sheets in JonBenet's bedroom. She tells JonBenet to go potty before she comes up to bed. With Patsy out of the room, as soon as JonBenet emerges from the bathroom, Burke takes her down into the basement. Burke wants to finish examining his sister. She doesn't want to play. Burke takes out his knife and threatens to use it on her if she doesn't behave. He tells her that he is going to examine her to see how she is doing from the injury that occurred at the White's house while playing doctor.  Reluctantly she relents. He finds one of Patsy's broken paintbrushes to examine her. Unfortunately he refreshes her injury and leaves a splinter in her vagina. It hurts JonBenet and she tells Burke that she is going to tell her mother. She is crying and yells for her mother. Becoming panicky, Burke finds a short length of cord and ties a simple slip knot. He places this noose around her neck making a leash to control her. 3 She starts to cry and pleads for her mother. She is struggling with Burke. Burke tells her to stop. She can't or won't. Burke is behind her. With the noose around her neck, he wraps the leash around his right hand and with his left hand he pushes on the back of her neck and shoulders. Together, pulling on the noose with one hand and pushing on the back of her neck with the other, the noose tightens around her neck. The loop is getting tighter and tighter as he tries to keep control of the struggling little girl. A garrote loosens when tension is released, but this is a noose. The knot gets tighter and tighter. Struggling causes her to become oxygen depleted quickly; it doesn't take but a few moments for her to suffocate. Her body goes limp, she falls backward on the floor. She is moments away from death. The knot is tight and the cord is deeply embedded in her neck, choking the life out of her. He tries to loosen the noose, but he can't get his fingers under the cord. Burke is confused and afraid. JonBenet's eyes bulge from their sockets, her face is blue. She is a frightful sight. JonBenet begins to convulse. These strange movements and horrible appearance terrify him. Burke picks up the long, heavy, one-piece, rubber coated , aluminum flashlight, and straddles JonBenet. With both hands, he lifts the flashlight high above his head. Standing over her, as she lies there dying, he begins the long arc downward. His knees bend as his thighs lower his body, his stomach muscles contract as the fast moving flashlight impact JonBenet's head. The blow leaves an eight-inch fracture in her skull. This wound does not bleed and it does not swell because JonBenet is dead. In fact there is no visible evidence that she was hit on the head. The head injury will not be discovered until the autopsy.

Ashamed of what he has done, he wants to hide the body. He takes her by the hands and drags her body a short distance to the wine cellar. In the process he leaves behind a footprint from his HiTec shoe.

Patsy goes to JonBenet's bedroom and checks the bed and finds that it is dry. She straightens it and makes it ready for JonBenet's return. She continues to clean house, pack, and do other odds and ends. When she is satisfied with the state the house is in, she decides to check on the children and put them to bed before retiring. She goes down stairs. Not finding the children in the living area, Patsy searches for the children and finds her way down into the basement. There she finds Burke and JonBenet's lifeless body lying on the cellar floor. She screams and yells at Burke to go get John. Patsy has removed the noose and is trying to revive JonBenet as John rushes in. Burke sees Patsy trying to revive JonBenet and asks if she will be all right. They tell him that she will be all right and order him to his room, but they are too late, she is dead. The parents grieve for the loss of their daughter. The Ramseys know that they have not given Burke the attention and love that he required. In their deep sorrow they also feel guilt. Patsy goes to Burke's room to comfort the distraught little boy and she thinks that she can help him through the night by telling him that JonBenet is recovering. Patsy then gives Burke two of her Benadryls to help him sleep. Now, faced with the possibility of loosing both children and having Burke branded as the boy who murdered his sister, the Ramseys try to regain their composure and begin to reflect on their options. The Ramseys have an additional problem, they let Burke go to sleep thinking JonBenet was alive. What will they tell him in the morning?

After grieving for the loss of their daughter, the Ramseys decide to concoct the ransom note and to create, conceal, and manipulated evidence in an attempt to take attention away from Burke and to protect Burke from the knowledge that he killed his sister. The deep furrow in JonBenet's neck indicated that she would have to retie the noose on JonBenet. Patsy reconstructed the garrote using the same cord, but she added a handle using the broken mid-portion of her paintbrush so that Burke would not recognize the implement that killed JonBenet as the one he made. In retying this knot some of JonBenet's hair and fibers from Patsy's own sweater became entwined in the knot. The noose was then re-tightened around JonBenet's neck. Patsy put a piece of duct tape over JonBenet's mouth and wrapped her ankles. During the investigation fibers from her sweater were also found on the sticky side of the tape along with a perfect impression of JonBenet's lips, indicating JonBenet made no movement after the tape was applied. Before leaving JonBenet alone in the dark cellar, Patsy covered JonBenet's body with a blanket. 

Upstairs, Patsy writes the ransom note as John helps dictate it. They place the note in the hall on the stairs. John began to look for a place to stage the break-in. A few months earlier, John forgot his keys and broke a basement window to get into the house. 7,8,9 He never had that window repaired. He went to the basement window that had that broken section, opened it, and tried to host himself up. His shoe scraped against the basement wall creating a scuff mark. He found that getting out that way to be too difficult, he found a suitcase nearby and put it under the window. He climbed on the suitcase and reached up and grabbed the iron grate and tried to move it. It was hard to move and made a scraping sound, but he was satisfied that this location would work as the point of entry. He never crawled through the opening, just tested it.   The Ramseys plan to place the body along the road where someone can find it. They will dispose of the left-over cord, and duct tape at the same time. The decision on when and where to place the body proved to be too painful, so they kept putting it off until circumstances made the decision for them: a light 4,10 dusting of snow at 2 a.m. 5 made it impossible for them to leave the house without creating tracks. This dusting of snow would remain on the ground until the sun hit it in the morning. JonBenet would have to remain in the basement. They still need to dispose of the duct tape. Tomorrow they will call their friends to come to the house. One couple will be given the duck tape, and the remnants of cord to carry out of the house in their purse or pocket. The Ramseys did not know of the blow to the head, so there was no need to dispose of the flashlight. Burke did use it in examining his sister and it might have her DNA on it along with Burke's fingerprints, so it was taken to the kitchen and washed clean of all fingerprints and left on the counter.

Shortly before 6:00 a.m. Burke was awakened and told that his sister had been kidnapped. He was asked if he had heard anything or knew anything. He did not. He was taken downstairs and shown the ransom note in an effort to prove to Burke that JonBenet had been kidnapped. They reasoned that in Burke's mind he must believe that she was alive when kidnapped, and therefore, he could not have killed her. They called 911 in his presence to make a convincing display.

As soon as possible, John's lawyer, Hal Haddon met with his friend Governor Roy Romer to discuss the Ramsey's plight. Because Burke was below the age of culpability in Colorado, it was argued that as far as the law was concerned, no crime was committed. After an open and frank discussion it was agreed that it would be in the best interest of Burke, the Ramseys, Boulder and Colorado, that this case never be solved. All believed that with Romer's assistance and after allowing a few weeks for media attention to subside, this case could be quietly put to rest. It was not difficult to get cooperation from others, many people, including Alex Hunter, after discovering the Ramsey's predicament, sympathized with them. Intense public interest has prevented this group of Ramsey sympathizers from shelving the case. People within the police department that want this case solved release information in the form of leaks to keep the case alive. These leaks keep JonBenet in the minds of the public and prevent Hunter from setting the case aside. The Boulder Police have been made to look clumsy because there are people inside state offices working against a solution.

The staging and cover-up was to convince Burke and others that an intruder came into the night and took the sleeping JonBenet from her bed. Around 10:00 o'clock that day, three hours before JonBenet's body would be found, John's lawyer sent word to him that Burke was under-age and therefore not responsible for the death of JonBenet and that no action could be taken against him. John, now visibly shaken, has doubts about continuing the cover-up. He feels that if they acknowledge that Burke did it, the probing into their private affairs would not be necessary. John is reminded of Patsy's warning not to grow a brain. It is her strong conviction to protect Burke. Patsy believes that they cannot reveal the truth as long as Burke believes that someone else committed the crime. The Ramsey's friends and supporters that know the truth must also keep silent for the same reasons. They believe that Burke is convinced that someone else kidnapped and killed Jonbenet and that this frees Burke of any guilt and shame. They also know that if others believe that someone else killed JonBenet, then people would not look upon Burke with contempt and hatred.

A few days after of the death of JonBenet, the Ramsey's lawyer hired Pat Korten, a public relations professional, to insure that the Ramseys are portrayed in the media as a positive, loving, family. Others were hired to see to it that support for an "intruder did it" theory was prominent in the news media, TV specials, and on the web. One such web board dedicated to JonBenet is operated by a Ramsey supporter. She maintains a strong position on the web and her purpose is to mislead. Together, along with their lawyers and private investigators, they would create rancor and confusion in order to stall and misdirect the investigation.

In addition to each family member having their own lawyer, the Ramseys hired a coach to help them with their responses to any and all questions. Not only were they taught what to say but how to say it. They have been prepared very well and are ready to give a convincing response to any and all questions.

Burke returned to school on January 24th. Guards were placed at the classroom door. The Ramseys called these people, "parent volunteers". No one would be allowed to contact Burke. Burke would be watched at all times.


On May 24, 2000 -- JonBenet Ramsey's parents said at a press conference that they passed a lie detector test given by a private polygraph expert, Ed Gelb. Mr. Gelb stated that the lie detector test indicated the Ramseys did not "attempt to deceive" when they said they did not know who beat and strangled their 6-year-old daughter in 1996. Gelb, a former president of the American Polygraph Association, said Patsy Ramsey also denied writing a ransom note found in the family home. "Neither John nor Patsy were attempting deception when they gave the answers," Gelb said at the press conference with the Ramseys, their six attorneys, and another polygraph expert.

This is not the first time Ed Gelb has been in the spotlight. He was called in after Travis Walton claimed he was abducted by space aliens and kept for five days aboard their spaceship before being returned to Earth. There were five friends with him that claim that they saw Travis as he was being beamed aboard an alien craft. Ed Gelb gave polygraphs to each of the five witnesses and gave them a clean bill of health. He stated that each of the tests demonstrated that each witness was being conclusively "truthful." Gelb, then declared that the statistical odds of five people "beating the machine" was about one in a million. Later, polygraph expert John J. McCarthy gave Travis Walton a polygraph examination and determined that Travis was deceptive with his responses. 15

This is not the only time that Ed Gelb has verified an alien abduction. He had a TV show called "lie detector" with co-host F. Lee Bailey in which he had the opportunity to test Betty Hill. Betty and Barney Hill are the famous couple that claim to have been abducted by space aliens. They said that they were given a physical examination by these aliens while aboard the space ship. After a polygraph examination by Gelb, Betty Hill was declared to have given truthful responses to Gelb's questions.

One year later, during the first week of May, 2001; detective Lou Smit presented his intruder theory on the Today Show. He stated that the DNA, found in the panties and under JonBenet's fingernails, did not match John or Burke Ramsey and indicated an intruder. He said that the hair found on the blanket was also an indication of an intruder. It has been stated that the DNA in JonBenet's panties and under her finger nails was several days old and degraded. While Smit believed the hair found on the blanket belonged to an intruder, it has subsequently been identified as belonging to Patsy Ramsey. Molecular biologist Melissa Weber of CellMark Laboratories consulted several detectives after CellMark analyzed the DNA. Steve Thomas and Deputy DA DeMuth were at this meeting, Lou Smit was not. Steve Thomas said that Melissa Weber stated that the analysis showed the possibility that there may be DNA of another person mixed in with JonBenet's DNA found in the panties and under her fingernails. However, this foreign DNA could be the result of a false positive (stutter). Melissa Weber went on to say that if there were two sources of DNA and they were mixed together, then no one could be excluded. This is contrary to Lou Smit's statement that John and Burke had been excluded. Shortly after the meeting with Weber, Deputy DA DeMuth announced that the DNA did not match John Ramsey's DNA. While technically a true statement, a better statement would have been, "No DNA match is possible under present technology". st268

When CellMark Laboratories was given the job of testing the DNA under JonBenet's fingernails and in her panties, there wasn't enough DNA to test, so they had to grow more DNA from the small sample they did have. The process of growing more DNA from a small sample is called PCR amplification. Unfortunately, when you don't have a perfect sample, the DNA is old,degraded or damaged, the imperfect DNA is amplified also. Sometimes, this imperfect DNA, or non-matching DNA, gives a false impression that another persons DNA is mixed in with the sample. Having additional markers is a common problem with PCR amplification. Scientist call this problem, stuttering or shadow bands.

When the DNA under the fingernails and in the panties was tested there were more markers than there should have been. What caused these extra markers? Was it an indicator of an intruder's DNA mixed in with JonBenet's, or was it caused by amplifying degraded DNA (stutter bands). In the two samples, the location of the extra DNA markers should match exactly if the DNA under her fingernails and in her panties came from the same person, but they don't match. Since they do not match, you will have to conclude that there were two intruders or the mismatch was caused by the stutter effect. If the stutter (Amplifying degraded DNA) effect is responsible for the extra markers, then there was no intruder and there is no foreign DNA.

Smit went on to say that the shoe print found in the basement room where the body was found is also an indication of an intruder. He said that it was his belief that the intruder came into the house through the basement window, leaving a scuff mark on the wall as his shoe slid down the wall. He did not say whether or not the Hi-Tec brand of shoe that made the print in the basement was capable of making the scuff mark found on the basement wall. The material found in the scuff mark should match the material the shoe was made of.

From the beginning many people believed that the Ramseys hired private investigators to help find the killer of JonBenet. We remember getting reports that private investigators were on the scene the day after the murder asking question and getting information from the Ramsey's neighbors. To many it demonstrated that the Ramseys were innocent. Why would the guilty hire investigators to collect evidence to be used against themselves? John said on Larry King Live (May 31, 2000), "We've had investigators, seasoned investigators collectively with over 500 homicides under their belt who have been working on this case day in and day out. They have questions, they have information."

We now learn that there never was a private investigation into the death of JonBenet. On December 12, 2001 during a deposition , John Ramsey said that the "purpose of those investigators was to prepare a defense in the case that the police might bring a charge against me." Many are saddened to learn that there was no private investigation into the death of JonBenet. Because of the Ramsey and OJ case, many have lost faith in our legal system. A system easily manipulated by the rich and powerful. Even the Ramsey's head investigator, Ellis Armistead, has stated that he has lost faith in the system. In an article in the Rocky Mountain News, Armistead said his assignment was not to solve the crime. "It was to keep the Ramseys from being arrested."

On August 23, 2002 Charlie Brennan, of the Rocky Mountain News reported on two of the most puzzling question facing the investigators.

"BOULDER - Investigators have answered two vexing questions in the JonBenet Ramsey case that have long helped support the theory that an intruder killed her, according to sources close to the case.

The answers, which have been known to investigators for some time but never publicly revealed, could be seen to weaken the intruder theory.

The two clues are:

• A mysterious Hi-Tec boot print in the mold on the floor of the Ramseys' wine cellar near JonBenet's body has been linked by investigators to Burke, her brother, who was 9 at the time. It is believed to have been left there under circumstances unrelated to JonBenet's murder.

Burke, now 15, has repeatedly been cleared by authorities of any suspicion in the 1996 Christmas night slaying, and that has not changed.

A palm print on the door leading to that same wine cellar, long unidentified, is that of Melinda Ramsey, JonBenet's adult half-sister. She was in Georgia at the time of the murder."

A year earlier on May 22, 2001 Adrienne Mand reported that forensic scientist Henry Lee told Connecticut TV station WFSB-TV that he wonders whether the child beauty queen was even murdered.

Lee said it's possible JonBenet’s death was an accident, which was covered-up to make it look like a homicide, in which case there really isn’t a killer.

If Lee is thinking that JonBenet's death was an accident. He is not alone. Others have had similar thoughts. When Lou Smit was overheard talking to John Ramsey, he said, "John, look, it was an accident. This could be a lot easier for everybody". 17 What kind of accident is it when a person dies of strangulation? Is it an accident when a child kills another child? Yes, it is, when the killer is too young to understand the meaning of life and death, right or wrong.

The intruder theory was discussed on ‘The Abrams Report’ July 17 ,2003. The guest list included: Michael Kane, Larry Pozner, Wendy Murphy, Lawrence Schiller and Lin Wood. Lin Wood expressed his belief that the tape of Patsy's 911 call did not have Burke's voice on it.

Wood, "Thanks, Dan. I want to make clear to your viewers that the tape that I provided to NBC was, in fact, authenticated as being identical to the tape that was tested by the Boulder Police Department. And that authentication came directly from Mary Keenan who provided the tape to me, and I provided NBC with the tape that Mary Keenan provided to me, the entire tape. It wasn’t a third or fourth-generation tape. It was a first-generation off of the 911 original call, the same type tape that was tested by the Boulder Police Department and there is no conversation on there."

Schiller, "They did send it to the Secret Service and there were no results, only to discover that really there was more advance technology in a company in El Segundo, California that was in the aerospace business and dealt with these type of sound problems and they took the tape to El Segundo, California and there that company analyzed the tape and came up with what they believe was dialogue that continued a short time later after the phone was supposedly hung up. "

Anyone that has ever copied a tape knows that the copy is not as good as the original. In this case we are talking about very weak voice impressions on tape that are just at or above noise level. The additional noise (noise from the original + the noise from the copy) would most likely cover over any weak impressions that could be heard on the original tape.

When Schiller asked the important question to Wood: "You don’t know whether it’s analog or digital" Wood said, "no" A digital tape converts the sound waves into numbers. When you copy a digital tape there is no deterioration because you are coping numbers and any noise on the tape can be discarded. If Burke's voice can be heard on the tape, it will demonstrate that the Ramseys lied. Either way, it does not impact the "Burke did it theory".

The panel also discussed the fiber evidence.

MURPHY: "Don’t forget for a minute that nobody really disputes Patsy Ramsey’s sweater fibers were on the tape" and "wrapped inside the garrote."

It was also pointed out that Burke Ramsey has never been looked at a the possible perpetrator.

KANE: "the police investigation never excluded anybody with the exception of Burke Ramsey from the focus of the case".

The closing on the ransom note was, "Victory SBTC". There is some speculation on what SBTC means. Some believe that it stands for "Subic Bay Training Center", while others believe it stands for "Saved by the Cross". There are people that say Patsy is a true believer in Christ, and for true believers, each time a soul goes to heaven, it is a victory in Christ. Perhaps this is what the author of the ransom note meant:

Victory, JonBenet's Soul Belongs to Christ


Did Patsy buy the Chord



Fleet White's Complaint

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This theory is my attempt to assemble this crime puzzle into a scenario that makes sense to me. I do not assert that this article is factual.

Copyright 1998 by Troy Cowan. All rights reserved.


Who Killed JonBenet Ramsey,

Cyril Wecht, Charles Bosworth

An Onyx paperback, 1998

Death of Innocence

John and Patsy Ramsey

Perfect Murder Perfect Town (PTPM)

Lawrence Schiller

Harper Collins Publishers

JonBenet (inside the the Ramsey murder investigation)

Steve Thomas and Don Davis

St. Martins's Press, 2000

Supporting documentation

1) Who Killed JonBenet Ramsey p99.

2) Sleeping position: a theory by WolfmarsGirl 12:22:41 4/10/2000 WebbSleuths Forum

3) Strangulation first then blow to the head: a clear and concise explanation by PoliceDog Dec 97 Joshua-7 Forum

4) PTPM, p11

5) Jameson

6) PTPM, p14

7) PTPM, p15

8) Who Killed JonBenet Ramsey, p23

9) JonBenet, p19

10) JonBenet,p19

11) JonBenet, p21

12) DOI

13 PTPM, p19

14) Mame's interview with Callie http://www.holoworld.com/ramseyreports

15) alienzoo