A primer on the JonBenet Ramsey murder.

A cheat sheet for the news.
Aug. 17 2006 8:15 PM

The JonBenet Ramsey Murder

Remind us what happened?

(Continued from Page 1)

But the story wasn't finished. In 2000, John and Patsy Ramsey published a tell-all book, The Death of Innocence, arguing that an intruder had killed JonBenet after a botched kidnapping. Later that year former Boulder Police Detective Steve Thomas published his own account. He blamed other officials for bollixing up the case and accused Patsy of killing her daughter after a bedwetting accident. In response, Patsy challenged Thomas to confront her and John on Larry King Live. Thomas agreed. "He has called my wife a murderer," John Ramsey said on the show, referring to Thomas. "He's called me ... a liar, he has slandered my relationship with my daughter, Patsy's relationship to JonBenet. He did it in a public forum, and it's reprehensible. It needed to be addressed in a public forum." Polygraph tests in May 2000 supported the parents' claim that they didn't kill their daughter and didn't know who did.

Throughout the investigation, the case was closely followed in the media, which circulated numerous theories about who the killer could be. The most common narrative—bolstered by Thomas' accusations—contended that Patsy killed JonBenet because she was jealous of her daughter's success. Some media accounts implicated JonBenet's older brother, Burke. In April 2000, Boulder resident Chris Wolf sued the Ramseys for libel after they lumped him in with a list people they considered suspects in their book. A district judge in Atlanta dismissed the case, concluding that evidence supported the intruder theory and did not implicate Mrs. Ramsey as the killer.Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy (then Keenan), who had taken over the investigation in 2002, issued a statement saying she agreed. After a public opinion poll showed that only one in eight Colorado residents believed the Ramseys' polygraph test results exonerated them, Ramsey attorney Lin Wood said the poll was part of the media's "anti-Ramsey" campaign.

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In 2004, Denver police tried to compare DNA found beneath JonBenet's fingernails and on her underwear with DNA profiles in the FBI's database. They never announced a match. The family's attorney said it didn't match the parents' DNA, either.

That same year, Michael Tracey, a journalism professor in Colorado, produced a documentary called Who Killed JonBenet? A spokesperson for the University of Colorado recently told the AP that Tracey had been communicating with Karr over several months and eventually tipped off police.

In June 2006, Patsy Ramsey died after a long battle with ovarian cancer. "Patsy was aware that authorities were close to making an arrest in the case," John Ramsey said in a statement Wednesday, "and had she lived to see this day, would no doubt have been as pleased as I am with today's development almost 10 years after our daughter's murder."

Karr will be flown to Colorado, where he could face charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and child sexual assault. Karr said he was there when JonBenet died and that her death was an "accident." It's unclear whether there's DNA evidence to connect Karr with the crime.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.