Crime

JonBenet Ramsey: How the Investigation Got Derailed -- and Why It Still Matters

Bad news often comes in the night. It arrives in a whirl of dread and confusion, like a drunk trying to get into the wrong house, shattering the pre-dawn silence and bursting our dreams.

When Priscilla White answered the phone at her Boulder home at six in the morning on December 26, 1996, she knew that something terrible had happened. Why else would anyone be calling so early, the day after Christmas? But the news was worse than anything she could imagine.

The voice on the line belonged to a frantic Patsy Ramsey. "JonBenét's been kidnapped," she said. "Come over right now. Call the FBI."

She hung up before the stunned Priscilla could say much of anything.

Priscilla and her husband, Fleet White Jr., had been with John and Patsy Ramsey just ten hours earlier. The Ramseys and their two children had come to the Whites' house for Christmas dinner. Nine-year-old Burke Ramsey had played Nintendo games with seven-year-old Fleet III, while best friends JonBenét and Daphne White, both six, had played in Daphne's room. There had been nothing remarkable about the evening, but now the Ramseys were making desperate calls for help.

See also: Westword's JonBenet Ramsey Archive

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast