Mother of JonBenet Ramsey Dead at 49

ByABC News via via logo

June 25, 2006— -- Patsy Ramsey, the mother of one of the nation's most famous murder victims, 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, died Saturday at her father's home in Georgia with her husband, John, by her side.

She was 49-years-old and will be buried next to her daughter outside Atlanta. She once said she would join her little princess in heaven.

JonBenet Ramsey, a child beauty queen, was found murdered in the basement of her family's upscale Colorado home the day after Christmas, 1996.

Patsy Ramsey first found a handwritten ransom note on the back staircase of the home. It demanded $118,000 -- the exact amount John Ramsey received as a corporate bonus -- if the family wanted to see JonBenet again. Eight hours later, Patsy Ramsey found her badly beaten daughter's body in the basement.

From the beginning, the focus of suspicion was directed squarely at her father, a software millionaire, and his wife, a former beauty queen.

The Ramseys refused to take a lie-detector test and would only agree to be interviewed by police together.

Yet the Ramseys were steadfast in defending their innocence.

"Let me assure you, I did not kill JonBenet," Patsy Ramsey said then.

Lawrence Schiller, author of a book about the Ramsey case, "Perfect Murder, Perfect Town," said that it is unlikely the Ramseys were responsible for the death of their daughter. There was no family history of abuse and he said the way she was killed was so gruesome that it was "like a 300-pound linebacker crushing you up against a solid brick wall."

"The second thing you've got to remember: All this evidence out there? Well, the real evidence was this blood stain with foreign DNA that they found on JonBenet's panties," Schiller said. "They found her DNA on that and they found foreign DNA of someone who the police have never tracked down. They took 400, or 300 to 400, samples in the entire case. So if there's a perpetrator out there who did this, and there has to be, the police have not met him yet."

Schiller thinks the Ramseys were treated unfairly by the police, who he said put out leaks meant to condemn the Ramseys in the public's eyes. For their part, the parents raised suspicion in the beginning of the investigation, Schiller said.

Behavior that might have cast suspicion, Schiller said, included, "the dad taking the jet to Atlanta right after the story broke, the refusal to give proper interviews, and they could never come to an agreement with the police department about how to do a polygraph."

When news of the murder broke, Patsy Ramsey, who is also survived by her son Burke, had already been diagnosed with ovarian cancer two years earlier. Over the next decade, she would battle the disease and cope with her daughter's death -- all while living under a cloud of suspicion.

"I have lost the most precious thing in the world to me," Ramsey told ABC News' Barbara Walters in 2000. "I lost my child, my little girl JonBenet. I have been as low as you humanly can go."

The Ramseys offered a reward of $100,000 to the person who captured their daughter's killer. They also wrote a memoir, "The Death of Innocence" and filed libel suits against several news outlets. Three years after the murder, investigators officially cleared the Ramseys.

"Our family name has been destroyed," John Ramsey said. "We want the killer of our daughter found."

But never-ending speculation in the tabloid press, and numerous books, continued to feed the nation's interest.

Patsy Ramsey vowed to never again set foot in the house in Boulder where her daughter's body was found. To this day, the home continues to lure people curious about what really happened to JonBenet.

Schiller said that Patsy Ramsey was the driving force behind the continued investigation. Without her, he said the case will most likely die.

"Her being alive was a motivating factor for the case and the investigation to keep continuing. Every once in a while she would come back there and meet with the D.A. to get a progress report or to put pressure on them to keep up the case," he said. "That makes news when Patsy Ramsey comes to town and you'd have the D.A. come out and meet with the reporters afterward."

The murder is still an open case. The Ramseys' attorney, L. Lin Wood, said new DNA testing may provide proof that it was an intruder who committed the crime.

"The legacy of the case hopefully will be that DNA will solve it and then at that point in time we'll have that confirmation publicly that I've had for years," Wood said.

ABC News' Bill Redeker contributed to this report.

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