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JonBenet Ramsey Murder’s 911 Operator, Detective Speak Out for the First Time, on ‘Dateline’

Even 20 years later, the fascination with the murder of JonBenét Ramsey is at an all-time high. On Friday, September 9, Dateline NBC featured a chilling two-hour special about the grisly December 1996 death of the 6-year-old pageant queen.

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In addition to summarizing the case that most of the nation is, unfortunately, all too familiar withthere were several shocking new discoveries revealed in Who Killed JonBenét? In her first-ever television appearance, former Boulder, Colorado, police detective Jane Harmer spoke out about the investigation. Regarding claims that the department only focused on JonBenét’s parents, John and the late Patsy Ramsey, as suspects, Harmer told correspondent Josh Mankiewicz, “We looked at [John’s company] Access Graphics, we looked at domestic employees, we looked at the pageants … and we looked at registered sex offenders.” 

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When asked if the Boulder police department gathered evidence only after zeroing in on the Ramsey family theory, the former detective insisted, “No, definitely not true. We went where the evidence took us. We did not develop a theory and then gather the evidence.”

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The NBC special also featured the exclusive first TV appearance by Kimberly Archuleta, the original 911 operator from the morning of December 26, 1996. In an emotional interview, Archuleta admitted, “That has been the hardest call I ever took.” She continued, “I think that’s because there was something inside me that said, ‘Something’s not right.'” She continued to reveal that, even though Patsy attempted to end the call, the line was still going and she could hear “another voice.” The former 911 operator continued, “The third voice was a male voice. … I knew there was a third distinct voice.”

Regarding this infamous “third voice” on the 911 call, former district attorney Bob Grant explained to Mankiewicz, “Some say it’s [JonBenét’s brother] Burke. Some say, ‘I don’t know.’ Some say it may not even be a voice. It’s a piece of evidence that has a number of different conclusions.”

John and Patsy Ramsey
John and Patsy Ramsey

Since John and Patsy were exonerated by district attorney Mary Lacy in 2008, the prevailing theory has been that an unknown intruder committed the crime — largely based on DNA evidence of an “unknown male” found on JonBenét’s body. One of the first officers on the scene, Robert Whitson, told Mankiewicz, “The behavior at the scene does not match up with the Ramseys — it matches up with a sexually sadistic person and a psychopath.” Jane Harmer disagreed, telling Mankiewicz of the “intruder theory”: “There is more evidence that would point against it.”

Harmer then explained that a grand jury, upon hearing evidence in 1998, voted to indict JonBenét’s parents on charges of child abuse resulting in death and of being accessories to a crime — a fact unknown to the public until 2013. “It literally took everything that I had to keep that a secret,” said a relieved Harmer.

She continued, “I think that the grand jurors heard the evidence and came up with that conclusion, and I would agree with their conclusion.” Then, regarding district attorney Alex Hunter’s decision not to prosecute John and Patsy based on insufficient evidence, she explained, “This was very much a team decision. The investigators and the attorneys were all in agreement.”

Harmer concluded her interview with Mankiewicz by holding her head high, stating, “We doggedly followed up on every lead that we had … and I am proud of what we did during this investigation.”

Aside from the September 9 Dateline NBC special, the tragic case will be featured in an Investigation Discovery special airing September 12, along with an in-the-works Lifetime movie and a CBS docuseries premiering September 18.

Tell Us: What do you think of these never-before-seen perspectives on the JonBenét Ramsey case? 

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