Mystery of JonBenet Ramsey’s tricycle
IT'S THE unsolved murder that has gripped the world for 22 years. Who killed JonBenet Ramsey?
Now one man fascinated with the crime is offering some new theories around the case - and it all hinges on an abandoned pink tricycle.
Andrew Novick was living in Boulder, Colorado, when the six-year-old girl was found murdered in her family's basement on Boxing Day 1996, and a media frenzy gripped the town.
As someone fascinated by "the darker side of life", Novick began walking by the large house, abandoned by John, Patsy and their nine-year-old son Burke within weeks of JonBenet's shocking death.
The family never returned, appointing movers to pack up their possessions. The speed of their departure to Atlanta, with their daughter's body, was later to raise questions over how thoroughly police had questioned them.
The child pageant queen's cute pink tricycle, complete with streamers on the handlebars, was dumped beside the house. Soon enough, Novick had taken ownership of the dead girl's trike, along with a packet of popcorn and an oversized candy cane which had decorated the front lawn, but became a grim symbol of the tragedy as cameras filmed every minute of the investigation from outside the Ramsey home.
Novick, previously a member of local Charles Manson-themed band Scramblehead, was no stranger to controversy. He wanted to explore the meaning behind the trike.
He took it to psychics to see whether they could read anything from it. He left it on the footpath to see how passers-by would react (many began riding it).
He realised everyone had some kind of link to JonBenet.
"One woman who rode it, her dad was one of the movers," he told news.com.au. "Another one told me she lived two doors down, and grew up with the media attention.
"There will always be theories. I'm as interested in how we treat it, the media."
Novick is fascinated with how the tragedy of JonBenet's death has morphed into pop culture. It had all the elements: A pretty young girl found dead in her family's basement the morning after Christmas with a head wound from a blunt force, a nylon garotte around her neck and a melodramatic ransom note beside her. When a tabloid obtained photos and video of her performing in pageants, the mythology was complete.
"She was exploited by her mother and then the media," said Novick, who deliberately did not use any "awful" pageant footage in his documentaryJonBenet's Tricycle. "A lot of people have an attraction to things you wouldn't speak to your grandmother about.
"Making it pop culture is how we deal with a lot of things."
Novick is the first to embrace this, grinning and waving the tricycle aloft at film festivals across the US last year. He is as interested as anyone in seeing the mystery solved.
There have been myriad theories, pointing the finger at everyone from the parents - with Patsy's writing appearing to match the ransom note - to the odd "Santa Claus" Bill McReynolds, to a man maned Michael Helgoth who later took his own life, and owned a pair of Hi-Tec boots that seemed to match a footprint left in the basement.
On the 20th anniversary of JonBenet's death in December 2016, a series of documentaries tried to provide answers to the cold case that still has everyone stumped. The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey by CBS pointed the finger straight at young Burke, with forensics experts suggesting he hit her over the head before his parents covered it up by tying a garotte around the girl's neck.
"They really wanted to prove Burke did it," Novick said.
Burke, at that time 29, strongly denied the accusation he harmed his sister, saying he suspected a paedophile who stalked child beauty pageants and denouncing the "false and unprofessional television attack" riddled with "lies, misrepresentations, distortions and omissions".
He sued the network in a $US750 million ($A105 billion) lawsuit, which could go to trial late next year or in 2020.
There have long been claims of errors by law enforcement in properly searching the home, and a failure to fully investigate by the District Attorney.
CBS suggested Burke was jealous of his little sister and hit her over the head with a torch. Authors Nick van der Leek and Lisa Wilson told news.com.au they believed he could have used a baseball bat found in the yard or a golf club, after previously reportedly hitting her with one on a day out.
A housekeeper recollected him smearing faeces over her walls, possessions and bed.
"There's a kind of a spitefulness going on there, a very ugly spitefulness," van der Leek said.
The tiny trike could even be at the centre of this, cast off when JonBenet received a grown-up two-wheeler that Christmas - and Burke did not.
"From a child's perspective, Christmas is everything, it's the most important day of the year," Wilson said.
"We know JonBenet got a bicycle," said van der Leek. "In the photos of JonBenet on Christmas Day, you can see she's standing between two bicycles and both are ladies' bicycles with the low bar … the other bicycle was for Patsy."
The family testimonies on the issue were contradictory. Mr Ramsey said Burke was going to get a bicycle the following year. But in his 2016 interview with Dr Phil, Burke said he also received a bike.
"Our culture is obsessed with unsolved crimes," said Novick, who believes the 24-hour news cycle and seemingly unlimited content has created an insatiable appetite for new information. "I don't think it will go away. I think it will go on for as long as it remains unsolved."
This, he thinks, is the real story - how we have twisted a 22-year-old tragedy into a slice of pure horror-movie entertainment.