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“This case keeps on coming back,” says Lawrence Schiller, author of “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncensored Story of the Jon Benet Murder and the Grand Jury’s Search for the Final Truth,” considered the definitive biography of the case. “The tide goes out and it goes back in, and the police are hoping the next time it comes in, they may catch who did it.” The decades-long fascination with the Jon Benet murder, however, is perplexing.
Here we have the tragic progenitor of our “Toddlers & Tiaras” culture, a highly sexualized child many perceived as pushed on the stage by her mother, Patsy, a former beauty queen herself. “This case would have lasted in regional newspapers for one week if not for two elements,” Schiller says. Very simple: The police department said, ‘The parents did it,’ and a DA who said, ‘I’m not going to prosecute.’ ” True crime has been popular since tabloids emerged alongside Jack the Ripper, but it’s hard to recall a cultural moment such as this.
Most elaborate is the CBS special, which brings back old detectives and introduces new ones who move through a rebuilt Ramsey mansion, where the crime will be reenacted.
“Children are murdered every day,” says Harold Schechter, true-crime author and professor at Queens College. The Jon Benet case has a lot of the elements of the closed-room mystery: Everybody’s home, no apparent break-in.
In general, true crime speaks to these very dark places in our heads that none of us would consciously admit to.” Patsy Ramsey died in 2006, at age 49, of ovarian cancer.
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