I’m sorry, but this is disturbing.
Recently, CBS announced a series that will reinvestigate the 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey: The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey. Following a rash of popular true crime series (Making a Murderer, The Jinx, Serial, The Night Of), such shows are practically guaranteed an audience. Interestingly, JonBenét’s brother Burke — age 9 at the time of her death — had already agreed to be interviewed by psychologist and TV host Dr. Phil McGraw. Clips of those interviews are available, and the more video of (a now 29-year-old) Burke I see, the more disturbed I am.
Of course, armchair psychology/detectiving isn’t exactly reliable, but, as fellow human beings, we do give and receive impressions of each other; it’s instinctive to assess each other. Ramsey’s nervous smiling throughout Dr. Phil’s questions aside, when you read McGraw’s excuses for the behavior, it’s equally curious:
People are going to see this throughout the entire interview, really unusual affect, either smiling or laughing. This is a very socially awkward young man, but understand that from the time this happened, his parents — depending on your interpretation — either protected him or hid him, based on how you want to interpret that. So, he has not had the social contact that most kids have growing up … even now, he works as a computer analyst, in computer security, but he works remotely; he doesn’t go into work every day. He’s not around people. So, he’s not real comfortable in a social situation. So, speaking out, for him, was a very difficult and unusual thing.
DUDE. I know these people. I live with a computer dude (who has, on and off, worked remotely). I do get exactly what you’re saying about socially awkward people, and that sometimes such people smile inappropriately, but this goes beyond that. This is … creepy. Sure, it may be because of his upbringing, his parents, the way they sheltered him, etc. Clearly, the whole family was a little different from average; the whole child beauty pageant business reads as off to many, while, for them, it may have felt completely natural and normal. We get that this is not an average scenario, and that a young child was thrust into an impossibly horrific personal and public situation. However, this is also a kid who, two years before JonBenét died, reportedly hit his sister with a golf club; that kind of thing immediately sets off some alarms. And, for someone who’s been in the middle of his family’s utter anguish for nearly 20 years, of his parents being accused and stories about his own involvement, is it truly credible that Burke has never ever read the entire ransom note? “I don’t think I’ve read the whole thing, I’ve definitely seen pictures of it, though.”
He tells Dr. Phil about omitting JonBenét from a family photo he drew (shortly after the murder) while being observed by a psychologist: “I don’t really remember what was going through my head, but she was gone, so I didn’t draw her.”
Burke talks about staying in bed while his mother, Patsy, was “going psycho.” One of the detectives claims that reports Burke was heard on the 911 call are “pure fiction,” but there seem to be conflicting reports.
Adding up what we see in McGraw’s clips, no matter how much I might want to see Burke Ramsey as completely innocent and not in any way involved in his sister being hurt or killed, these videos make it extremely difficult. Is it fair to try to assess his guilt or innocence from a series of videos? No. Is it possible to have your opinion unswayed by them? You tell me.
The Dr. Phil interviews with Burke Ramsey continue September 19th.