Q&A: 15 Years After JonBenet Ramsey’s Death, a Father Looks Back

In two decades, John Ramsey lived through the death of his wife and both of his daughters. In a new memoir, he reflects on transcending personal tragedy through resilience and faith.

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Donna Svennevik / ABC / Getty Images
Donna Svennevik / ABC / Getty Images

John Ramsey, the father of JonBenet Ramsey, discusses his new book on "The View"

In a new memoir, The Other Side of Suffering, John Ramsey opens up about his family’s harrowing years. The 68-year-old revisits his horrific two decades, starting with the death of his 22-year-old daughter, Beth, who was killed in a car accident in 1992. Four years later, JonBenet, his youngest daughter, was murdered in the Ramseys’ Boulder, Colo., home, sparking a harsh media spotlight. In 2006, he laid his wife Patsy to rest after she succumbed to ovarian cancer. The since-remarried business consultant spoke to NewsFeed via email about past regrets, why he’s now open to learning new facts about the case and how he persevered through tragedy.

You have your own theories on what occurred when JonBenet was murdered in your Colorado home. What were your first thoughts about what happened?
I don’t know that I had specific thoughts. I was in complete shock.

When the focus was on your then 9-year-old son, Burke, as a suspect, how did you and your family cope?
The accusation that Burke could have murdered JonBenet was beyond absurd. She was brutally murdered with significant force. Burke was a 9-year-old child and anyone that thought he might be a suspect was foolish. There were no questions in our mind about his innocence.

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At one point, you were guarded on the idea of learning new facts about the case. What determined your being able to deal with it now?
One thing I was adamant about early on was that I did not want to see the autopsy report. It was too difficult to deal with those details. I still would not want to know those details, but if I had to hear it in context of a trial I could deal with it better now than I could have dealt with it then.

You’ve also been vocal about your past regrets, like allowing JonBenet to participate in pageants. What do you think about the TLC show Toddlers & Tiaras?
I’ve seen only a few snippets of the show and I think it’s pretty bizarre. It certainly is not the environment that I saw when Patsy and JonBenet were participating in pageants. It seems to have gotten a lot more intense.

What previously unknown parts of your life have you brought to light in the pages of your book?
The book was intended to share my faith journey through all of the turmoil and how I was impacted by what I’ve been through and how I dealt with some of the unanswerable questions like “why?” I have learned a lot in terms of what one should and shouldn’t do when their life is impacted by tragedy and I wanted to share those lessons with others who are grieving.

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Your 22-year-old daughter died in a car accident in 1992. Four years later, JonBenet was murdered and your wife Patsy died from ovarian cancer in 2006. How did you transcend through these personal tragedies and move forward with your life?
A friend posed a question to me a few years back — “John, do you believe the best days of your life are in front of you?” My first reaction was no. It wasn’t a bitter response, just honest based on how much loss I had experienced. He challenged that I needed to believe the best days were ahead of me. I spent a lot of time thinking about how one might achieve that when they’ve lost people in their life that they can’t get back, and that their hope depended upon [them]. Another important aspect looking back were the people that came into our lives.

I believe that God works through people and we saw people come into our lives that were God placed. I didn’t always recognize it at the time, but it’s obvious looking backwards. Those people helped us through a lot of critical moments. Finally, it is important to start building new memories in your memory bank. In some cases it requires you to step out in faith when you don’t feel like it. However, it’s so important because you can’t just dwell on past memories. I truly believe the best days of my life are ahead of me.

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