Things You Didn't Know About JonBenet Ramsey's Brother

In 1996, the murder of 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey became one of the most talked about unsolved mysteries of the decade. Ramsey was found dead in her home in Boulder, Colo. on the morning of Dec. 26th. The last time the family reported seeing JonBenét alive was Christmas night. According to the Denver Post, parents Patsy and John Ramsey called police after finding a two-page ransom note asking for $118,000 in exchange for the return of their daughter. Later that afternoon, John found JonBenét's body in the family basement. She'd reportedly been strangled and bound with duct tape.

As the investigation continued, John, Patsy, and even JonBenét's 9-year-old brother, Burke Ramsey, were considered suspects in the crime. In 1999, a grand jury moved to indict John and Patsy on charges of child abuse resulting in death, but those charges never materialized. In 2008, in light of new DNA information, a judge ordered all immediate members of the Ramsey family cleared of all charges.

Though some 1,500 pieces of evidence have been recovered, JonBenét's case has grown cold, but now, at age 29, Burke has broken his decades-long silence through a series of interviews with talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw. As the 20th anniversary of his sister's death approaches, the world is wondering who Burke has become and why he suddenly decided to speak up.

Why he's speaking out

Two decades after his sister's death and 10 years after mom Patsy died of ovarian cancer, Burke told Dr. Phil he's speaking out because "I want to honor [JonBenét's] memory...I don't want anyone to forget."

"For a long time the media made our lives crazy," he told Dr. Phil (via the New York Daily News). "It's hard to miss the cameras and news trucks in your front yard. We'd go to the supermarket sometimes and there'd be a tabloid with my picture [or] JonBenét's picture plastered on the front." Burke said, "Seeing that as a little kid is just kind of a chaotic nightmare, so I was very skeptical of any media, like, it just made me a very private person."

McGraw said Burke knew media attention would intensify as the 20th anniversary of his sister's death approached: "His thinking was, 'If that's going to happen, I want to control the narrative.'"

"I guess I kind of wanted to make it about remembering her, and not just another news story," Burke said.

Burke recalls the day his sister disappeared

Burke told Dr. Phil that he didn't react much when he was initially told that his sister was missing. "I guess I kind of liked to avoid conflict," he said (via ABC News), "I guess part of me doesn't want to know what's going on."

As chaos erupted around him, Burke said he remained in bed. "The first thing I remember is my mom bursting into my room really frantic saying 'Oh my gosh, oh my gosh,' running around my room," he said (via Time). "I remember her saying, 'Where's my baby? Where's my baby?' I just laid there and didn't really know what else to do."

Eventually, John broke the terrible news to his son. Burke recalled that moment too. "My dad told me JonBenét is in heaven now, and he started crying, then I started crying."

Burke knew he and his parents were suspects

Patsy and John railed against the absurdity of accusing—or even submitting for questioning—their son over the murder of his sister. In a 2016 A&E documentary called The Killing of JonBenét: The Truth Uncovered, John said (via People), "The accusation that Burke somehow was this violent 9-year-old, 60-pound child and he bashed in JonBenét's head and that Patsy and I staged the whole thing to protect him is laughable."

"I know people think I did it; that my parents did it," Burke told Dr. Phil (via E! News). "I know that we were suspects."

That theory, "blows my mind," he said (via Bustle). "You won't find any evidence because that's not what happened." Burke noted, "There's been a few people who've said it's not even physically possible for a nine-year-old to do that."

Burke also dismissed claims that Patsy may have penned the ransom note found in their home. Though he said he'd never read the entire letter, he had seen pictures of the handwriting and thought it was "too sloppy" to have been written by his mom. "She would always bug me about good handwriting and she would like make me re-write stuff to have good handwriting," he told Dr. Phil (via the Mirror).

Viewers may find his demeanor disturbing

Audiences watching the Dr. Phil interview and correlating footage may be put off by Burke's behavior. "There will be dark content, and he is smiling, and 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," McGraw told the Today show. "But understand, from the time that this happened, his parents, depending on your interpretation, either protected him or hid him, based on how you want to interpret that. He has not had the social contact most kids have growing up." He's essentially spent two decades off the grid.

Body language expert Jan Hargrave said Burke's demeanor may demonstrate a sign of anxiety. "He's thinking that if I do this pleasantness they will like me," she said (via Click 2 Houston), "but I think it's really a facade for anxiety that he is feeling deeply inside." Hargrave didn't infer one way or the other if she thought Burke was lying about his recollection of the tragedy.

According to McGraw's interview with Today, Burke now works remotely as a software engineer and doesn't have much personal interaction with others.

Burke recalls his sister's viewing

Burke admitted that he can still see in his mind's eye what his sister's body looked like at her service. "I remember the viewing," he said. "The casket was small [and] her eyes were closed. I think one of her eyes was a little bit, like, droopy," he told Dr. Phil (via Inside Edition). "That was weird. That was traumatizing, a little bit."

"I remember my parents being really upset," he said. "I remember my dad leaning down to give her a kiss."

Was Burke paid for this interview?

According to ABC News, Burke was paid for his interview with Dr. Phil though no amount or additional details were reported. Past news stories have suggested associated expenses incurred by guests are also paid by the program, and tabloids have alleged that certain high-profile guests are compensated tens of thousands of dollars for their appearances.

What's Burke up to now?

Over the last two decades, Burke has staked out a very private but seemingly productive life. He graduated from Purdue University in 2010 and works in the high-tech industry.

In 2012, John told People magazine that his son went through therapy and has gone on to lead a pretty quiet life with a girlfriend and a good job. "He's certainly matured," said John. "He's got a 401(k) plan and an IRA, and he did it all on his own."

Burke thinks a pedophile murdered JonBenét

Burke told Dr. Phil (via Bustle) that he thinks his sister's murderer was "a pedophile who saw her in one of the pageants and snuck in [the family's home]." According to Yahoo! TV, authorities reported in 2008 that male DNA was found in JonBenét's underwear that did not match that of anyone in the Ramsey family. The source of that DNA has never been identified. Burke said he's hopeful law enforcement officials will someday solve the case. "You gotta never give up," he said.

John Ramsey blames himself

JonBenét's father holds himself responsible for his daughter's death, telling Dr. Phil (via E! Online) that he thinks his daughter was murdered to punish him. "I sadly, and regretfully believe that, yes," John said.

Just days before the murder, John's company, Access Graphics, was featured in a high-profile article touting its record-breaking billion-dollar sales mark. John said he regrets publicizing that information and drawing attention to his family.

"In retrospect, I could have done two things differently," he said. "One is to be sure that we lived in a very secure house. We thought we lived in a very safe community. It was an old house, had lots of windows and doors." The second thing? "It's a good idea to be as anonymous as you can," John said. "Don't let your head rise up above the crowd, because there are people that will target you."

John insisted his appearance on Dr. Phil would be his last media interview about his daughter's case.

Burke still communicates with his sister

Burke told Dr. Phil (via ET Online) that he believed his sister watched over him from beyond the grave. "Sometimes I would talk to her," he said. "If there's some important thing I was doing, like, 'Hey, thanks for looking out for me,'...or, you know, 'Hope you're having fun up there,' because I'm taking some test or, you know, like, 'Wish I was up there right now.'"