(NEW YORK) — Burke Ramsey, the brother of JonBenet Ramsey, the 6-year-old beauty pageant queen found dead in her family home in Boulder, Colorado, nearly 20 years ago, spoke for the first time Monday in an exclusive interview on The Dr. Phil Show, explaining why he has stayed out of the public eye for so long.
“For the last 20 years, I wanted to grow up like a normal kid, which does not include going in front of TV cameras,” Burke Ramsey said.
He said that speaking at any point in the last two decades “seemed like it would rouse it all up again.”
He was 9 years old at the time of JonBenet’s murder. He and his parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, were the only other people known to be in the house at the time of the slaying, and for years after her death, they were plagued by a cloud of suspicion.
“For a long time, the media made our lives crazy. It [was] hard to miss the cameras and news trucks in your front yard,” he said. “They would follow us around. Seeing that as a little kid — it’s just kind of [a] chaotic nightmare, so I was pretty skeptical of any sort of media. Like, it just made me a very private person. As to why I’m doing it now, it’s the 20th anniversary, and [there’s] apparently still a lot of attention around it.”
Host Phil McGraw described the interview with Burke Ramsey — a three-part series kicking off the show’s 15th season — as “no holds barred.”
“There were no rules. He agreed to talk about anything and everything,” McGraw said Monday on ABC’s The View. “I asked him everything that anybody has ever wanted to know from this young man, and he does answer the questions.”
Burke Ramsey was reportedly paid for the interview.
The morning after Christmas in 1996, JonBenet Ramsey was reported missing by her parents after a ransom note was found in their home. Her body was later discovered in the basement. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was asphyxiation due to strangulation.
Burke Ramsey told McGraw that the last time he remembered seeing JonBenet was in the family car as they returned from a friend’s house. He said he didn’t remember hearing any sounds the night of her death.
“The first thing I remember is my mom bursting in my room really frantic, saying, like, ‘Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh,’ running around my room, looking for JonBenet,” Burke Ramsey told McGraw. “The next thing I remember is a police officer coming to my room and shining a flashlight.”
He said he remained in his bed because it felt “safer.”
“I guess I kind of like to avoid conflict,” he said. “I guess part of me doesn’t want to know what’s going on.”
He said eventually he went downstairs to the kitchen area, where others had gathered, and learned from detectives that his sister had disappeared.
“They said, ‘She’s missing’ … I think I was trying to be positive. I told the guy, I was like, ‘Uh, she’s probably hiding somewhere. Did you check the whole house? … Maybe she’s outside,'” Ramsey said.
He said he was taken to a friend’s home, where his father eventually went to give him the news of JonBenet’s death.
“My dad just said, ‘She’s in heaven now’ … I started crying. I don’t think I said anything,” Burke Ramsey said. “I didn’t believe it at first.”
JonBenet’s family members came under suspicion after she was found, though they maintained their innocence. Twelve years later, Boulder authorities exonerated the family and issued an apology. Patsy Ramsey died in 2006, three years before she and John Ramsey were exonerated.
This month, Boulder police announced that the investigation into JonBenet’s murder remains open as the 20th anniversary of her death approaches this December.
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