Patsy Ramsey
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News Obituary Article

Mother of JonBenet dies at 49 of cancer


In the last years of her life, Patsy Ramsey lived under the worldwide media glare of personal pain and tabloid innuendo.

On the day after Christmas 1996, her daughter JonBenet, a 6-year-old beauty pageant winner, was found murdered --- beaten and strangled in the family's stately home in Boulder, Colo.

Even after the couple moved to Atlanta, the place of JonBenet's birth, the questions followed. Who killed JonBenet? What did her parents know about the murder? Did Patsy Ramsey kill her own child?

Amid the questions, Patsy Ramsey faced another challenge: ovarian cancer. Before dawn Saturday, Patsy, 49, died in her father's Roswell home, said the family's longtime attorney, Lin Wood. Her husband, John, was by her side, Wood said. The couple lived in Michigan but returned to the Atlanta area a couple of months ago as Patsy Ramsey's condition worsened.

Diagnosed in 1993, Patsy took an aggressive form of treatment that removed the cancer, Wood said. The cancer returned in January 2002, Wood said. Patsy wrote about her emotions on having ovarian cancer in a book about JonBenet's murder.

"I knew I was staring death in the face," she wrote in the book, "The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet's Murder and How Its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth." "I wanted to be mad at someone for doing this to me . . ."

Patsy said she turned to her faith.

"We're going to beat this together, God and me and the chemo[therapy]," she wrote.

Funeral arrangements had not been finalized by Saturday afternoon. Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Homes in Marietta said it was handling the preparations. The Associated Press quoted a funeral home spokesman as saying Patsy would be buried next to JonBenet at St. James Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta.

Boulder police named the Ramseys as suspects. Although never charged in the still-unsolved slaying, they lived under suspicion fanned by television tabloid shows and supermarket tabloids --- even after a judge hearing a civil suit related to the case said the Ramseys were innocent. Wood recognized the suspicions had become Patsy's legacy.

"I think it's a tragedy," he said. "She's going to be remembered as someone who was falsely accused."

The murder remains an open case for Boulder County prosecutors. On Saturday, District Attorney Mary Lacy declined to discuss specifics about its investigation, but said the Ramseys had been helpful and praised Patsy Ramsey for her battle against cancer.

"They were 100 percent cooperative with our office," Lacy said.

Along with O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers, the JonBenet Ramsey case was part of the initial wave of made-for-cable TV news true crime stories. The Ramseys were successful and wealthy. Their daughter was adorable, with her bouncing blond hair and fancy costumes, smiling as she performed in beauty contests. The case was a mystery.

The Ramseys claimed they had no involvement in their daughter's death, eventually proclaiming their innocence in their book.

They filed a $65 million libel and defamation claim against a former Boulder police detective who wrote a book accusing Patsy Ramsey of murdering JonBenet and claiming John Ramsey helped cover up the crime.

On Saturday, Bill Wise, a Boulder prosecutor who worked on the case for several years, recalled counting about 100 Web sites devoted to the case. Most, he said, accused the Ramseys of some involvement in JonBenet's death.

In another legal dispute, the Ramseys had a measure of vindication when U.S. District Court Judge Julie Carnes wrote in a ruling that there was no evidence the couple had killed JonBenet. The more likely scenario, she wrote, was that the killer was an intruder.

Initially, Wise suspected someone in the family. Over time, he said, his viewpoint changed, primarily because DNA evidence found on JonBenet's body could not be connected to any relatives.

Wise never talked to Patsy Ramsey, but after hearing about her death, the now retired prosecutor thought about Patsy dying before her daughter's killer could be found.

"It's a sad thing," he said.

© 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Published in Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Jun. 25, 2006.