I finally got around to listening to the popular My Favorite Murder podcast, of course starting with their JonBenet Ramsey episode because I’m a cheap date that way, and I thought their discussion of the case was pretty solid as well as entertaining. The podcast was triggered by a recent CBS documentary about the case, which I didn’t see, and indeed I haven’t read much about this case after finishing Lawrence Schiller’s Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, so there was a fair amount of information that was new to me. The theory of the case in the CBS documentary is that Burke killed his sister, and his parents covered it up, which does explain a lot of the evidence. MFM podcaster Georgia Hardstark recapped the documentary for Elle magazine here and here. (I found some additional detail about the “grapefruit” here and, yeah, Burke was maybe a bit of a disturbed kid.)
I don’t really buy the conspiracy theories mentioned on the podcast about why charges were never brought, however. There’s just enough evidence for a possible intruder (the open house the Ramseys held shortly before the murder + the broken latch on a downstairs window) for reasonable doubt to prevail. It’s even possible the Ramseys just thought that Burke had killed JonBenet, and covered up an intruder’s act without realizing they were doing so. This is my Blood Simple theory of the case; whenever I re-watch that movie I try to decide at exactly which point the multiple iterations of cover-up make the crime scene completely uninterpretable to a police detective, and I’ve always had the feeling a similar series of bungled stagings etc. have stymied the JonBenet investigation.
In any case, it’s a reasonable decision to wait instead and see if anything definitive ever appears before holding a trial and bringing double jeopardy into effect. Burke or a family friend might one day come forward for example, though it might be a very long time before they do.