Suspected killer of JonBenet Ramsey released from prison ahead of new docuseries about 1996 murder

 May 5, 2024

In 1996 and beyond, much of the nation was gripped by the media's coverage of the mysterious murder of 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey, a young beauty pageant queen found dead in the basement of her family's home in Boulder, Colorado.

It was revealed in March that a new limited documentary series about the Ramsey murder and subsequent still-unsolved investigation was in development, Variety reported at the time.

Left unmentioned by that report was whether or not that new series would feature the young girl's suspected killer, Gary Oliva, who was recently released from prison after serving time for unrelated criminal charges.

Will new documentary series include suspected killer?

According to the March 7 Variety report, the new project being jointly developed by MTV Entertainment Studios and 101 Studios "details the mysterious death and the surrounding media frenzy in the murder of JonBenét Ramsey, a case that captivated an entire nation and left us with more questions than answers."

The outlet noted that there have been "numerous theories" about the girl's unsolved death, including that a member of her family killed her, though legal authorities have since cleared them and some other potential suspects.

One possible suspect who has not been cleared -- in fact, he even confessed to the murder at one point, though he was never charged -- is Gary Oliva, who was spotted in public for the first time since being released from prison in late January after serving eight out of ten years for child pornography charges, according to a March 4 report from InTouch.

Oliva was seen "scowling" and attempting to disguise himself outside a halfway house in Denver where he was assigned to reside temporarily following his release from prison.

Oliva confessed to "accidental" killing of young girl he was obsessed with

InTouch reported that Oliva, 60, was long considered a possible suspect in the brutal murder of Ramsey, who was bludgeoned and strangled to death and found in the basement of her home by her parents on the morning of December 26, 1996. The parents also first found an alleged ransom note, which prompted a missing persons report before her body was discovered.

Letters sent over the years from Oliva to an old high school friend, Michael Vail, appeared to include a confession to the killing, though he insisted her death was an "accident," and further revealed a dark obsession that man had with the young beauty pageant queen.

In one particularly disturbing passage, Oliva wrote of Ramsey, "Just one look at her beautiful face, her glowing beautiful skin, and her divine God-body, I realized I was wrong to kill other kids. Yet by accident she died and it was my fault."

Slain girl's father speaks out following release of suspected "killer"

Colorado's Westword reported on March 20 that John Ramsey, JonBenét's father, has long been convinced that Oliva, formerly a "homeless drifter" from Oregon with ties to Boulder at the time of Ramsey's death, was his daughter's "killer." He had a criminal record in Oregon for sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl as well as for attempting to strangle his mother to death with a telephone cord.

Ramsey recalled how then-District Attorney Alex Hunter had told him to hire private investigators to look into Oliva since the Boulder Police -- who instead sought grand jury indictments against the parents -- refused to do so. Yet, while ample "circumstantial" evidence linked him to the murder, DNA evidence at the time was inconclusive.

That evidence includes Oliva living just a few houses down from the Ramseys at the time of the murder, his appearance at a first-anniversary candlelight vigil for the girl's death in 1997, his possession of hundreds of photos of her and newspaper clippings about her slaying, and, of course, his written confession to his friend, among other "compelling" bits of information.

Ramsey told Westword he wants "two things" to happen now -- first, new testing on all of the evidence collected from the scene of the crime, including DNA, using the "latest technology available," and second, "with the latest DNA result, use the public DNA database to try and develop a link to a person living in Boulder on December 25, 1996. I am very confident that if this work is done, we can identify the killer of my daughter."

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