Does Lifetime's 'Who Killed JonBenét?' go too far?

Erin Jensen
Payton Lepinski as JonBenét Ramsey.

Like the O.J. Simpson trial earlier this year, the nearly 20-year-old death of JonBenét Ramsey was revisited through numerous television programs. Lifetime joined the likes of CBS, NBC, A&E, and Investigation Discovery, airing a four-hour block of programming devoted to that unfathomable December night in Boulder, Colo. beginning with its scripted movie Who Killed JonBenét?

But even those who have been intrigued by the unsolved mystery might’ve been unnerved by the irksome creative liberty the made for TV project took. The voiceover from the viewpoint of the six-year-old beauty queen was disturbing to say the least.

“This is kind of like a bedtime story,” the child’s narration begins, though we know the acts committed are not what fairytales are made of.

The voiceover is brought back several times throughout the movie: to point out, unlike a friend who hid from her parents as a prank, that JonBenét was not alive to play those typical childhood jokes.  Again, as a misguided attempt to heighten the drama of Detective Steve Thomas’ decision to resign from the police department, the voiceover makes an eerie reference. “Wait the detective isn’t supposed to quit,” the phantom JonBenét voice said. “He’s supposed to solve the puzzle. Why is he doing this? This isn’t how the story’s supposed to go.”

The narration was used again at the conclusion of the film when Detective Thomas visited JonBenét’s grave and apologized for not being able to find her killer. “I forgive you, Steve and I’m sorry too,” said the voiceover “Your life would’ve been better without me.”

“All the bedtime stories Mommy and Daddy read to me,” she continued, “had happy endings, but my story doesn’t have an ending at all, because it’s not a fairytale. It’s real life, and in the story of my life, the bad guys don’t get caught. The nice people don’t win, and I can’t click my ruby slippers and go back home.”

The cast of 'Who Killed JonBenét?' (left to right)  Kiefer O’Reilly, Michel Gill, Julia Campbell, and Payton Lepinski.

The last lines the voiceover uttered challenge the audience to find peace with her death, though her attacker(s) might never be brought to justice. “Maybe I can let go,” she said. “Can you?” But this attempt seems to be made in vain, especially since what followed the movie was a two-hour special titled JonBenet's Mother: Victim or Killer?.

Of course, many suspected Ramsey had something to do with her daughter’s death, so the movie wasn’t reaching, but it did seem like a convenient way to get its audience to stick around for two more hours of programming.

Other moments in the movie raise doubts about Ramsey's innocence. A police officer overheard Ramsey telling her friends the events of the morning of when she found JonBenét missing in a different order than she reported to the police. Priscilla White, who hosted the Ramseys on Christmas, said Ramsey was wearing the same clothes as the night before, indicating she might not have gone to bed. Later, White told her husband, Fleet, that damage on an exterior door that cops thought might’ve been a point of entry was known by Ramsey to be the result of John Ramsey’s attempt to enter the house without his key. White thought Ramsey wasn’t being completely honest with regard to the investigation.

Julia Campbell as Patsy Ramsey.

There were also moments when Ramsey’s actions seemed to incriminate herself as well.

“I didn’t kill my baby,” she told Detective Thomas while getting fingerprinted.

“No one said you did,” he responded.

While being evaluated at the Child Advocacy Center, JonBenét’s older brother Burke got angry when the interviewer drank from his soft drink can, alluding to the theory that Burke might’ve killed his sister. The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey which aired on in September on CBS, alleged Burke might’ve become enraged after JonBenét stole a piece of pineapple. Burke filed a $150 million defamation lawsuit Dr. Werner Spitz featured in the special last month.

“I can’t have anymore children,” Ramsey revealed to Detective Linda Arndt. “I had cancer surgery.” Ramsey went on to say, “If I lost Burke I would have no reason to go on living,” giving motive for a cover-up.

In the end, the movie just felt like another reason why we should finally let JonBenét rest.