Since Jeffrey Epstein’s death under mysterious circumstances last summer, conspiracy theorists of all stripes have been making hay with it, connecting any and all people who have ever been directly or indirectly associated with him to any and all criminal cases of the past 40 years. So it was only a matter of time before that happened with the case of JonBenét Ramsey, the six-year-old Colorado beauty queen who was found murdered in her home on Christmas Day 1996.
According to the theory, which first took root on Twitter and Reddit, a woman who closely resembles alleged Epstein procurer Ghislaine Maxwell (who was arrested by the FBI two weeks ago) is seen in the background of what is purported to be the last image of Ramsey alive. The theory also received a great deal of traction on TikTok, where the image supposedly showing Maxwell in the background was sometimes shared with the hashtag #pizzagate:
A photo of JonBenét Ramsey has been making its rounds due to what looks like Ghislaine Maxwell to the left of her.
JonBenét Ramsey case is still unsolved. If it is Ghislane will we finally know the truth? pic.twitter.com/TzQtjywKLx
— unspoken history (@Unspokenhistory) July 6, 2020
The theory was given further “credence” (a term used loosely in this context) when internet detectives sleuthed that Maxwell and the Ramsey family were both repped by the same law firm, the Denver-based firm Haddon, Morgan, and Foreman, though by different lawyers and more than 20 years apart. (The firm has also represented, among others, Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Sheen).
While the photo above is not the last known image of Jonbenet Ramsey (that would be this devastating photo taken just a few hours before her death), it is in fact a genuine photo of her, according to Snopes, which debunked the conspiracy theory. According to Snopes, it was first publicly seen in the A&E documentary, Hunting JonBenét’s Killer: The Untold Story, which premiered in April 2019. But it obviously goes without saying that, considering there’s absolutely zero evidence that Maxwell and the Ramseys knew each other, it’s highly doubtful the woman behind Ramsey is Ghislaine Maxwell; it’s far more likely she’s just a dark-haired lady who happens to look a little bit like her, from the side, at the exact moment the photo was taken.
In the interest of engaging even slightly with this theory, we did search for images of Maxwell on photo wire services dating from December 24th, 1996, only to find none (there is one of her with hotelier André Balazs in New York City on December 2nd of that year; coincidentally, December 25th, 1996 would have been Maxwell’s 35th birthday).
But even if someone were to unearth a photo of Ghislaine Maxwell sitting quietly in her New York City penthouse on the very hour that Ramsey was murdered, it’s unlikely that this particular theory would lose much oxygen, particularly among the more ardent conspiracy theorist sets. Both Ramsey and Maxwell have long been subjects of baseless speculation about their connections to other notable individuals — most famously, Ramsey is believed by a handful of paranoid types to be pop star Katy Perry, while Maxwell has been rumored, again without evidence, to be a popular Redditor — with the lurid nature of their cases garnering the type of tabloid interest that serves as fuel for such theories. Even in the face of absolutely zero evidence of the woman in the photo being Maxwell, some people will likely still believe it is, just because it’s preferable to living in a world where people do senseless things like abuse or kill children for no discernible reason.