JonBenet Ramsey, shown in a 1996 photo from the book "The National… (Talk Miramax Books )
JonBenet Ramsey's father, John Ramsey, has finally acknowledged what many Americans have long wanted to hear: He regrets showcasing his daughter in beauty pageants and parades. He also suggests that putting the girl front-and-center in the public eye might have contributed to the 6-year-old's killing.
"We were so naïve," he told ABC. "I now believe with all my heart that it’s not a good idea to put your child on public display." Ramsey is currently promoting his new book, out Wednesday, about his struggle to recover from the death of his daughter, who would now be 21.
John Ramsey said he's haunted, in particular, by an incident that occurred just before the girl's slaying, which took place the day after Christmas in 1996.
"Patsy had her sitting atop a friend’s convertible in the Christmas parade waving at the people lining the streets," Ramsey told ABC. "Patsy’s mother later told me that a strange man approached the car during the parade and it made her uncomfortable. I think about these things now and it makes me cringe."
He said he regrets going along with the decision by his late wife, Patsy -- a former beauty queen herself -- to enter the girl in pageants. "Only because -- that possibly might have drawn attention to us," he told ABC. He offered up these words of advice to parents: "There could be evil around you. ... Keep your kids protected."
John Ramsey and his late wife, Patsy, have been officially cleared of any wrongdoing in their daughter's death all those years ago. The couple learned their daughter was missing when Patsy Ramsey woke up on Dec. 26, 1996, to find a ransom note demanding a quizzical sum: $118,000. She ran to her daughter's bedroom, only to find it empty.
The child's lifeless body would be found hours later in the basement of the family's elegant Boulder, Colo., home. Authorities determined that the child had been taken from her bed in the middle of the night, struck on the head, and strangled. The case instantly became tabloid fodder, riveting the nation.
The death remains unsolved.
At the time, JonBenet and Patsy Ramsey's hobby offered a window into what was then the little-known world of child beauty pageants. The interest helped pave the way for shows such as TLC's "Toddlers & Tiaras."
Indeed, it's hard to watch the show without recalling JonBenet Ramsey in pageant poses that struck many people as eerie and creepily sexualized. A photo of Jon Benet -- her head coyly tilted, with glossy pink lips, heavily made-up eyes and fake lashes -- became the mental image of the girl for most Americans.
John Ramsey said he does not watch the TLC show, but finds it disturbing. "It’s very bizarre," he said. He said his wife and daughter had a more carefree approach to it. "We -- they just did it for fun."
John Ramsey says he remembers his daughter in a different light -- as a tomboy who enjoyed hiking and playing with her brother. “I see her, you know, in shorts and T-shirt and hair kind of scruffy and just kind of a kid,” he said.
Ramsey was a well-to-do businessman at the time of his daughter's death. The case had a devastating effect on his career as well as his family's life, as suspicion was initially cast upon them.
His new book is called "The Other Side of Suffering: The Father of JonBenet Ramsey Tells the Story of His Journey from Grief to Grace."