Patsy Ramsey, who was thrust into the national spotlight by the unsolved 1996 slaying of her daughter, 6-year-old beauty pageant contestant JonBenet, died Saturday following a long battle with ovarian cancer, her lawyer said. She was 49.
Ramsey was diagnosed with the disease in 1993 and suffered a recurrence several years ago, attorney L. Lin Wood said. She died at her father's home in Roswell, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, with her husband, John, at her bedside.
"It is not unexpected but it is a sad day," Wood told The Associated Press.
JonBenet was found beaten and strangled in the basement of the family's home in Boulder, Colo., on Dec. 26, 1996.
Patsy Ramsey said she found a ransom note on the back staircase demanding $118,000 for the safe return of JonBenet. John Ramsey said he found his daughter's body in a basement room eight hours later.
Boulder police said early on that Patsy and John Ramsey were under an "umbrella of suspicion" in JonBenet's death. The Ramseys said an intruder killed their daughter. A grand jury investigation in Boulder ended with no indictments, and no arrests have been made in the case.
In 2003, U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes in Atlanta concluded that the evidence she reviewed suggested an intruder killed JonBenet. That opinion came with the judge's decision to dismiss a libel and slander lawsuit against the Ramseys by a freelance journalist, who the Ramseys had named as a suspect in their daughter's murder. The Boulder district attorney at the time said she agreed with Carnes' declaration.
"Hopefully her legacy will not be tied to the false accusation related to the brutal murder of her daughter," Wood said of Patsy Ramsey Saturday.
Scott Robinson, a Denver defense lawyer who has followed the case from the start, said JonBenet's killing is unlikely to ever be solved and accused police of mishandling the case by focusing on the Ramseys from the start.
"Once the forensic evidence was made public it was clear that the police accusation that they were under the umbrella of suspicion was not only unfair but insulting," Robinson said.
Patsy Ramsey was born in Parkersburg, W.Va., on Dec. 29, 1956. She was crowned Miss West Virginia in 1977.
"Those who were fortunate enough to really know Patsy didn't just like her, or admire her, but truly loved her," longtime friend Linda McLean of Parkersburg, W.Va., said in a statement Saturday. "She was probably the most beloved person I've met.
"Watching how she maintained her strong faith through all her heartache gave the rest of us strength," McLean said.
JonBenet was named after her father, with the name pronounced in a French-inspired manner as zhawn-ben-AY. She followed her mother into beauty pageants, learning how to walk, gesture and perform and collecting a wardrobe of elaborate costumes, including that of a Las Vegas showgirl and a cowgirl.
The little girl's titles included Little Miss Colorado; Little Miss Charlevoix, Mich.; Colorado State All-Star Kids Cover Girl; America's Royale Miss, and National Tiny Miss Beauty.
John and Patsy Ramsey left Colorado after JonBenet's death and wrote a book, "The Death of Innocence," which was published in 2000.
They had homes in Atlanta and in Michigan, where John Ramsey ran unsuccessfully for the Michigan House in 2004, finishing second among six candidates vying for the Republican nomination.
The Ramseys discussed their daughter's death during the campaign.
"We can't just hold our breath and hope the killer will be found and then go on with our lives," Patsy Ramsey said in 2004. "We have to move ahead now. We can't let evil win."
Patsy Ramsey is survived by her husband and their 19-year-old son, Burke.
She will be buried next to JonBenet in St. James Cemetery at Marietta, Ga., said Terry Pendley, owner of Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home in Marietta, Ga. Services were scheduled for Thursday.