True Crime Cases From The '90s That Still Haunt Us Today

Many true crime cases from the '90s are still talked about today, from the notorious homicides of JonBenet Ramsey and Tupac Shakur, to events such as the Oklahoma City bombing and Waco siege. Although the offenders in some of these cases were found, such as in the strike on Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, many other cases have never been solved despite the efforts of law enforcement, including the disappearance of Amy Lynn Bradley.

Regardless, in one way or another, these are the biggest stories from the decade that continue to haunt us to this day.

  • JonBenet Ramsey Was Slain, 1996

    JonBenet Ramsey Was Slain, 1996
    Photo: Taurusrus / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    On December 26, 1996, Patsy Ramsey and John Bennett Ramsey, the parents of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, woke early for an upcoming trip to find their daughter missing from her bed and a ransom note asking for $118,000. Police arrived just before 6 am to begin the search, and her body was discovered in the basement of the family's home in Boulder, CO. It was later determined she had been asphyxiated from being strangled.

    Despite early police involvement, the home was not properly treated like a crime scene. JonBenet's room was the only one taped off, allowing people to walk in all other areas of the home. In the search for JonBenet, friends and family touched and moved objects around the house that might have been used as evidence, including her body. JonBenet's father had been instructed by law enforcement to look in the basement, and when he found her body, he picked her up and carried her upstairs.  

    As of 2022, the case remains open and unsolved. The family was initially under suspicion because the ransom amount was nearly identical to the amount JonBenet's father had received as a bonus. The parents were found guilty of child endangerment by a jury, then cleared by the prosecutor. The physical evidence found at the scene included a boot print, broken basement window, and unknown male DNA found on her clothing, which suggested an intruder. 

  • O.J. Simpson's Trial Took Place, 1994-95
    Photo: Los Angeles Police Department / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were stabbed in Los Angeles on the evening of June 12, 1994. Police quickly began to suspect Brown Simpson’s ex-husband, former NFL running back and TV personality O.J. Simpson. When he was made aware of potentially being charged, Simpson hid in the back of his friend’s vehicle for over an hour while police followed closely behind. The chase was televised nationally. 

    Simpson was eventually captured, detained, and charged with both slayings. During the trial, which lasted eight months, the prosecution’s case included pointing out Simpson’s mistreatment of his ex-wife after their separation and what seemed like incriminating evidence: a bloody glove found on Simpson’s property. The defense’s case focused on law enforcement mishandling the investigation due to racism and evidence-planting. Defense attorneys also demonstrated the glove appeared to be too small for Simpson.

    Public opinion was split during the televised trial. On October 3, 1995, Simpson was found not guilty of killing his ex-wife and her friend. However, a year later, in October 1996, Simpson was sued by the victims' families. He was charged and found guilty in a civil trial for the wrongful deaths of both and ordered to pay their families $33.5 million. 

  • Rodney King was on parole for robbery when police chased him through the freeways and streets of Los Angeles in March 1991. After King was caught by police, officers kicked and beat him with batons, leaving him with multiple broken teeth and bones, including skull fractures that caused brain damage. The event was caught on camera by someone who lived nearby. 

    In April 1992, four of the officers were put on trial for use of excessive force and found to be not guilty. Within hours, riots broke out across the city. Tensions between the LAPD and Black community, as well as members of other minority communities, intensified. Stores and restaurants were looted, fires were set, and some residents were removed from their vehicles and beaten. 

    LAPD officers did not immediately respond, and troops from the National Guard were called in. On May 1, King himself asked everybody if they could “just get along,” but the riots did not stop. The event led to $1 billion in property damage, more than 6,000 arrests, more than 2,000 people injured, and 50 people dead. In 1993, after a federal trial to determine if King's civil rights had been violated, two of the officers went to prison for 30 months, and the other two officers were found not guilty, but fired from the LAPD. 

  • The Federal Building In Oklahoma City Was Bombed, 1995
    Photo: Staff Sergeant Preston Chasteen / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    In Oklahoma City, just after 9 am on April 19, 1995, a homemade bomb made of fertilizer, diesel fuel, and other chemicals went off, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more. It had been set off in a rental truck parked in front of the Murrah Federal Building, which was destroyed. 

    The next day, FBI agents located an axle of the truck and were able to determine the vehicle identification number, which was traced to a body shop in Kansas. Employees there helped create a composite drawing of the man who rented the vehicle, determined to be Timothy McVeigh. Surprisingly, McVeigh was already in jail, having earlier been pulled over and detained for possessing concealed arms.

    McVeigh had traces of chemicals used in the incendiary device on his clothing and expressed extremist ideologies. Law enforcement officers determined two other men were aware of McVeigh’s plan. McVeigh was charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder, conspiracy to use arms of mass destruction, and destruction with incendiary materials. On June 11, 2001, he was executed. 

  • In 1981, David Koresh (previously known as Vernon Howell) became a member of the Branch Davidians, a religious group he later become the leader of. In February 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had a search warrant for a potential unlawful arms cache at the property where the community lived near Waco, TX. But when ATF officers attempted to raid the compound, gunfire broke out and 10 lives were lost: five ATF agents and five Branch Davidian members. 

    The incident led to a standoff between FBI agents and the Branch Davidians that lasted 51 days. FBI agents attempted many tactics to gain access to the compound, including negotiating with Koresh for 60 hours and playing extremely loud music nonstop to prevent the members from sleeping. They also moved tanks, combat vehicles, and nearly 900 law enforcement personnel onto the property. 

    On April 19, the FBI changed tactics, choosing to strike the compound with tear gas and tanks. During the FBI's maneuver, a fire started, taking the lives of 75 Branch Davidians and their leader, Koresh. Only nine members survived. 

    It is unknown if the fire was the result of the FBI's actions or intentionally set by the Branch Davidians. The case led to a variety of opinions on whether the FBI operated within its lawful bounds or went too far. 

  • The Notorious B.I.G. And Tupac Shakur Perished In Drive-By Shootings, 1996-97

    On March 9, 1997, musician Chris Wallace, AKA the Notorious B.I.G. and Biggie Smalls, lost his life in a shooting on the streets of Los Angeles. Although his shooter has never been found, many theories have cropped up about who might have been responsible. 

    At the time, rappers from the West and East coasts were feuding with each other, and just months before Wallace’s passing, leading West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur was targeted in a drive-by shooting. Because Wallace was the most notable rapper from the East Coast at the time, it was inferred he might have had something to do with Shakur’s passing. 

    Also, three years earlier, Shakur had been fired at multiple times during a robbery at a recording studio. Shakur, in his songs and statements, said Wallace was involved in the event. Though Shakur was not alive at the time Wallace perished, rumors circulated the head of his label, Marion “Suge” Knight from Death Row Records, might have organized Wallace’s dispatch as an attempt to get even. Despite the rumors of who was involved, no updates have been made in the case.