Fox News - The Edge - Monday, February 28, 2000

"Paula Zahn Interview with Larry Schiller - FOX"
Posted by jams on Feb-29-00 at 12:43 PM (EST)
LAST EDITED ON Feb-29-00 AT 12:46 PM (EST)

Paula Zahn, The Edge, Fox News, 2/28/00
Interview with Larry Schiller

Film clip from PMPT

PZ: It is one of the most infamous unsolved murder mysteries in years. Now, more than three years after her bizarre death, several new TV movies are trying to shed light on how and why 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey was killed. CBS's two part mini-series, Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, is based on author Lawrence Schiller's book. He wrote, produced, and directed the series. He joins me now from LA. Welcome back.

LS: Thank you.

PZ: Is there any new information in this mini-series?

LS: Well, I think there's new information throughout the entire mini-series that I directed, because after the book was published, a lot of members of law enforcement - detectives and those on the investigative side - came forward and gave me the minute details. And of course, then I gained access to Arndt's and French's police reports of that morning. So everything you see inside that house is taken from the historical documents.

PZ: Quickly walk us through what you see as the most significant findings of late.

LS: Well the most significant finding is actually exculpatory evidence because we now know, if there is an intruder, we now know for the first time why the intruder didn't just walk out the front door and why the child was brought down into the basement.

PZ: Why is that?

LS: And that is because every single door and the window from the inside looks as if it's tied to an alarm and the alarm system, as the second night of the mini-series points out, looks as if it's activated whether it is or is not. So the perpetrator, if it was an intruder, had no other place to go but down into that basement and out the basement window.

PZ: Now apparently Barbara Walters has just finished doing an interview with both Ramseys, and today she alluded to the fact that they have a simple explanation for those footprints outside that window. Can you give any information on that?

LS: Well, I think Barbara was referring to those footprints in the snow. And actually that is in my book, because John Fernie parked in the back of the house, ran to the side door, and then ran around the house, through the snow, up the path, to the front door, which we depict in the film. And therefore the famous footprints in the snow are John Fernie's footprints.

PZ: All right. So based on all this new information you've had a chance to assess, is it more likely or less likely that an intruder was involved in this murder?

LS: Well, based on the new evidence, it's more likely there was an intruder. This doesn't mean an intruder entered the house that evening. The intruder may have entered the house earlier - the day before or two days - and gained access through another means. See, the problem with the exculpatory evidence, whether it is the footprints next to the blanket, the palmprint on the door, is you can't date any of that. You cannot date the mark outside the window, the footprints, the open window, the scuff mark. You can't date any of that to the night of the murder. The only thing you can date to the night of the murder is that the ransom note was written on a pad of paper that was found inside the Ramsey house - a pad of paper that Patsy Ramsey used to write all of her notes on. And that's why the police from the get-go thought that Patsy Ramsey was involved in the death of her daughter.

PZ: Do you think she wrote that ransom note?

LS: I don't know. I'm not an expert. It's not up for me to make that type of a call. Eventually only a jury of twelve people can make that decision after they listen to all the expert testimony, which I'm sure will be on both sides of the fence.

PZ: But by now you, probably more than any other author that's worked on this story, has sifted through more information than just about anybody else. Who do you think killed JonBenet Ramsey?

LS: Well, after reviewing 1800 police documents, many of which are contained in the book and a lot more in the film, I can tell you that it had to be somebody who was familiar with the house, who had spent some time in that house, and had no fear of discovery - wasn't worried that a parent would come downstairs and catch them in some act, or wasn't worried that there might be a guest sleeping or a dog in the house that would come barking. So that person knew what was going on in the house that night, and you've got to make your own call based on that assessment.

PZ: That's what we're asking you to do tonight. Are you ruling out the parents, or are you saying there's a potential that either one of them was involved in the murder of their daughter?

LS: No. Look, there's always that eventually. Even Lou Smit, who believes the Ramseys are totally innocent, has said there is always the possibility they were involved in some aspect of the death of their daughter, and nobody knows what that is. I can tell you that even two days ago a woman came forward who was in Fleet White's home - that's the family that's very, very close to the Ramseys, Fleet White was with John Ramsey when the body was found, and so forth.

PZ: Was he the guy who played Santa Claus at one of the Christmas parties?

LS: No, no, that's Bill McReynolds. But somebody in Fleet White's home has come forward to DA Alex Hunter and said she knows who killed JonBenet. Well, three years later, why does she come forward now? Why didn't she come forward three years ago? You know, you have to question the motives of all these people. Bill McReynolds is the person who had played Santa for the Ramseys, who had been in the basement -- JonBenet herself had taken him actually into the wine cellar, he had complete access to the house. But the police say he is completely exonerated, and his wife, of being involved in the death of JonBenet. So you get right down to it that it's likely that it's somebody who knew that house, knew the family, and if that means a member of the family, you make that call. My job is not to do that. My job is to present to you all the evidence that the Boulder Police presented to the grand jury.

PZ: That's what we try to do every night. Let our viewers come up with their own decisions. Lawrence Schiller will be right back.

PZ: Welcome back. Do you think this case was doomed from the beginning because of sloppy police work?

LS: You know, I think the police allowed a lot of the Ramsey friends to run rampant through the house, and therefore a lot of the evidence was contaminated. You don't know what evidence is directly related to the crime and what evidence is related just to the living and the flow-through of that house. I think, more important, was that the police believed from day one that the Ramseys did it, and the DA from day one believed that there was a possibility they didn't do it. And these two areas of government, the police and the DA, went to war with each other, and for a long time the road to justice, finding the killer of JonBenet, was sidetracked. I think what is interesting in that clip, what you just showed, is very, very important. The roll of duct tape and the cord in which these pieces were cut from have never been found. If an intruder did enter the house, that would be the elements he would bring in, and those would be the elements he would take out. If he entered that house prior the murder, he would have an hour, a half hour, three hours even to write the ransom note. And there's nothing that says the ransom note was not written before the attempted kidnapping. A kidnapping that, something happened, and went astray, and became a murder.

PZ: But that would suggest that whoever this perpetrator was had to have access to that tablet that Patsy Ramsey used days in advance or a night in advance of this murder.

LS: Or the afternoon. And she left that tablet right by the kitchen counter with her pens there. Anybody walking through the house could have said, "Ah, I'm going to write the ransom note here. I'm going to write it based on other writings I see in the house so they can never trace the note to me." The one thing they can trace is the duct tape. He had no knowledge duct tape would be in the house. The other thing he had to bring in was cord. He'd have no knowledge whether cord would be in that house. But you always know there's going to be paper and pen.

PZ: But the suspect did not have to bring in a paintbrush that was also used in tightening the noose around her neck.

LS: Right, because he didn't even know he was going to kill the child at that time. You see, Lou Smit believes, and the Ramseys believe, that the perpetrator came in with the intent of kidnapping, then realized they couldn't get out of the house by a door, went down into the basement, and then something went wrong. The child either woke up and started to scream - and we do know that a neighbor heard a scream - and the child was silenced with a blow to the head and then garroted. Maybe the perpetrator for one moment said, "Ah, the child sees me, is going to be able to identify me. I've got to kill this child." Who knows? It's not for us to say.

PZ: Very quickly, in closing, the Ramseys are coming out with a book of their own. According to our own Carol McKinley, they point at three potential suspects, one including Santa Claus, somebody that worked for them, one who went home in bloody clothes, your reaction in 15 seconds or less.

LS: Jeff Merrick. The same three suspects that were named in our film that were in our book. Nothing's new in the Ramsey book.