Monday, March 20, 2000

Today Show - Part 1


NBC News Transcripts, March 20, 2000

KATIE COURIC reporting:

It was the day after Christmas, 1996, when JonBenet Ramsey was found murdered in the basement of her own home. She was six years old. Her death became a national obsession. Ever since, her parents have lived under an umbrella of suspicion, never charged with a crime, but never ruled out as suspects. As troubling questions swirled around them, for the most part the Ramseys remained silent, until now. In a new book called "The Death of Innocence," the Ramseys tell their version of that Christmas night and the investigation that followed. I sat down with them recently and all this week we'll bring you that interview. By the time we're through, you may feel even more strongly about their guilt or innocence. But before you decide, listen to their entire story.

First question, why this book and why now?

Mr. JOHN RAMSEY: Well the book was our opportunity, we thought, to tell our story. A horrible story has been told about our family, and JonBenet, for that matter, for the last three years. And we wanted to tell the story. But more importantly, we still want to find the killer of our daughter.

COURIC: You've never talked publicly about Christmas, 1996.

Mr. RAMSEY: Correct.

COURIC: Describe your house as you did in the book that Christmas morning.

Ms. PATSY RAMSEY: Well, it was just like any other Christmas morning. The kids are always up before you really want them to be up. And then, you know, when you finally say, 'OK,' boom, there they go, down into the living room and dive into their stacks of things from Santa Claus.

COURIC: JonBenet got a bicycle.

Mr. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

Ms. RAMSEY: Yes.

COURIC: She was excited about that bicycle.

Ms. RAMSEY: Yep.

Mr. RAMSEY: Yeah, it was--she was very excited about it.

COURIC: That afternoon you left for a party at the home of Fleet and Priscilla White, which I understand was becoming a bit of a family tradition for you all.

Ms. RAMSEY: Well, we had spent Christmas dinner with them the--the previous year. So I guess it was the--the second annual invitation to dinner. So we went over there and Priscilla had a lovely dinner, and it was a really fun evening.

COURIC: Did you all lock the doors and turn the alarm system on when you left?

Mr. RAMSEY: We normally did not use the alarm system. It was a very--it was an older alarm system that was put in the house by the previous owner, and it had this huge siren inside the house. And it was an ear-piercing siren, so we didn't--sadly, we didn't use it.

COURIC: What time was it that you got home?

Mr. RAMSEY: Oh, I don't remember. It was...

Ms. RAMSEY: It was...

Mr. RAMSEY: Ninish, probably.

Ms. RAMSEY: JonBenet had fallen asleep. She had fallen asleep in the back of the car by the time we got home.

COURIC: Did she ever wake up? Tell me what happened once you got her home.

Ms. RAMSEY: We put her to--John carried her up to bed, and then I, you know, kind of got her undressed and pulled her pajama pants on. They were kind of long underwear pants that were in her pajama drawer. She was sound asleep. Tucked her in bed, kissed her good night, said the prayers, and...

COURIC: You said your prayers.

Ms. RAMSEY: I said my prayers over her and tucked her in bed.

COURIC: That was really the last thing.

Ms. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: Your last interaction with her.

Ms. RAMSEY: Right.

COURIC: You took melatonin that night, which is, I guess, an herbal sleep aid. You write in the book, unfortunately, you slept very soundly.

Mr. RAMSEY: Yeah, soundly, I slept too soundly.

COURIC: You heard nothing that night?

Ms. RAMSEY: I heard nothing that night, Katie. Nothing. I'll never--I mean, I've asked God that a million times. Why didn't I wake up? Why didn't I hear something? I don't know why. I don't know why, but I am telling you I didn't hear a thing. Nothing.

COURIC: The next morning, John and Patsy woke up around 5:30 to get ready for a family trip to their home in Charlevoix, Michigan. What did you do when you woke up?

Ms. RAMSEY: Just hustled around, and got dressed, and pulled on the clothes I'd had on the day before, and quickly got ready, went down to the--our--our bedroom is on the third floor. Went down to the second floor, and I looked at JonBenet's door and noticed that it was just seemingly the way I'd left it, you know, the night before. So I headed on down the spiral staircase toward the kitchen. And as I got near to the bottom of the stair, I saw three pieces of paper laid out neatly on the stairway there.

COURIC: Next to each other?

Ms. RAMSEY: Yes, mm-hmm. And I began to read--read the note, and first, didn't really understand what it was, or--but soon, it came to the part where it said, 'We have your daughter.' And I just, you know, was horror--horrified. And I went running back up the stairs as fast as I could and pushed her door open, and she wasn't in her bed.

COURIC: Let me backtrack for a moment if I could, Patsy. Why--you put on the same clothes you had on...

Ms. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: ...Christmas day the next morning. Some people have said that's strange.

Ms. RAMSEY: Strange?

COURIC: She got up, she put makeup on, and yet, when she got dressed, she grabbed the same clothes. Maybe that means she was up all night.

Ms. RAMSEY: If you would talk to any number of my friends, they'd confirm that I wear the same thing several days in a row sometimes. It was really not anything out of the ordinary.

COURIC: Another point I just want to clarify. Apparently, it's been reported that you've given two different versions of when you actually looked in at JonBenet. One, that you looked in on her before you saw the ransom note.

Ms. RAMSEY: Absolutely not.

COURIC: What did you hear?

Mr. RAMSEY: I heard Patsy scream my name, and I could tell by the scream that something was very, very wrong.

Ms. RAMSEY: Desperate. You just feel desperate.

Mr. RAMSEY: Horrible, it was horrible.

Ms. RAMSEY: You don't know what to do first.

COURIC: The ransom note left by the supposed kidnapper ran three pages long and demanded a very specific sum of money. Not a million dollars, or $ 10 million, but just $ 118,000. It was signed mysteriously with the initials "S.B.T.C." What struck you about this ransom note as you read the words?

Mr. RAMSEY: Very brutal talk about, 'You will not see your daughter alive if you don't follow our instructions. She will be beheaded.'

Ms. RAMSEY: Well, then you realize right away that you're totally helpless, and you need, you need help. You need to call 911. And that's what we did.

COURIC: While all this was transpiring, your son Burke, who was nine, what was he doing?

Ms. RAMSEY: He was asleep in his room.

COURIC: And Burke and JonBenet's bedrooms were one floor below yours?

Ms. RAMSEY: Yeah.

Mr. RAMSEY: Correct. Burke's was on--Burke's was below ours directly. JonBenet's was--it was at the other end of the house, but on the same floor as Burke's.

COURIC: The note had some very specific warnings, as you well know. Quote, "If we catch you talking to a stray dog, she dies." It also says you were under constant scrutiny. Did that make you nervous to call the police, to call your friends?

Mr. RAMSEY: No, we had to do something. It never crossed my mind to not call for help.

COURIC: On the morning of December, 26th, Boulder police responded to a report of a kidnapping at 755 15th Street. Soon the Ramsey house was full of police officers and family friends, all waiting for word from the kidnapper. Describe your state of mind during those hours when your friends first arrived and police first arrived on the scene.

Ms. RAMSEY: Nothing felt real. I was just--I just couldn't believe what was happening.

Mr. RAMSEY: For me, I felt that I want--I had to keep my wits about me. I could get JonBenet back if I did everything that I possibly could.

Ms. RAMSEY: I lost complete track of time. I mean, I sat in this chair clutching a cross that was part of a Christmas decoration, praying. And I just kept expecting her to come running down the sidewalk.

COURIC: Detective Linda Arndt was assigned to the Ramsey home during those long hours. Sometime that morning, John Ramsey headed for the basement. Why did you go there?

Mr. RAMSEY: We had a basement window that was under a--a grate, a removable grate that I had used the past summer to get into the house when I'd lost my keys. I--I wanted to check that window. I went down to that room. The window was open. It was broken. I went back upstairs and reported that to Detective Arndt.

COURIC: You did tell her about the...

Mr. RAMSEY: Yes.

COURIC: window?

Mr. RAMSEY: I did.

COURIC: And what did she say?

Mr. RAMSEY: I don't recall that she said anything.

COURIC: You were going through your mail at one point, and Detective Arndt later used this fact to say that you were basically a little too cool, calm and collected under these circumstances.

Mr. RAMSEY: Again, that is ridiculous. And the question I would ask the police is why didn't you do that? I went through those envelopes to see if there was any communication, an additional communication from the kidnapper.

COURIC: Around 1:00, Detective Arndt asked Ramsey and his friend Fleet White to search the house for anything suspicious. So you started...

Mr. RAMSEY: Started in the basement.


Mr. RAMSEY: I wanted to do a complete search. The basement was the logical place to start. That's where there was entry and exit points.

COURIC: Behind the boiler was the latched door of a room known as the wine cellar.

Mr. RAMSEY: I opened the latch, opened the door, knew immediately what I'd found. I saw a white blanket, and I guess it was instant. I knew that I'd found JonBenet. And I was--it was a rush of thankfulness, that her eyes were closed, and there was tape over her mouth, and her hands were bound above her head. And I immediately pulled the tape off her lips and sensed that there was going to be trouble, that this was not--I was--I didn't know at the time that she was dead, but I--her body was cool, and I picked her up and ran upstairs with her, and all I could do was scream. If you've ever had a dream where you're--you're frightened, but all you can do in the dream is scream, that's how I felt, and that's all I could do was just scream.

COURIC: You brought her upstairs and you put her on the floor...

Mr. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: ...of the living room?

Mr. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: Patsy, when did you learn that John had found JonBenet?

Ms. RAMSEY: Well, at the--I was in--when I heard him scream, I was standing in the little den. And I just heard this blood-curdling scream. And, you know, I said, 'What, what is it?' And my friend made me--made me stay in that room. She said, 'Wait, don't--don't, just wait.' And I kept just struggling and finally, you know, went into the living room, and John was standing there with Linda Arndt. And--and I looked down and there she--she was lying there.

COURIC: How do you describe that feeling?

Ms. RAMSEY: I can't describe it. Don't want to believe it, you know? Just not supposed to happen.

COURIC: And from that moment on your lives would never be the same.

Mr. RAMSEY: No, no. They will never be the same.

Ms. RAMSEY: Never.

COURIC: Tomorrow, as we continue with John and Patsy Ramsey, we'll talk about the evidence that made them suspects in the first place, and ask them why it took so long for them to talk with police. We'll be back in a moment. This is TODAY on NBC.

Tuesday, March 21, 2000 - Today Show - Part 2