Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Today Show - Part 2


NBC News Transcripts, March 21, 2000

KATIE COURIC reporting:

Yesterday, John and Patsy Ramsey told us their version of what happened December 26th, 1996, the day their daughter JonBenet was found brutally murdered in the basement of their home. This morning, the investigation that followed, why the Ramseys waited so long to talk to police, and at what point they went from being seen as grieving parents to prime suspects.

Up until the point JonBenet's body was found, and really for a period of time following that, the police treated you all as victims. When did you sense their view of you going from victims to suspects?

Mr. JOHN RAMSEY: Well, we didn't realize that probably till a week later. But it was--that change occurred, I believe, on the 26th of December. The real tragedy of this investigation was that it ended on December 26th with the conclusion that, first, I did it, and then later it switched to Patsy.

Ms. PATSY RAMSEY: And they kept saying that we were acting strangely or something. I don't know what acting strangely is.

Mr. RAMSEY: It was a flawed theory. The--the Boulder police were not experienced in homicides. They were not experienced in child murders. They were not experienced in kidnappings. I don't hold any of that against them. What I do fault them for is refusing to help in the beginning from people who knew what they were doing. The FBI, the Denver police, all of whom had a lot more experience.

COURIC: Murder was rare in laid-back Boulder, and crime experts say perhaps that explains the almost universal criticism of the Boulder Police Department. Criticism that errors were made, like leaving just one detective on duty at the Ramsey home, letting the Ramseys and their friends mingle and wander freely through the house. And the gravest mistake, they say, allowing John Ramsey himself to discover the body. One problem which we've heard about repeatedly is that the crime scene was contaminated.

Mr. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: That because you removed the duct tape, because you took JonBenet in your arms and took her upstairs.

Mr. RAMSEY: But what would you have done if you had just found your daughter in the basement, in a grinding room in a cellar? If the police expected me to say, 'Oops, I better not touch this, this is a crime scene,' they're crazy. That was my daughter. I found her. I wanted to take her back in my arms.

COURIC: But let me ask you about what outside observers consider as the biggest mistake police made, and that was that they didn't separate you and interview you the moment they arrived.

Mr. RAMSEY: At the very beginning.

Ms. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm. I...

COURIC: In fact, that they were...

Ms. RAMSEY: I agree.

COURIC: ...too nice to you. They treated you with kid gloves because you were these fine, upstanding, wealthy members of the community.

Mr. RAMSEY: We would have, in retrospect, been better protected had they interviewed us in the beginning, had they taken us to the police station in the beginning, had they taken our clothes in the beginning.

Ms. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

Mr. RAMSEY: By not doing that, they did as much damage to our ability to prove our innocence as they did to damage the ability to solve the crime.

COURIC: Would you have been willing to--to be separated...

Ms. RAMSEY: Absolutely.

Mr. RAMSEY: Certainly.

COURIC: ...and interviewed on the spot?

Mr. RAMSEY: Sure. Absolutely.

Ms. RAMSEY: Absolutely.

COURIC: And yet when they asked you to go to the police station on December 27th, you basically refused.

Mr. RAMSEY: We--let's clarify that. By this time, the house we were staying in was surrounded by cameras and reporters and photographers. And I said, 'Can't you please come here? We can't leave this house now.'

COURIC: With all due respect, though, if this had happened to my daughter, and the police...

Mr. RAMSEY: You can't say that, though, because it hasn't happened to your daughter.

Ms. RAMSEY: And you don't know.

Mr. RAMSEY: And you can't put yourself in my shoes.

COURIC: Many people might think, 'Gosh, I would do anything necessary.'

Mr. RAMSEY: And we--we...

COURIC: 'And if the police want me at the police station, then that's where I'm going to go. Who cares about these cameras? We've...

Mr. RAMSEY: Patsy would...

COURIC: '...got to do what we've got to do.'

Mr. RAMSEY: Patsy would have had to have been taken out on a stretcher.

Ms. RAMSEY: I had to remind them.

Mr. RAMSEY: She could hardly walk.

Ms. RAMSEY: I was...

COURIC: Were you on medication at that time?

Ms. RAMSEY: I was. I was--I mean, I just can't describe to you how I was. I had lost the most precious thing in the world to me. And I was in no condition to go anywhere. I couldn't even talk hardly.

COURIC: Did you all take a lie detector test?

Mr. RAMSEY: We were never asked to take a lie detector test. That's another...

COURIC: Why not volunteer to take one?

Mr. RAMSEY: It didn't occur to me, first of all. That wasn't our motive.

Ms. RAMSEY: I understand that lie detector tests are not admissible in court anyway. It's kind of a voodoo science.

Mr. RAMSEY: I would, if I was asked, certainly I would. But the fact is, I was never asked.

COURIC: And you never volunteered?

Mr. RAMSEY: I never volunteered. It never crossed my mind. I was not interested in proving my innocence. I was interested in finding the killer of my daughter.

COURIC: In your book, you--you've written what you call a chronicle of cooperation. But let me give you, to challenge that, a chronicle of uncooperation. In January, you'll answer questions but only from the officers your attorney chooses, and only at your attorney's office, and Patsy can only be interviewed for one hour. Police then cancel an interview in April, because the FBI concludes that the conditions they've agreed on with you would make it unproductive. In other words, ground rules. These things don't seem to add up to a great deal of cooperation with the authorities.

Mr. RAMSEY: Well, you've got to understand what our predicament was. We realized within a week that we were the only targets in the investigation. And any good attorney will tell the police, 'Look, if you're trying to get my client, go ahead and prove it, but you're not going to talk to my client.' The police concluded on December 26th that it must have been the parents, because it's always the parents, and that became their conclusion. They solved the crime, and then they just tried--tried to prove it. So it was a very difficult predicament for us.

COURIC: When we come back, the evidence that points to John and Patsy Ramsey. ***

COURIC: Continuing now with John and Patsy Ramsey. They say that, in the months following JonBenet's death, they cooperated with the authorities as much as any grieving family could be expected to. But the Boulder police didn't see it that way. The Ramseys did not submit to a formal police interview until April of 1997, four months after the murder. Under the Fifth Amendment, they were under no obligation to talk with police at all. But police felt increasingly they had something to hide. Without ever being charged as suspects, they had hired two separate attorneys within weeks of the crime. In fact, that fact raised red flags.

Mr. RAMSEY: Absolutely.

Ms. RAMSEY: Oh, yeah.

Mr. RAMSEY: That fact probably was the kiss of death with the police.

COURIC: Do you wish you hadn't hired these lawyers?

Mr. RAMSEY: Oh, we're...

Ms. RAMSEY: Absolutely not.

Mr. RAMSEY: No, we were thankful.

Ms. RAMSEY: When we were first introduced to them, we said, why do we need an attorney? You know, I mean, why are they here?

Mr. RAMSEY: We had no idea why we needed an attorney.

Ms. RAMSEY: But let me tell you something...

Mr. RAMSEY: We didn't know why we needed two attorneys.

Ms. RAMSEY: ...in this country, if you're guilty, you need an attorney. But if you are innocent, you had better have the best attorney that you can find. Because if somebody decides that they are out to get you, you are helpless without someone who knows the law.

COURIC: You all say you were targeted right away.

Mr. RAMSEY: Yes.

COURIC: That police ruled out all other suspects. Do you seriously believe that?

Mr. RAMSEY: Absolutely.

COURIC: They ruled everybody out?

Mr. RAMSEY: I am convinced of that.

COURIC: They say they conducted at least 600 interviews, investigated about 70 people as possible suspects, along with an additional 54 convicted sex offenders. That doesn't sound...

Mr. RAMSEY: Yeah, well...

COURIC: ...as if they excluded everybody else but you.

Mr. RAMSEY: Their--their stated strategy in this case, stated publicly by the chief of detectives, Commander Eller, was that this was an elimination of the defense's investigation.

COURIC: So you think they were just going through the motions when they did all these interviews?

Mr. RAMSEY: Absolutely.

Ms. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

Mr. RAMSEY: Absolutely.

Ms. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: What Boulder's chief detective said was he was looking at leads and looking to dismantle any potential defense theories. To the Ramseys, the only potential defense John Eller hoped to dismantle was their own. You're a highly successful CEO, take-charge guy. Where was the outrage? Where was your effort to say, 'Hey, this is not true? You are terribly, tragically mistaken about what you think happened.

Mr. RAMSEY: Katie, I was devastated. I was crushed. I was in shock. I was in depression. I had lost my daughter.

COURIC: Many prosecutors, I think it's safe to say, not only believe that you all should have been included as suspects, but many prosecutors feel that you committed this crime.

Mr. RAMSEY: Why?

Ms. RAMSEY: Give me one reason. What have we ever done in our past that would give anyone reason to believe we'd kill our daughter?

Mr. RAMSEY: You know, a normal family does not live a normal life, wake up one--one night in--in the middle of the night, viciously slaughter their daughter, go back to bed, and go on living normally. That doesn't happen.

COURIC: And yet some things just don't make sense. There are no clear signs of forced entry, leading police to suspect the killer was no stranger. They also think the ransom note is bogus. Who would take the time to write a three-page note at the scene of the crime and risk being caught? And then there's the question of the 911 call. You called 911 at 5:52. Burke was asleep. And yet the tape of the 911, as you all know, was enhanced in a lab and revealed a conversation in the background, apparently, between you, John, and your son Burke.


COURIC: How you do explain this?

Mr. RAMSEY: The facts are that Patsy and I told the police that Burke, to our knowledge, was asleep and had been asleep until I got him up to go to Fleet White's house later that morning.

COURIC: So do you think this tape was somehow doctored or misinterpreted or what?

Ms. RAMSEY: I think it is.

Mr. RAMSEY: I don't know.

Ms. RAMSEY: It is.

Mr. RAMSEY: I--we've--we've never been allowed to hear it.

COURIC: Let me ask you about the ransom note. Why $ 118,000?

Mr. RAMSEY: Only the killer knows that.

COURIC: The same number as your bonus.

Mr. RAMSEY: Approximately the same.

COURIC: Give or take just a...

Mr. RAMSEY: Four hundred dollars.


Mr. RAMSEY: Yeah. That may be a clue, it may not. We don't know.

COURIC: Why a three-page note, written on a pad found in your house, with a pen...

Ms. RAMSEY: Why not?

COURIC: ...found in your house?

Ms. RAMSEY: If the fellow was in there from the time we left in the late afternoon to go to the White's, and returned, he was probably there for several hours.

COURIC: Why were the fibers on the duct tape found on JonBenet consistent with fibers from your clothes, Patsy?

Ms. RAMSEY: I don't know. And I don't...

Mr. RAMSEY: Again, what we heard was that there were--there were some microscopic fibers which were consistent with a sweater of Patsy's found on the duct tape. There was also a lot of other fibers found on the duct tape.

COURIC: The press has reported that there was trace blood on JonBenet's underwear that didn't match you or anyone in your family, that there was DNA under her fingernails that didn't match anyone in your family. Now, this evidence should have been exculpatory, it should have basically been used to clear your name. But experts say the problem is none of it can be dated. In other words, it could have taken place long before the actual murder occurred.

Mr. RAMSEY: I look at the DNA as a huge clue. My belief is that that's the killer's DNA.

COURIC: It was reported that a team of investigators spent some time in your house, and that afterwards one of them said that a stranger entering for the first time would need a map and a guide to find his way through that house.

Ms. RAMSEY: Not true.

Mr. RAMSEY: Well, it was a complex house. But it wasn't that complex. And we believe the killer was in the house. We were gone for, what, four hours, five hours that night.

COURIC: And how did the killer get in?

Mr. RAMSEY: We don't know for sure.

Ms. RAMSEY: We don't know exactly.

Mr. RAMSEY: But we know that there was an open window. We know that there was an open door. We believe that the window in the basement was either an entry point or an exit point or both.

COURIC: Tomorrow, who was JonBenet Ramsey? The little girl behind the beauty pageant footage. We'll be right back.

Wednesday, March 22, 2000 - Today Show - Part 3