Wednesday, March 22, 2000

Today Show - Part 3


NBC News Transcripts, March 22, 2000

KATIE COURIC reporting:

The image of JonBenet Ramsey, the little beauty queen, has been a tabloid staple since her murder three years ago. But what about JonBenet the little girl? Who was she? As we continue now with our interview with her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey talk about their faith, their personal trials, and their daughter. What was JonBenet like as a little girl?

Ms. PATSY RAMSEY: She was a ball of energy.

Mr. JOHN RAMSEY: She was a spark plug. She was the spark plug in our family.

COURIC: Her personality was more like yours?

Ms. RAMSEY: Probably so, mm-hmm.

COURIC: Very, what, outgoing?

Ms. RAMSEY: Outgoing. Just spontaneous, probably.

COURIC: You all brought some mementos of JonBenet's.

Ms. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: Why don't you just tell me about some of those things?

Ms. RAMSEY: Well, this was the little bonnet that she wore when she came home from the hospital.

COURIC: There's her handprint from when she was...

Ms. RAMSEY: Yes.

COURIC: How old?

Ms. RAMSEY: She was four years old at this point. This was made in preschool for Mother's Day. It just--it makes me feel good to put my hand there and know that she was there. This was a classroom contract, and the children all had to list things that they thought would be important in the classroom. JonBenet had number one, to be polite. And number two was to share toys. Number three said, be nice to your friends.

COURIC: It must be so hard, in a way, to look at these things.

Ms. RAMSEY: I remember the first day I found her backpack, and opened the little latch, and looked in, and everything was still in the backpack as she brought it home from school that last day of school in December of '96. And it was hard. It was really hard. Because it just seemed like--just seemed like yesterday. And I--I still have it just like that. I haven't taken anything out of the backpack.

COURIC: You were Miss West Virginia a few years ago.

Ms. RAMSEY: Several.

COURIC: And you brought JonBenet, I understand--you write about it in the book--to a reunion...

Ms. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: ...of Miss West Virginians.

Ms. RAMSEY: Right.
v COURIC: She was three and a half years old.

Ms. RAMSEY: She was.

COURIC: And she got a big kick out of it, you write.

Ms. RAMSEY: She loved it. As soon as we got back to Colorado, she said, 'When can I do that? I want to do that, too. I want to do that, too.'

COURIC: In fact, she used to play a game called "presenting?"

Ms. RAMSEY: Yes, she loved that. She--that's what she picked up and--and keyed in on from the night of the Miss West Virginia pageant, which she would make me narrate, you know, narrate. And she called that "let's play presenting." So I'd say, 'Presenting JonBenet Ramsey.' And JonBenet is wearing a pom-pom on her head and high heels and... (Pageant footage of JonBenet Ramsey is shown throughout report)

COURIC: JonBenet was a month shy of her fourth birthday when she entered her first pageant. Her mother initially did it on a lark, but later there were professional photographs, custom-made costumes, and singing and dancing lessons to help her compete. You sort of play down the whole pageant aspect of your lives a bit in the book, saying it was basically nine pageants. But some people might say, that's a lot of pageants for a little six-year-old girl.

Ms. RAMSEY: I don't really say that I downplay it. I say that it was one part of who JonBenet was. But she also liked to play softball, and climb rock climbing walls and ride bicycles and roller skate.

COURIC: What did you think of the whole beauty pageant thing?

Mr. RAMSEY: I used to tell JonBenet, 'Look,' you know, 'This is just about having fun, and this is not about who's the prettiest or who has the prettiest dress on. But, you know, it's--work on your talent. That's what--that's what counts.' And so I would always try to go just to see the talent part.

COURIC: I'm sure you both know by now that this whole beauty pageant aspect of your lives has struck many people, who aren't in this world, as kind of weird. Some would say creepy, in fact, to take a little six-year-old girl and poof up her hair and put makeup on her and dress her up like a showgirl.

Ms. RAMSEY: Some people need to--to get a life. You know, we had a good time.

Mr. RAMSEY: Again, as a father of three girls, I know that little girls like to dress up. They like to put on lipstick. They like to wear mommy's high heels. That--this was just kind of an extension of that. And--and JonBenet had no stage fright.

COURIC: You wrote in the book, John, I was curious about this, that you were dismayed that some of her pageant photos had been doctored with heavy makeup. But, as part of the pageant, she would wear makeup, wouldn't she? I mean, you...

Mr. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

Ms. RAMSEY: Sure.

COURIC: Did you highlight her hair even? Or...

Ms. RAMSEY: Sure, yeah. I highlighted it gently to try to blend it a little bit. Yeah.

COURIC: That does seem to be sort of an issue, though, that has--that has influenced public opinion, that you had your daughter compete in beauty pageants.

Ms. RAMSEY: But does that translate, because you went with your daughter on the weekend to a talent show, does that translate to make us murderers? I mean, come on. I don't think so. It was something we enjoyed together. And I don't care what people say about it. It is a precious memory to me. And if she were alive, we'd probably still be doing it.

COURIC: When we come back, the Ramseys share less happy memories as they talk about earlier tragedy in their lives. That's right after this. ***

COURIC: Continuing now with John and Patsy Ramsey. They were wealthy and well-connected, lived in a large house and flew their own plane. But they had also had their share of personal pain. When John Ramsey married Patricia Paugh in 1980, it was his second trip to the altar. He'd already fathered three children, Beth, Melinda, and John Andrew. And as you're about to hear, when JonBenet was killed, it was the second time he'd had to cope with the death of a daughter. You lost your daughter Beth in 1992... Mr.


COURIC: a car accident. She was how old?

Mr. RAMSEY: She was 22. She'd just graduated from college. She was working as a Delta flight attendant. And it was--I can't imagine anything worse than to lose a child. I never thought I would. It just wasn't part of the plan.

COURIC: And then, you not only lose one daughter, but then another.

Mr. RAMSEY: Yes. I had thought that Beth was the burden that I had to carry, the loss of Beth. And when we lost JonBenet, it was almost more than I could take. And the fact that Beth's death was an accident, JonBenet's life was taken by another human being, that made it worse.

COURIC: I would think that would just push you over the edge.

Mr. RAMSEY: People ask us, how--'Well, how do you go on?' Well, we go on because we still have three wonderful children. And they need us to be strong. They suffered through this, too.

COURIC: Patsy, many people know that you survived cancer, but perhaps they don't know that when you were diagnosed, it was pretty dire.

Ms. RAMSEY: Yes, it was.

COURIC: Stage IV ovarian cancer.

Ms. RAMSEY: Right.

COURIC: And you had to do something quite aggressive and traumatic.

Ms. RAMSEY: I took my treatment at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

COURIC: Nine months?

Ms. RAMSEY: Nine months of chemotherapy, two abdominal surgeries, and by the grace of God I'm still here. I never thought I would have lived this long, truthfully. I never thought I would live to see JonBenet married or graduating from high school. I really didn't. And now, she was the one taken. I--you know, I struggle with that. And I've asked God a lot of times, why? Why?

COURIC: When you say, by the grace of God...

Ms. RAMSEY: Right.

COURIC: ...that's not just an expression for you.

Ms. RAMSEY: Right. We had a healing service in my bedroom in Colorado, and I believe and will believe till the day I meet Christ in the air that I was divinely healed. I think--I mean, two days later I had a CAT scan and all of the cancer was gone.

COURIC: Do you think your faith has been your greatest source of comfort through all this?

Mr. RAMSEY: We've been comforted by a lot of things, but certainly faith is the ultimate comfort. Because as we sit back and look at--and start asking yourself why, if you can't answer that from a foundation of faith, it's a hopeless answer.

Ms. RAMSEY: Yes, I didn't think we were going to make it. A lot of days when I thought I wouldn't live to see morning. But He said He will never leave us. And He has brought us through.

COURIC: You wrote quite poignantly, John, about a little pageant medallion...

Mr. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: ...that you got from the house after JonBenet died that you wear around your neck.

Mr. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: Do you wear that every day?

Mr. RAMSEY: Yes, I do. Wear it all the time, 24 hours a day.

COURIC: Can you show it to me? Or...

Mr. RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

COURIC: Is it possible to get under there and...

Mr. RAMSEY: It's--this medal JonBenet won at her last little pageant. It was the Christmas pageant in early December, and JonBenet had won the Overall Talent award. And she took it off and came over and put it around my neck. And it was just her way of saying, 'Dad, I did really good in my talent.' And after she died, I--I thought--I wanted--I want that medal. That's the one thing of hers I want. And Pam went over to the house, Patsy's sister, in those early days to get some things so we could go back to Atlanta for the funeral. And she came up to me, she says, 'I don't know why, but I had this strange sensation I needed to give you this medal.' It was this medal. And that was, to me, a message that JonBenet delivered that said, 'I'm OK.' Because only she and I knew the significance of that medal. And only she knew that--that that's what I wanted.

Ms. RAMSEY: And it belonged on her dad.

Mr. RAMSEY: So it's never left my neck.

COURIC: Tomorrow, the Ramseys talk about the lasting effects of spending three years under the so-called umbrella of suspicion. And we'll visit the Atlanta house they now call home. We'll be right back.

Thursday, March 23, 2000 - Today Show - Part 4