Transcript by LizzieB

Paula Zahn
The Edge - April 17, 2000
Guest: Steve Thomas

Video of the Ramseys from Carol McKinley's recent interview, showing Patsy saying she did not kill her child.

PZ: And welcome back to The Edge. In Focus tonight, the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. John and Patsy Ramsey still maintain their innocence, but Steve Thomas, former lead detective on the case, says flat out that he thinks Patsy murdered her daughter. It's all in his new book, JonBenet: Inside the Ramsey Murder Investigation. He joins us tonight. Good to see you.

ST: Thank you.

PZ: Why are you so convinced that Patsy Ramsey killed her daughter when you didn't have a grand jury coming up with an indictment and you certainly have, according to the DA right now, no strong leads?

ST: Well, that's interesting, the DA's comments that there's no strong leads, because I never am sure which side of his mouth that he's talking out of. On one hand, he doesn't want to polygraph the Ramseys because it would jeopardize an intruder prosecution and then the next week, he says he's that he's 50% of the way there towards a prosecution.

PZ: They were actually encouraged to come to Denver recently to take a polygraph test, but then they made some demands that I guess the DA's office wasn't happy.

ST: Well, the police department, and to me it's just been more of the same that I encountered throughout this whole case. There has always been a flurry of negotiations whenever the police wanted anything and in this particular case, I think they were backed into a corner and then professed nationally, "We'll take a polygraph," but then added all these demands.

PZ: Okay, before we get caught up in DA Alex Hunter and your criticism of him, I'd like for you to outline your case against Patsy Ramsey tonight. Give us some credible evidence that suggests Mrs. Ramsey killed her own daughter.

ST: Well, this case, as much as the detectives wished we had a smoking gun or a definitive pieces of DNA evidence or a bloody fingerprint, was not a slam-dunk case. And around this country, circumstantial cases are filed every day by prosecutors. And this case became 30,000 pages of what I felt was a pretty compelling circumstantial case. And when you step back and take a macro-perspective of all the evidence in this case, and there was some overwhelming evidence, I thought, I think I drew some reasonable inferences.

PZ: Now, people outside the department basically say the police department blew it, and that's why you don't have credible DNA samples and saliva samples and other samples. Is that true? I mean, should the police department take any blame at all for not coming forward with more conclusive evidence.

ST: Absolutely, and I think the police department now does acknowledge how badly that first day was handled, how the integrity of the crime scene and the evidence was so compromised.

PZ: Compromised or completely contaminated?

ST: Well, that's a good question. Some say it was irreparably wrecked that first day, some say it took a punch but was left standing.

PZ: Well, what do you think?

ST: Well, I came in on day 3, and I'll tell you what I found remarkable when I was first briefed on the case, on the 28th of December, was what had gone on that first day and that the crime scene was compromised, but when my detective partner briefed me that the parents had retained separated counsel, separate criminal defense attorneys, I was just flabbergasted.

PZ: So what did that - set off an alarm in your head that said, "Wait a minute, we really should focus in on them as they key suspects."

ST: Well, in thirteen years as a police officer and as a detective, I'll say it this way, I always felt that victims tended to act like victims, suspects tended to act like suspects. And although that's not compelling or something that could be put forth, necessarily, in a court of law, the detectives of course wondered, "Is there some inherent conflict of interest that these people (1) aren't talking to the police but (2) have separate criminal defense attorneys?"

PZ: But in your book you go on to say that there is in your judgment more substantial evidence that would link Patsy to this crime, and you say the most compelling piece of evidence is the ransom note. You are 100% convinced she wrote that note?

ST: Undoubtedly the most compelling evidence in this case is the pen, the pad, the ransom note, and the handwriting. After almost two years of investigation in this case, when we finally did a presentation to the DA's office and presented this case, out of seventy-three suspects from whom we took handwriting samples, the questioned document examiner that we used said only one showed evidence to suggest authorship, the same one we could put in the house that night, and the same one no less than six questioned document examiners could eliminate her, not even the paid defense experts could eliminate her. And then there are some other issues, maybe far too long for what we have today.

PZ: Well, let me ask you this. If all of what you've said is true, and that is such a compelling piece of evidence, why didn't it shout louder to the grand jury or to Alex Hunter, the DA?

ST: Good question. This was the only case I can ever remember being involved in as a police officer in which probable cause wasn't an issue. We had sufficient facts and circumstances to make an arrest in this case, but due to the high profile of the case, the egos, and all the internal battles that continue throughout this case, an arrest wasn't made. And I can only suppose, because they didn't call me to the grand jury, that the grand jurors heard that same evidence. I think that leads a reasonable person to conclude that there was probable cause to indict.

PZ: Very quickly, walk us through what you think happened that night. They went to the party, and then from that point on, as quickly as you can, take us through what you think transpired.

ST: Sure. And again, what I do in just a couple of pages in the book is a hypothesis, one of many that detectives batted about, what may have happened in the case that night, but I think it takes a very simple explanation that's consistent with the evidence, I believe, to explain Patsy's involvement. Quite frankly, I think it's not rocket science. I think there was some sort of explosive encounter between mother and daughter, I think that Jon . . .

PZ: What could be so explosive that could cause a mother to kill her own child? What did JonBenet Ramsey do wrong?

ST: Well, let me cite this statistic. The Department of Justice notes that in the twenty years following 1976, 11,000 parents were involved in the killing of a child. And I ask you, did any of those parents have horns? People have this inherent belief that a parent couldn't do something like this. And believe me, the detectives didn't want to think that, and this isn't just me saying this.

PZ: So you basically feel that some of us are born inherently evil, so we're fully capable of that? No?

ST: No, not at all. I say the public has an inherent belief that a parent couldn't do this. And in the book I say, "Nobody intended to kill this child." This wasn't a premeditated act. In fact, I think it was accidental, and by definition an accidental death lacks motive. Where I think the motive came in is in a cover-up that ensued.

PZ: Okay, but why would she have lashed out at JonBenet. You suggest in the book that she actually hit her head against something in the bathroom.

ST: And this isn't . . .

PZ: Because she was mad at her for, you think, wetting the bed?

ST: And this isn't a dumb cop talking here. I deferred to pediatric experts that we consulted in this case who told me that in their experience, in all the consultations that they had done, they had seen more than frequently toileting issues in children as one of the number one reasons that incite a parental rage that ends up with a child being dead.

PZ: You have to, on the other side of the break, explain to us, then, what transpired next. And of course, hat's the part of your story that's getting highly criticized by DA Alex Hunter, and I want to talk about that when we come back.


Video of Hunter on Zahn's show previously, calling Thomas obsessed, and talking about how Thomas is on medications.

PZ: And welcome back to The Edge. That was Boulder DA Alex Hunter on your book. We continue now with former lead detective on the case, Steve Thomas. All right, you heard what DA Hunter said, he said your judgment is clouded because you were on medication. What were you on?

ST: Oh, I can't believe he's pulling that card out now. That's the first I've heard of that.

PZ: Are you on some prescription medication that would in some way cloud your judgment psychologically, physically, medically?

ST: No, and this surprises me [Ed. Note: he appeared rattled, and I think meant to say DOESN'T surprise me] because it's a pattern of what he has continued and people in his office continue to do to try to smear me, because they knew I was going to tell the truth on this thing. They were quite afraid of this book because some of his behavior, I can't believe the Colorado Bar has not investigated some of his, what he did in this case.

PZ: Let's come back to that. What were you on that would even make him say something like that. Did he make it up altogether, or were you on any kind of prescription medication?

ST: No. Yes, absolutely. I have a thyroid condition like millions of Americans do, and I take a thyroid medicine. So I don't . . . Now that he's pulled that out, he's just hit an all-time new low.

PZ: He's also said that you were not a homicide detective, and suggested you were this rogue cop they took advantage of your access to these records and you're making them public before they should. He's basically calling you a bad guy.

ST: Yeah, of course he is. There aren't homicide investigators in Boulder. There aren't a lot of homicides in Boulder, and I was called in from an undercover narcotics assignment from vacation to come into this case. I didn't ask for this case. Yet, they gave me a lot of assignments, the Ramsey interviews, warrants to write in this case, and so forth, and now all of a sudden he's calling me a rogue cop. In fact, what I think he's trying to do, is to salvage something of a legacy, but his only legacy is going to be his embarrassing legacy and an absence of duty in this case. He's just unbelievable.

PZ: All right. I'm want to go back to your theory that you put forth in the book about Patsy Ramsey allegedly killing her daughter that night. You said you were convinced she wrote the ransom note. So what happened? You said something transpired in the bathroom, she didn't mean to kill JonBenet but she did, and then what?

ST: And again, I offer this as an hypothesis. Only the victim knows what happened, and she can't talk, and only the killer knows what happened, and he or she won't talk. But I think, through piecing some of this evidence together, I think the body was secreted in the basement. A number of things happened there . . .

PZ: Are you charging that Patsy Ramsey was the one to carry that body down?

ST: Certainly, unless there was somebody in the house with her that we're unaware of.

PZ: Do you charge that her husband had something to do with this?

ST: No, not at all. There was nothing to indicate to me that he was in involved in this. And I don't think it was much of a leap to make that, absent some conspiracy, the writer of the note is involved in the killing of the child. And I'm convinced, as are others, that she authored that note.

PZ: Well, as you know, Patsy Ramsey thinks your theory is full of bunk. And I want you to listen to what she said in a recent interview with our own Carol McKinley about who the real killer is.

Video of Patsy: We're looking for a male, we believe he's a pedophile, he had access to or owned a stun gun . . .

PZ: What about that possibility?

ST: Well, she makes two interesting points. One is the pedophile, and by all appearances they continue to say this was a kidnapping that went bad. One thing the FBI taught us was that ransom kidnappers kidnap for money. And pedophiles kidnap for molestation purposes. And they're two entirely different animals, so . . .

PZ: Do we know if JonBenet was sexually abused?

ST: Well, the experts that we consulted in this case wrote affidavits and stated in clear language that prior to the night she died, she had suffered previous vaginal trauma. So, as to who had frequent or unquestioned access to her to have perpetrated that is a question mark. We don't know.

PZ: The only other thing, that doesn't make sense, I think, to people who are trying to understand your theory, and you said the victim is dead and can't speak for herself, is why John Ramsey would go along with this plot that you allege. What was in it for him?

ST: Well, and as you know, he vehemently denies that - any involvement on his part or the part of his wife. But that's a million dollar question. Some have suggested that he was so enamored of his wife that she meant everything to him, that he saw her through rose-colored glasses. Others have suggested maybe he didn't want to ask. I don't know. He knows, but I feel that they know more than they have told authorities.

PZ: Quick answer, yes or no, will we ever see an indictment in this case?

ST: Never.

PZ: Not in your lifetime.

ST: No. Absolutely not.

PZ: Because of the combination of botched police work and, you say, bad work on the part of the DA?

ST: Oh, beyond bad work. But absent a confession by a remorseful killer, this case will absolutely not be charged by this DA.

PZ: Detective Thomas, thanks so much for dropping by tonight. We appreciate your time.