Larry King Live Transcript - October 27, 1999

When we come back, Governor Bill Owens, who had an extraordinary press conference in Colorado today, concerning the enigma that is the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Don't go away.


GOV. BILL OWENS (R), COLORADO: To the killers of JonBenet Ramsey, let me say this, you only think you have gotten away with murder. There is strong evidence to suggest who you are. I believe that investigators are moving closer to proving their case. They will keep pursuing you. And I'm confident that each day brings us closer to the day when you will reap what you have sown.



KING: Joining us now from Denver is Governor Bill Owens of Colorado. A very surprising press conference today in which the governor announced that not only will he not appoint a special prosecutor, but that there's new evidence and they're forging ahead, and he addressed the killers to say that you haven't gotten away with murder. Why plural, Governor Owens? You know something we don't know?

OWENS: Well, Larry, I had two purposes in terms of this press conference. The first was to walk through the reasons why I didn't believe a special prosecutor would help us over the short term bring this case to justice.

And the second was to let Colorado know that the work that the police and prosecutors have done in this case -- we have amassed a significant amount of evidence. That evidence is evidence that I hope someday will lead us to be able to prosecute this case. While it's not beyond a reasonable doubt, that's the standard that we have to meet here in terms of bringing a felony case to trial. I think that we're on the road, and I am hopeful that some point in the future we'll be able to bring this case to trial.

KING: So when they said they didn't have enough evidence, do you say that there's more you know than that they announced at that press conference a couple of weeks ago?

OWENS: No, no, no. I agree with their decision, and the prosecutor said that at this point, we don't have enough evidence to bring this case to trial. What I was really addressing is a feeling that seems to be out there that after three years and $2 million and all of these prosecutors and detectives working on the case, why is it that we can't bring it to prosecution, bring to it trial? Well, the reason is, is that the suspects in this case are very smart. They did a good job of covering their tracks. They made some mistakes. We have a lot of evidence, but again, it's not yet enough evidence to meet the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

KING: When you use the word "suspects" and you say to both parents, "Please come in and talk to us and cooperate with the police," I mean, it looks like you -- if it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck and it acts like a duck, you're saying it's a duck. They are the suspects, or am I putting words in your mouth?

OWENS: That would be -- well, that would be -- I would rather let the prosecutors characterize that. I think that it's...

KING: Well, what did you mean when you said it?

OWENS: ... well known...

KING: I'm sorry.

OWENS: Well, they're within the umbrella of suspicion is the way that the police chief has put it and I would characterize that, that way.

KING: What do you want them specifically to do?

OWENS: You know, we could use more assistance from the Ramseys. They have lawyered up early. In many cases, they have not been willing to talk to the police, to the prosecutors. My wife and I have three children, one of whom is almost the exact age of JonBenet that JonBenet would be today. Our 8-year-old is the age that JonBenet would have been had she lived. If this happened in our house, I wouldn't have handled it the way they have. I wouldn't have gone and got attorneys. I wouldn't have gotten a PR firm to represent me. I wouldn't have called and had the plane gassed up for an early departure. I would have said, "Tell me what you want to know. I am here to help. Take my DNA." You don't have to negotiate with me.

It's been a very difficult process working with the Ramseys, and I think that, that has delayed our ability to move on in this case.

KING: We spoke with Linda McLean tonight -- our staff did -- a very close friend of the Ramseys. She spoke to Patsy today. Patsy said she was in shock. She said, "Now, they're never going to find out who the killer was." What's your response to that? She's quoting, so I am giving to you second hand, but she's quoting Patsy.

OWENS: So Patsy Ramsey says because of my remarks today we're never going to find who the killer is? I don't understand that.

KING: Yes. She finally said, "Who is going to find my daughter's killer?" I guess meaning that you're implying that they're not going to cooperate. She said she was in shock and she said -- I guess, she expects the worst.

OWENS: Well, I don't what -- I really can't respond to what Mrs. Ramsey says. What I do know is, is that the prosecutors have done an incredible amount of work in this case along with the police. There were some mistakes made at the very start of this case. I think those mistakes have been rectified. There is a continuing investigation that's ongoing.

My purpose today in terms of the press conference was again, first of all, to announce my reasons for not calling a special prosecutor, and second, to suggest that there is a lot of evidence in this case that progress has been made, and I am hopeful that progress will continue to be made.

KING: I'll just tell you what Patsy told us. She had been out and not heard the news conference. When Linda told her about it, she was silent for a while and then she said, "Now, who is going to find my daughter's killer?" She said she realized she cared more than...

OWENS: Well, we are. You can tell...

KING: I'm sorry, go ahead.

OWENS: I was just going to say, I think that, hopefully, the prosecutors and the detectives on the case are going to find the killer, and I hope that Mrs. Ramsey will help us do that, as I said in my press conference, no matter where that trail may lead.

KING: Thank you, and of course, we were quoting, as we said twice, Linda McLean.

OWENS: Sure.

KING: We'll come right back with more of Governor Bill Owens of Colorado after this.



QUESTION: Governor, if you're saying that there's a reasonable belief that more than one person is involved, you're also saying the Ramseys should stop hiding behind their attorneys. It's well known that at least Patsy Ramsey was the target of the grand jury investigation. Aren't you implicitly saying John and Patsy Ramsey, in your view are in all likelihood responsible?

OWENS: No comment.


KING: Now, Governor, you said -- it seems the no comment was pointed, but you also said, based on the evidence available to me they're targeting the right murder suspects, and you said the investigators knew the identity of the suspects. Well, who else could you be talking about?

OWENS: Well, the investigators certainly know who the suspects are, because that's who they're working to develop a case on. There have been literally scores of suspects who have been examined in this case in terms of either calls that come in, men and women that have had DNA tests performed on them.

I think that there are right now several suspects and that's what I referred to. Again, I think that it's been badly misunderstood how much work has gone into this case, how much evidence has been amassed. I can't speak to that evidence, but I would suggest that the prosecution and the detectives have over the last three years not been idle. Unfortunately, they still haven't amassed the evidence that takes us beyond a reasonable doubt. That's the standard in Colorado...

KING: Were you...

OWENS: ... and that's -- go ahead.

KING: Standard everywhere. Are you impressed by the statement of the d.a. investigator Lou Smit, for 32 years of experience, who said that he thinks they're not guilty at all?

OWENS: You know, we -- I really can't comment on Mr. Smit, but I think that the investigators have considered his opinion, have considered the evidence that he presented in terms of a so-called stun gun, in terms of other allegations that Mr. Smit has made, and those have been investigated and unfortunately dismissed.

I mean, it would be great news if we could move this investigation and pursue real leads, but his leads didn't really pan out, it's my understanding.

KING: We'll take a break. And the key question will be -- and we'll ask it of you, governor: Do you think these killer or killers are going to be caught, apprehended and tried?

We'll be right back with our remaining moments of the governor of Colorado, Bill Owens, right after this.


KING: Governor, is this investigation going to lead to an arrest?

OWENS: You know, I hope so. At this point, it's difficult to say. Again, there's a lot of evidence, but they're still pursuing some leads, and I just -- I join all of Colorado and all the country hoping someday we bring these killers to justice.

KING: As a governor, you also have to admit ineptitude on the part of both prosecutors and police, at least early on, wouldn't you?

OWENS: Yes. Yes, in fact, they've admitted that. Both the prosecutor and the police chief have said, sure, there'd be things that they would do differently, things that weren't handled well the first time around.

KING: Who did you -- did you consult with the attorney general and others before making the decision that you didn't need a special prosecutor?

OWENS: You know, Larry, we had three other district attorneys that I asked to join me. We had the attorney general. We had a former chief judge of the Colorado Supreme Court. I am not an attorney, so I asked these experts to join with me. All of us interviewed the prosecution team, the police chief, the detective -- detectives involved in the case. All agreed with my decision. It was their recommendation, which I, then, concurred with, that we didn't have enough evidence to bring a case at this time. That's why I haven't called a special prosecutor.

KING: Everything, I guess, is considered political. There are some who might say, are you trying to distance yourself from this in some regard by, you know, not appointing a special prosecutor, stepping back?

OWENS: No. In fact, if I wanted to be political, I could have stepped back and not said that I, in fact, think that at this point, the investigation is on track. I've today said that while there were some initial mistakes, I'm confident that today's prosecutor -- today's -- the detectives working on the case are capable of doing the job. So quite the opposite of being political, easiest thing would have been to critique them, criticize them, and in fact, call for a special prosecutor.

KING: And, governor, just -- what you're saying also -- and I just want to repeat what you said earlier, that if this were you and this were your daughter and you did not commit this crime, you'd have reacted completely differently than the Ramseys have acted?

OWENS: Absolutely. If I woke up in the middle of the night, found my daughter missing, hours later found my child dead in the basement of our house, I would have handled it differently. I would have said, please do everything you need to eliminate me as a suspect so that you can go after the killer.

Take my DNA. Talk to me. Talk to my wife. Here's my address book. Tell me what you need from me, because I want you to eliminate me so that you can go after the killer. That isn't how the Ramseys acted. That doesn't, by itself, mean they're guilty, obviously.

But they did not act the way that I think most people would act who had the loss of a child within their house.

KING: You also said that the killers were -- and this is your quote -- smart, and they have stonewalled effectively and covered their tracks well. Meaning?

OWENS: Well, I think that the killers have, in fact -- I've said that they have made some mistakes, but they're also very smart, in terms of covering up. The way that the killers have left the crime scene, some of the things that have occurred within the house, where the killings -- where the killing took place, I think that they have done a good job of covering up the crime, and that's why three years later, we haven't been able to bring an indictment.

KING: Governor, frankly, has this been an embarrassment to Colorado?

OWENS: You know, it's -- certainly, I'm not as concerned about it being an embarrassment to Colorado; I'm concerned about the tragedy of having a child like JonBenet or any of our children murdered in such a way. That's what is driving us in this case, and whether it reflects on Colorado is almost incidental to the tragedy that we've all felt in terms of this senseless murder.

KING: And you're confident that that team of people that were in place before, in place now, are going to continue working with this evidence you say they have and gathering more evidence to hopefully bring this killer or as you say, killers to justice?

OWENS: I am hopeful that that's going to occur. And as you know, there have been significant changes on both the prosecution side and the police side since the initial days of this tragedy. There were changes in the police chief and some of the detectives on the case, also changes in terms of bringing in new prosecutors to look at this case anew. And so with the team that's been in place for the last year and half, I am confident that they are up to the job, if anybody is, of bringing these killers to justice. That's not to say that I am hopeful of an indictment in the short term, or the medium term or even ever, but if anybody can do it, I think we have a team in place now who can do it.

KING: Thank you, governor.

OWENS: Thank you.

KING: Governor Bill Owens, the governor of Colorado, appearing with us tonight following that news conference today.