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September 11, 2001
|NBC Today Show with Katie CouricSmit
Lou Smit Interview April 30, 2001
Did an intruder kill JonBenet?
Part 1 of 5 Part Series
|Transcript from The Today Show
"April 30 - While there is a widely held public perception that the family of JonBenet Ramsey was responsible for her death, a detective involved in the investigation believes the evidence suggests that an intruder killed JonBenet. Until today, Colorado detective Lou Smit, and two other people who were part of the JonBenet Ramsey investigation, have never spoken out before. In Part One of our special report, Smith talks to Katie Couric about why he believes an intruder was involved."
THIS IS THE IMAGE most Americans have of JonBenet Ramsey — a little girl in makeup and high heels competing in a beauty pageant. But there is a JonBenet Americans don’t know — a 6-year-old girl who her parents say loved ice skating, playing with dolls and spending time outdoors.
JonBenet’s brutal murder on Christmas night 1996 and the circumstances surrounding her death have made her the most famous little girl in America, her face recognizable all over the world. Three and a half months after her slaying, the Boulder DA’s office called renowned Colorado detective Lou Smit out of retirement, and asked him to join the investigation.
Lou Smit: “I thought it was gonna be a slam dunk, Katie. Because most of the evidence seemed to be fairly out in the open. I thought I’d be involved in the case, perhaps for three or four months. Gather the case material, help present it to a grand jury. And that it would be over with. But it didn’t turn out to be that way.”
Walking around the Ramsey’s former home in Boulder, Lou Smit told me he quickly discovered he couldn’t believe everything he had heard — or seen, especially when he saw the crime scene photos, televised here for the first time.
Katie Couric: “A lot of people following the murder of JonBenet said it was probably the parents because there were no signs of forced entry. And that was one of the big things that came out early on. If not the parents, then who? And how did they get in? One of the big claims was, for example Lou, that there were no footprints in the snow.”
Lou Smit: “I even thought to myself, ‘How could anyone get into the house without leaving some type of a footprint in the snow?’ And then once we got the photographs, then you could see that there was no snow around the various doors and entry doors of the house.”
Couric: “Or the sidewalks.”
Smit: “Or on the sidewalks, either, that’s correct.”
Couric: “But the camera crews from across the street, when they were shooting the house, they did see what looked to be a snow-covered lawn.”
Smit: “Yes, and that’s the way it looked that particular shot. In the actual yard itself, there was snow on the grass, and there was snow more on the front of the house. But this area, which had been in the sun, there was no snow there.”
Couric: “So, the whole idea that no footprints meant no intruder to you was not necessarily true?”
Smit: “No, not once we’ve seen the photos.”
Couric: “You went into this case thinking the parents had committed this crime, or think there was a good chance they had.”
Smit: “Yes, but I still had an open mind the other way too Katie.”
Couric: “What was the first thing that you observed or saw in your investigation that lead you to believe hey maybe there’s somebody else who did this?”
Smit: “You know Katie it was the second day I was on the case. The very first photograph that I’d seen of that basement window — the window was wide open. And I said ‘Wait a minute take a look at that.’ That was one of the light bulbs that went off, and one of the red flags that I seen.”
Based on actual crime scene photos, again, being shown here for the first time, Detective Smit says there is evidence of debris being moved on the middle window sill, the same window Smit believes an intruder could have entered.
Katie Couric: “I remember reading several law enforcement officials saying, there’s just no way someone could get through this window. Can you show me how you believe someone could?”
Lou Smit: “Yes. I’ve been in there several times myself. And even a large person can get in there.”
Couric: “This grate is not the original grate. The original grate was taken for evidence, correct?”
Smit: “Yes. Yes.”
Couric: “Why don’t you show me how you believe it happened?”
(Smit begins to climb into the window well).
Smit: “You notice, Katie, too that this is an area that’s real hidden from view. There’s fences all around. This is a perfect place because nobody can see me here.”
(Smit opens the window, climbs inside and walks to the basement.)
According to Smit, there are other signs of a possible intruder — some as small as cobwebs missing from the edge of the window, a shoe scuff on the wall, imprints of a hi-tech sneaker in the wine cellar where JonBenet’s body was found, and a suitcase placed under the window to help someone get out.
The Boulder Police Department has contended it investigated all leads. But Smit insists the Boulder P.D. never really pursued the intruder theory.
Lou Smit: “The Boulder Police Department has focused on the Ramseys. Some people call it tunnel vision, perhaps that’s the case. They have just stopped at the Ramseys, plain and simple. They’ve gone to the Ramseys and they’ve stopped. Personally I believe very strongly that the Ramseys didn’t do this. Professionally I have to leave that door open and I will. And if there’s anything that comes into this investigation which would point to the parents, I’ll be the first one to step forward with that information.”
Detective Steve Ainsworth: “I have not seen any evidence that would be compelling to suggest that John and Patsy did kill their daughter at this point. And the evidence to me certainly suggests that someone other than them committed the murder.”
Detective Ainsworth of the Boulder Sherrif’s department, who worked the case with Smit, is speaking out for the first time. As is former Assistant District Attorney Trip Demueth.
Katie Couric: “Lou Smit believes there is the possibility that an intruder entered the Ramsey home. Is that a theory you think would have been worth pursuing?”
Trip Demueth: “In homicide investigations you need to make sure that you pursue every possibility or theory, if you will, especially since the burden of proof is to prove somebody’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Detective Smit believes if an intruder came in, it was while the Ramseys were at a Christmas party. Unsure how long he lay in wait, Smit believes the killer climbed the back stairs from the basement and entered JonBenet’s room after she had fallen asleep.
(Smith and Couric in JonBenet’s room)
Katie Couric: “Where was JonBenet’s bed in this bedroom?”
Lou Smit: “There was a bed here, another bed right over here. And I know that there’s been a theory that perhaps Patsy in a rage over some bed wetting scenario had struck JonBenet. And perhaps thought she was dead or dying.”
Steve Thomas, a former detective with the Boulder Police Department, wrote a book about the way he believes JonBenet was murdered. He alleges the little girl wet her bed that night, causing Patsy Ramsey to fly into a rage subsequently killing her daughter.
Lou Smit: “The photographs show that there is no bedwetting. The photograph shows no staining of those sheets. Lab reports don’t show any bedwetting or the sheets being urine stained.”
Smit says he was further convinced his intruder theory had merit because he could not find a motive for a member of the Ramsey family to kill JonBenet. Nor was there any indication of prior violent behavior.
Lou Smit: “There is no past behavior on the Ramseys’ part after four years and everybody in the world looking at them that shows that the Ramseys had any motive to kill their daughter. Or that they would go off the deep end.”
Katie Couric: “But in your experience, don’t good people sometimes do just terrible things? What about crimes of passion. crimes of anger, when people just for whatever reason snap?
Smit: “Yes that does happen.”
Couric: “And they are sort of model citizens, church-going, good people, solid individuals, everybody loved them, great neighbors.”
Smit: “Katie, you’re absolutely right. But usually when you look into the background of those cases there is a pathology there of some type. In the Ramseys case I can’t find any pathology at all.”
And he believes his theory is further supported by the fact that the Ramseys were a high-profile Boulder family, particularly in the days leading up to the murder. JonBenet was featured in a parade as little Miss Colorado on Dec. 6, and just five days before the murder there was a lengthy article in the Boulder paper about John Ramsey’s company, Access Graphics, reaching the billion dollar sales mark.
Lou Smit: “He was referred to as billionaire John Ramsey. The family was very highly profiled at about the time of the murder.”
Lou Smit is not alone in his intruder theory, or his view that the Boulder police department’s focus on the Ramseys is misguided.
Katie Couric: “A remark I commonly hear when the Ramsey case is being discussed in every office and home in America practically, ‘If not them, who?’ In other words, people believe they’re guilty, because there’s no other person in the picture. What’s wrong with looking at it that way?”
Detective Steve Ainsworth: “You can look at it that way. But having been inside the case for the time that I was, and seeing the information that is there, it doesn’t suggest that to me.”
Former Assistant D.A. Trip Demueth: “I’ve seen police agencies fix on one suspect, and believe they have the right person, and then I’ve watched them let go of that suspect when they develop other evidence and leads.”
Detective Smit believes the murder was committed by a male sexual predator, who was most likely obsessed with the 6-year-old girl.
Lou Smit: “JonBenet was a pedophile’s dream come true.”
Katie Couric: “What would you do if evidence surfaced that basically convicted John and Patsy Ramsey?”
Smit: “I would applaud it, because the case would be solved.”
Couric: “Would you be surprised?”
Smit: “I would be real surprised that there would be evidence. That’s why after all this time, I don’t think there is evidence. There’s nothing to indicate that. The hardest part is to get beyond the Ramseys with the law enforcement agencies and to pursue the killer, that’s the hard part. Yes, I would like to find the intruder and yes I believe an intruder is involved in this crime.”
If you’re asking yourself why the Boulder police department have never taken the intruder theory seriously, so are we. The Boulder police department refused to comment on or off the record for our series this week, and declined our repeated invitations to appear. We will be in contact with them every day this week in the hope that changes.
Tomorrow Detective Smit tells us why he believes a stun gun was used in JonBenet’s murder. We will be showing you new photographs the public has never seen before.
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