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September 11, 2001
|NBC Today Show with Katie CouricSmit
Lou Smit Interview May 2, 2001
Detective Smit: JonBenet was strangled
Part 3 of 5 Part Series
|Transcript from The Today Show
May 2 — On day three of our exclusive in-depth look at the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, veteran homicide detective Lou Smit expands on his theory that, contrary to popular belief, JonBenet’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, did not commit this crime. Smit believes — based on 18 months investigating the case for the Boulder district attorney’s office — that somehow an intruder killed the 6-year-old girl, by strangling her in the basement of her family’s home. Once again, we will be showing you evidence (see video clip above), including autopsy photos, that has never been seen before. We should note that some of it is graphic and may be quite disturbing. Even John and Patsy Ramsey have not seen this material, though they are aware we’ll be showing it.
THIS IS THE HOUSE where John and Patsy Ramsey lived in Boulder, Colorado, and this is the room in the basement where, according to homicide detective Lou Smit, the most gruesome aspects of the slaying occurred on Christmas night, four and a half years ago.
Smit’s theory is that JonBenet was stun-gunned in her bedroom, then brought to the basement, sexually assaulted, strangled with a garrotte and struck by a brutal blow to the head — in that order.
“The person who killed JonBenet, sexually assaulted JonBenet, that’s in the mind of the killer. He did stun-gun her. He did build a specialized garrotte to kill her. This is in the mind of the killer. Why he did all of these things, I don’t know, but JonBenet died a very brutal death in the furthest corner of the basement of that house, and then she was thrown into a moldy room,” explains Smit.
(Katie Couric and Lou Smit in the basement.)
Lou Smit: “Katie, this area is blocked off now, but this used to be a door that led into the wine cellar.”
Katie Couric: “This is where JonBenet’s body was found.”
Smit: “That’s where her body was found. And it’s only a very short distance from here to there.”
Couric: “Why has this been covered up?”
Smit: “I don’t know. That is a preference of the people that are taking care of the house now. And I don’t know why they blocked it off.”
Couric: “They’re trying to sell it, so maybe it was too gruesome.”
Nothing is as gruesome as these never-televised autopsy photos, showing how Jonbenet was strangled by a nylon cord. If there were ever any doubts about how brutal the murder was, these photos lay them to rest.
Smit:”This final garrotte positioning is very deeply imbedded in JonBenet. The depth of this ligature mark is buried in her neck. It’s very red in color. That means JonBenet was alive at that time. If you tried to imbed that in her neck after she is dead, you’re gonna have a white mark.”
According to Smit, the garrote used to strangle JonBenet was very intricate in its design, a tool he believes was used for murder and for pleasure.
Couric: “Was the garrotte used for some kind of weird sexual act? Or was it used as a killing device?”
Smit: “I think it was — it was both. First of all, you don’t make something like that, unless it was in your mind. You don’t make something like that, unless you know how to make it.
“He was fantasizing about using this on JonBenet. He placed it around her neck. He was controlling her, and violently applied it to strangle her. And she was trying to get it off her neck. Again, this was a personality of a killer.
“Just the way that the ligature on her hands was constructed, again is a fantasy in the mind of this killer. This wasn’t just tied on her wrist, with little granny knots on both sides, and a rope tied to her. The way that this was constructed was to make two loops with a tether about 15 inches in between. The loops were then placed over the hands of JonBenet, with a slipknot, and tightened to give the appearance of bondage.”
Smit believes the evidence shows that the 6-year-old girl was also sexually assaulted. This crime scene photo shows a paint tray just outside the wine cellar, from which Smit says the killer took a paintbrush not only to use for the garrotte, but also to molest JonBenet.
(Lou Smit in the basement)
Smit: “Now, why a family member would have to take their child down to a dirty, filthy, cluttered basement and murder her in the farthest reaches of this basement, by putting together a complicated garrotte, sexually assaulting her, putting duct tape on your daughter’s mouth, tying her hands up and then throwing her into a moldy, filthy room and leaving her there, sure, you can say it could happen. But the chances of that happening I believe are extremely remote.”
Couric: “Isn’t there always a first time?”
Smit: “Sure, there’s a first time. But again, it would have to be the first time for everything in this case if that was the case.”
In fact, Lou Smit’s theory is at odds with that of another former detective on the case, Steve Thomas, who contends that in a fit of rage Patsy Ramsey fatally struck her daughter on the head and later strangled her in an effort to cover up the crime.
Smit: “Guilt is not determined by Steve Thomas and innocence is not determined by Lou Smit. A jury does that.”
Sheriff’s detective Steve Ainsworth also worked with Steve Thomas during the JonBenet Ramsey investigation.
Couric: “Steve Thomas wrote a book about this, espousing his — his theory about what transpired that night.”
Detective Steve Ainsworth: “I heard that.”
Couric: “What do you think of him as a detective?”
Ainsworth: “The work he had done before this was all in narcotics. And that is a unique position, in that, your suspect is already identified. Then you go about getting the evidence to prove whatever violation you suspect him of. And — and in a homicide investigation or almost any other criminal investigation, it’s kind of putting the cart before the horse. You need to follow the evidence, and then develop the suspect, rather than the other way around.
“I think that he became — not necessarily over-zealous. But he had a difficulty in shaking that way of investigation. Because if you do it for a while, it’s very difficult to make that transition.”
Smit, who’s worked over 200 homicide cases, believes strangulation was the cause of death, not part of a staged cover-up. He says that his theory is reinforced by a medical condition called “petechiae,” found on JonBenet.
Couric: “She had something called ‘petechiae.’”
Couric: “What is that, and why is it significant?”
Smit: “Petechiae is seen in strangulation cases. What happens is that when a person is strangled, the small blood vessels in the eye burst, causing little pinpoint hemorrhages in the eye. And these are called petechiae.
“JonBenet did have these pinpoint hemorrhages in her eyes. This only occurs when a person is being strangled while they’re still alive. You don’t get petechiae after a person is dead.”
Couric:”Why hit her on the head?”
Smit: “Well, again. The person who did this wanted JonBenet dead; no doubt about it. That blow to her head was extremely forceful. Took a lot of strength to make that particular injury. It is a large, displaced fracture to the right side of the head of JonBenet. It extends all the way from the back of her head, all the way to the front of her head.
“The person who did this wanted to brutally kill JonBenet. That was probably one of the last things that this person did, prior to throwing her in that room.”
The Boulder Police department asked Dr. Michael Doberson, a coroner, to study autopsy photographs of JonBenet. He believes there would have been much more internal bleeding inside the brain, if JonBenet had been struck first and strangled later.
“I would disagree with the theory of the Boulder police that — any of the changes that are seen at autopsy that are associated with the ligature strangulation are staged in any way,” says Dr. Doberson.
Detective Smit says whoever killed JonBenet left a lot of clues behind at the crime scene — fibers, hair and DNA — evidence that, Smit says, doesn’t match up with anyone in the Ramsey family.
Smit: “When you have an autopsy, one of the things that they do is, they do clip the fingernails. And in the fingernail clippings, they did find DNA. The primary source of DNA belonged to JonBenet. And that may have even been accountable for her trying to get the garrotte. But a secondary source was also found in both the samples from the right hand and the left hand.
“And foreign DNA is — foreign to JonBenet, but it can point a very strong finger at who may have done it.
“Also, they found DNA in JonBenet’s panties. She had bled during the sexual assault portion of the crime. Again, primary source, they know that’s JonBenet. It was her blood. But there is also a secondary source of DNA. Again, foreign. And it matches the DNA in the fingernails of her hands. This is now in three areas.”
Couric: “When you say foreign, it means not belonging to John, Patsy, or Burke Ramsey?”
Smit: “That’s right. The point of it is, is there is foreign DNA. There’s common foreign DNA. It is not John, it is not Patsy, it is not Burke.
“So, just to take this and say it’s degraded, and throw these beautiful clues away? You can’t do it. You have to plug these — these clues into the intruder side of the story as well. If they match the Ramseys, I’m sure that that would be very conclusive evidence that one of them did this. But you just can’t throw it away. You have to put that into the intruder side of the story. And that’s very strong evidence.”
Smit says a hair found on this blanket (refers to crime scene photo) covering JonBenet’s body following her murder, is another key piece of evidence.
Smit: “One of these hairs is gonna be very, very significant in this case at some time. It is a Caucasian hair found on the blanket that was on JonBenet. But whoever left it there, better have a very good reason for being in the basement. So far, it has not been identified by anyone. Could it just be a random hair? Sure. But could it be the killer? Yes.”
Couric: “This hair did not belong to any of the Ramseys.”
Smit: “That’s right. It has been tested against the control samples that were submitted by the Ramseys. And it does not match theirs.”
Couric: “There were reports that there were red fibers found on JonBenet that matched a sweater Patsy Ramsey was wearing.”
Smit: “Patsy Ramsey was sitting on the same blanket, probably, that night, when she changed JonBenet’s clothing.
“I’m not saying that you should throw this evidence away. You just have to give it the weight that it’s supposed to. And in court, if it ever would go to court, this would be argued back and forth.
“But as a detective looking at the case, that’s part of this that I’m looking at. Which would perhaps point towards the Ramseys. But again, the majority of the information that I see in this case points at the intruder. But I’m not gonna just disregard those fibers.”
Perhaps more chilling, according to Detective Smit, is the evidence he says JonBenet’s murderer didn’t leave behind: the paintbrush, the stun gun and six pages of a practice ransom note.
Smit: “People perceive the Ramseys to be guilty. Not because of evidence but because of perception.”
In day four of Katie Couric’s exclusive interview, detective Smit and others who have never spoken out about the Ramsey murder case, explain their theories about the ransom note. We should note, former detective Steve Thomas, Boulder Chief of Police Mark Beckner, and Boulder D.A. Mary Keenan, once again refused our interview requests.
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