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September 11, 2001
|NBC Today Show with Katie CouricSmit
Lou Smit Interview May 3, 2001
Did an intruder kill JonBenet?
Part 4 of 5 Part Series
|Transcript from The Today Show
May 3 — On day four of our in-depth look at the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation, Colorado homicide detective Lou Smit talks about a key piece of evidence in this case: the ransom note. Throughout our discussion, Smit has been explaining his theory on who killed the six-year-old girl in December of 1996. Contrary to popular belief, he does not think JonBenet’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, were involved in the death of their daughter. Instead, Smit, who spent 18 months working the case for the Boulder, Colorado district attorney’s office, believes that an intruder to the Ramsey home committed this horrific crime. We’ve seen him lay out, in detail, why he believes this, using actual, never-before-seen evidence from the case. In this segment of his interview, he offers his thoughts on how the ransom note supports his theory.
“MR. RAMSEY...listen carefully...we have your daughter in our possesion...you stand a 99% chance of killing your daughter if you try to out smart us.”
(Katie Couric reading from the ransom note.)
Chilling words from the JonBenet Ramsey ransom note, reportedly found by Patsy Ramsey on these stairs inside their home. Four and a half years later, the note remains perhaps the most critical and perplexing piece of evidence in the ongoing murder investigation.
“The person that wrote that note, I do believe, is the killer. The person that wrote that note shows his personality in that note — very brutal and very vicious,” says Smit.
According to Smit, a number of phrases from the note are taken from movies with story lines that revolve around kidnapping and murder — a case of life imitating art.
Movies like “Ruthless People,” compared to this phrase in the ransom note, ‘Any deviation of my instructions will result in the immediate execution of your daughter.’ And “Speed,” compared to ‘Don’t try and grow a brain.’ And Smit points out the movie “Ransom” was playing in Boulder at the time — a film with eerie similarities to JonBenet’s murder — a six-year-old boy is kidnapped, his mouth covered with duct tape, his hands tied.
Smit: “Whoever wrote this note was thinking of those particular types of movies. It’s like a Ph.D. in ransom notes that was gained through watching movies. And that it was incorporated into this note. And that’s another reason why I believe that a lot of thought was taken prior to the writing of the note, and that the note was written before the murder rather than after the murder.
“It’s not like a note is written in panic, after brutally murdering your child.
“After you commit a very horrendous murder, whether it’s parents or even an accomplished criminal, you do not have the presence of mind to sit down and write a two and a half page ransom note in a clear and concise manner, because of the adrenaline running through your system. And because of the horrendous thing that you’ve done.
“Why would a parent have to write a two and a half page ransom note? Why would they have to put in all of these references to ransom type movies?”
Couric: “Why? To cover up their own crime.”
Smit: “Sure. If they are a sophisticated criminal, I can see them doing that, Katie. These people do not have any type of criminal record at all. And that’s important in this case.
(Katie Couric and Lou Smit inside the house)
Couric: “If an intruder came into this home, you believe he familiarized himself, came up to this first floor from the basement. And this is where the ransom note was found. There was a table against this wall, is that correct, Lou?”
Smit: “Right against this wall.”
Couric: “Against this wall.”
Smit’s theory is that an intruder entered the home through this basement window while the Ramseys were at a Christmas Party.
(Lou and Katie inside house)
Couric: “Perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions, Lou, is why would an intruder sit down and write a lengthy ransom note with no clue as to when the family was coming home? I mean, wouldn’t that be awfully risky?”
Smit: “Well, if the intruder had plenty of time in the house to begin with, he would have all the time he needed to write a ransom note.”
Couric: “Why not come with a ransom note?”
Smit: “Well, there’s a couple of good reasons for not taking a ransom note into the house. If you’re caught, for instance, taking in a ransom note, you have it in your pocket when you come into the house, for instance, and there’s an alarm that goes in or the police check the house or somebody sees you, it’s pretty obvious what your plan would have been.”
Smit: “He is a high-risk criminal. In fact some people get extreme pleasure out of going through your house and watching you while you’re sleeping. There’s a certain type of high-risk criminal that does that.”
Couric: “Part of the thrill?”
Smit: “It’s part of the thrill. You bet. I think when we finally catch him, which I think we still have a very good chance to do, that we’re going to find that he’s been arrested for some type of sexual offense in his past.”
Boulder Sheriff’s Detective Steve Ainsworth who worked the Ramsey investigation has his theories.
Couric: “Many people say, ‘How could an intruder hang around the house, and write this long, elaborate ransom note? That’s pretty risky stuff.’”
Detective Steve Ainsworth: “Very risky.”
Couric: “How do you answer that?”
Detective Steve Ainsworth: “Could be part of the thrill for him. The risk of getting caught.”
Couric: “Do you think this was a kidnapping that went awry somehow?”
Detective Steve Ainsworth: “That’s my own personal feeling. That it is.”
Few people have been able to explain this section of the note, “You will withdraw $118,000 from your account. $100,000 will be in $100 bills and the remaining $18,000 in $20 bills.”
Couric: 118,000 dollars has been the source of a lot of attention because that was the amount of John Ramsey’s Christmas bonus, is that right?”
Smit: “It was close to what the net amount was. Now, his bonus was probably more, but what he netted out would be close to $118,000.”
Couric: “So people think where did that number come from?”
Smit: “Yes, and where would a parent who is writing that note, where would they come up with that figure number one? And why would they put in a figure that would point right back at themselves? We don’t know why the killer put that in his note.”
Could the killer have been an employee or have had some association with Access Graphics, John Ramsey’s company? Did John or Patsy Ramsey point a finger at a disgruntled employee? Smit says both are possible, but why that relatively small amount of money was demanded, he says, remains a mystery to him.
Another mystery, the final lines of the note, “It is up to you now John! Victory! S.B.T.C.”
Couric: “What does SBTC mean?”
Smit: “It means something to the killer. We don’t know what it means. There has been all kinds of explanations for that.”
Smit: “I’ve heard Self Boulder Teen Center. I’ve heard Saved By The Cross, Subic Bay Training Center. Many of these things have been put into the note because John Ramsey at one time had been in Subic Bay. But again, we’re only guessing when we look at the content of the note and what it meant to the killer.”
Couric: “Why the practice note? What’s that about?”
Smit: “That’s a very important part of this too. And that, I think, shows that the person who was writing this note had plenty of time to do it. And it starts off with “Dear Mr. And — ” and it starts the word M on Mrs. Then it stopped. Between that practice note and the ransom note, by looking at the torn out pieces of the — of the ransom note, I believe there was close to six pages that are missing. Those pages are not found in the house either, Katie.”
Couric: “When handwriting analysis was done on the ransom note, John Ramsey was ruled out.”
Couric: “Patsy Ramsey could not be completely ruled out, though.”
Smit: “No, Patsy Ramsey cannot be completely ruled out. The handwriting examiners — there was at least six of them that looked at all of the handwriting exemplars, and all of the handwriting of Patsy Ramsey. She does have certain characteristics, which are close in nature to that on the note, but what some of the examiners have said, and the majority of them — is that there are many more differences. In other words, it’s not a positive at all that Patsy Ramsey wrote that note.”
Couric: “In fact, it’s measured from 1 to 5 and she scored a 4.5, unlikely to have written the note.”
Couric: “Which leaves a .5 possibility that she did.”
Smit: “Absolutely. There’s a .5 possibility, but a 4.5 possibility that it’s an intruder. And this is another great piece of evidence left behind by our killer. Katie, I really believe that there’s enough evidence left behind by our killer that we can catch him. And somebody better be looking for him.”
Once again we should note all our requests for interviews with the Boulder police department and the Boulder district attorney’s office have been declined. Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up our week-long look at the case with some final thoughts from Lou Smit and get another perspective on his intruder theory.
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