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September 11, 2001
|NBC Today Show with Katie CouricSmit
Lou Smit Interview May 4, 2001
Did an intruder kill JonBenet?
Part 5 of 5 Part Series
|Transcript from The Today Show
May 4 — All week long we’ve been taking an in-depth look at the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation. In this sixth part of Katie Couric’s exclusive interview on “Today,” Colorado detective Lou Smit shares his thoughts on the way the public views the Ramseys, and why the Boulder police department seemed reluctant to support his theory that an intruder killed JonBenet.
THIS IS WHERE JonBenet Ramsey is buried in a suburb outside Atlanta (see photo above). While there is no question that her young life was tragically, brutally, cut short, there are lingering doubts as to exactly how it happened and who exactly, got away with murder.
Many people still think it was her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey. But detective Lou Smit believes neither JonBenet’s parents, nor her brother Burke, now 14, were involved. Instead, he believes evidence like the open window (seen in crime scene photo), marks on JonBenet’s body he believes were made by a stun gun, the intricate and practiced appearance of the garrotte and the methodical, lengthy ransom note, point to an intruder, a pedophile, he says, obsessed with the 6-year-old girl.
“People say there was only four people in the house that day. And they eliminate any possibility of [an] intruder. What the case tells me is that there’s a fifth personality there. There’s a fifth personality that is a very brutal, vicious personality [who] killed JonBenet. That is not exhibited at all in any of the background of the Ramseys, it’s just not there,” says Smit.
As never-before-seen video shows, nearly a year and a half after the murder happened, while working for the Boulder D.A.’s office, Lou Smit spent three days questioning John Ramsey about JonBenet’s death.
Smit: “I’ve been able to interview many suspects in many homicides, I have never been able to interview anyone for that length of time. I didn’t get vibes at all off John Ramsey that he was lying to me.”
Couric: “There’s a perception in the general public that the Ramseys did not cooperate with the police, that they didn’t go down to the police station for interviews. In fact, you believe that’s one of the biggest mistakes the Boulder Police department made?”
Smit: “The main thing you learn as a detective when you go into a crime scene, is you always try to get an interview with the people that are there. If you find a body, and you realize that there’s a homicide that occurred, you always bring them into the station. If you find evidence that they’d been involved in a violent death and they have marks or bruises on them, that goes to their guilt. But if you find that they don’t have these things, it also goes to their innocence.”
Couric: “And you do it separately? You separate them?”
Smit: “Yes. And you take all their clothing. And you interview them separately. That’s the time to do it.”
Couric: “Why wasn’t that done?”
Smit: “I don’t know. Somebody made a decision not to do that.”
Couric: “In fairness to the Boulder Police Department though, they did try on several occasions reportedly to get the Ramseys to be interviewed down at the police station, and the Ramseys reportedly refused. I mean if I were a parent and I want to find out who murdered my child, God forbid, I would do everything in my power to help the police solve the case.”
Smit: “Yes Katie. But you would also go by what your lawyers advised you to do.”
Couric: “Do you think their lawyers did them a disservice in some ways by protecting them too much, at least in the court of public opinion?”
Smit: “Yes, in the court of public opinion that is the perception. But from the lawyers’ perception is that they were trying to keep their clients out of jail. That was their main focus was to protect their clients. Their main focus was not public perception.”
As Lou Smit began to put together the pieces of the murder, he says he suggested his theory to investigators with the Boulder Police Department. Frustrated his views weren’t being heard, Smit resigned.
Couric: “What was the reaction when you said ‘Hey, are you sure you’re going the right direction?’”
Smit: “I could feel immediately the attitudes changing in that room. I think they’d seen at that time that I was not on the same page and that I might be looking in another direction. And I wasn’t saying that the Ramseys did not do this. Or did do this. I was just saying that we have to look further. And I think that certain walls went up there at that time.”
“I mean nobody was saying ‘Oh, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,’ or anything like that, but it was pretty clear that it was readily dismissed,” says detective Steve Ainsworth.
Shortly thereafter Ainsworth, a Boulder sheriff’s detective who was working with Smit, resigned from the case. Meanwhile, questions began to surface about Lou Smit’s credibility.
Couric: “One beef about you is that at one point, you prayed with the Ramseys.”
Couric: “That you’re a religious individual. That they’re religious. And that somehow, that clouded your judgment.”
Smit: “I know. I’ve read that also. It is part of my personality, and the way I work a case, when I pull into a crime scene, the first thing I say is a prayer. When I end a case, that’s the last thing I do. “I started my day at the Ramsey home — with a commitment to JonBenet, and a small prayer. And it was probably two reasons for that. One, I would offer compassion to this family. But the second reason is I wanted to build a bridge with the Ramseys, so that they would come across and supply information to the police department, and to the district attorney’s office later. It’s not the first time that I’ve done that, Katie.
Couric: “Have you later convicted anyone …
Couric: …with whom you’ve prayed?”
Smit: “Oh, yeah. I have. And — it’s my style of doing things.”
“I don’t think there’d be that same criticism if he had prayed with them, and then they said, ‘By the way, we killed our daughter.’ You do whatever it takes. And I think that’s why Lou is so effective at what he does,” says Ainsworth.
“I can tell you that it is a very, a very effective investigative tool to become close to the targets of an investigation,” says former assistant district attorney Trip Demueth.
Couric: “You came on board in mid-March, some three months after the crime was committed. Did that put you at a disadvantage?”
Smit: “Yes. It always puts you at a disadvantage. But I had a chance to take a look at every scrap of information that came in. So I had a chance to look at the case closer than probably anybody that was working that case.”
Couric: “There were observations made about how the Ramseys reacted to the murder of JonBenet, which seemed to point a finger at them. Is there anything about the way the Ramseys behaved either in the kidnapping phase and after JonBenet’s body was found that raised a red flag for you?”
Smit: “Not really, Katie. And I’ve read all of the reports. That their emotional state is consistent with other people that I have run into in — in my experiences.”
Couric: “What about Patsy Ramsey, sort of sobbing, and…”
Couric: …reportedly, staring at an observer? Was that in the report?”
Smit: “That was in the reports.”
“That’s all subjective. That’s not really evidence in a case. If you were going to convict people just because of the way they looked at you, through splayed fingers, I think you’d have a lot of people convicted in this country.”
Couric: “Who didn’t commit crimes?”
Couric: “According to statistics, when a child is killed, the likelihood that the parents or a parent was involved is something like 12 to 1.”
Smit: “I think that’s one of the reasons that there is a perception that just because the statistics say that, the Ramseys did it. The statistics also should be brought into bear of the other facts of this case. Statistics have shown that there has never been a parent that has garrotted their child in a murder case.”
Smit: “If you want to throw statistics, throw them out both ways. Every case is different. Statistics don’t make the murder case. Evidence makes the case.”
While the Boulder police officials say they have and continue to pursue all leads, Smit and others accuse the department of tunnel vision when it comes to the Ramseys.
Couric: “How could an entire police department sort of be so narrowly focused on one theory?”
Detective Steve Ainsworth: “I don’t know how to answer that. I mean I could tell you, I probably shouldn’t though, I mean what my opinion is, cause it will get me in a whole lot of trouble.”
Smit: “They’re promoting Ramsey guilt. You have to work just as hard to prove their innocence as you do their guilt.”
Couric: “I know you’ve said you’re not doing this to exonerate John and Patsy Ramsey. But you’re doing it for one person.”
Smit: “That’s right. That’s for JonBenet. And for the case. You have a responsibility to stand in her shoes.”
We want to note that the Boulder police department has insisted they have been open to any and all theories in the case, and have pursued other leads. But they once again declined to talk to us about their investigation. The Boulder district attorney’s office also refused comment.
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