Jul 25, 2022

The breakthrough new DNA evidence that could find JonBenét Ramsey’s killer Transcript

The breakthrough new DNA evidence that could find JonBenét Ramsey's killer Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsDNAThe breakthrough new DNA evidence that could find JonBenét Ramsey’s killer Transcript

25 years on from the crime, whoever did it remains free. For her father John, that’s unbearably painful, but he hasn’t given up on the killer being found. Read the transcript here.

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Sarah Abo: (00:00)
Her big blue eyes, even bigger blonde hair, and that perfect smile are instantly recognizable. It’s JonBenet Ramsey, the six-year-old beauty pageant princess murdered in her own home. 25 years on, whoever did it remains free.

Sarah Abo: (00:16)
For her father, John, that’s unbearably painful, but he hasn’t given up on the killer being found. In fact, with advances in DNA technology, he says there’s a strong likelihood this mystery can finally be solved. Incredibly, though, John faces a roadblock in his search for the truth: the very police who are investigating the crime.

Speaker 2: (00:39)
Our next contestant, Miss JonBenet Ramsey.

Sarah Abo: (00:45)
If JonBenet Ramsey was still alive, she’d be about to turn 32.

JonBenet Ramsey: (00:49)

Sarah Abo: (00:50)
Instead, a little girl who loved to show off in junior beauty pageants only made it to six. On Boxing Day 1996, she was found in the basement of her home, beaten and strangled to death.

Speaker 4: (01:09)
JonBenet Ramsey-

Speaker 5: (01:10)
With JonBenet’s murder-

Speaker 6: (01:11)
JonBenet Ramsey-

Sharyl Attkisson: (01:12)
A full year has now passed [inaudible 00:01:13] clues.

Sarah Abo: (01:12)
JonBenet’s murder stunned the world. But a quarter of a century later, the killer remains unknown. For John Ramsey, that’s inconceivable and unforgivable.

John Ramsey: (01:25)
We’ve lost a beautiful child, and this is a creature that did this that is out there and could possibly do it to another child.

Sarah Abo: (01:43)
Not knowing who killed his daughter has consumed John, but not broken him. Has what you’ve wanted ever changed?

John Ramsey: (01:53)
No. No. No, we’ve wanted an answer. It’s not going to bring JonBenet back. Our loss is our loss. It’s permanent. But it needs to be answered. Why? Why did this happen?

Sarah Abo: (02:12)
You’d think justice for John Benet would be everyone’s goal. But in this very public and controversial case, that may not be so. John says it’s still possible to find the killer, and as you’ll see, he thinks he knows how to do it. But to succeed, he says he has to overcome a substantial hurdle: the police. He accuses detectives of never investigating the murder properly. Instead, jumping to false and hurtful conclusions about the crime.

John Ramsey: (02:45)
They solved it in their minds on the first day, that it was the parents. We’ve just got to find the evidence to be able to prove that. But we know it was the parents because it’s always the parents.

Sarah Abo: (03:09)
Back in 1996, this sprawling house in the US town of Boulder, Colorado was home for John, his wife Patsy, their son Burke, and a very happy JonBenet.

Patsy Ramsey: (03:21)
This is JonBenet. She’s four. Burke is seven. We’d like to welcome you to our home and wish you a very merry Christmas.

John Ramsey: (03:28)
She was a spark plug. She was very extroverted. We used to say she showed up in life and was like, “Tada! I’m here.” That just was her personality. I remember one day I came home from work and I guess I had a frown on my face. She said, “Dad, I don’t like that look. So I put on a fake smile and she said, “That’s better.” That’s just who she was.

Sarah Abo: (03:57)
Small and quiet, Boulder was the perfect place for the Ramseys to raise their children. But what made it attractive was also its biggest disadvantage when the unthinkable occurred.

Speaker 10: (04:10)
Crime scene investigators are still combining through the home. Police haven’t named any suspects. But, curiously, they are saying that the public at large is not in any danger, that there is not a random killer on the loose.

Sarah Abo: (04:23)
The local police had no homicide experience and weren’t well-equipped to handle the investigation into JonBenet’s murder. Not that detectives were prepared to admit it.

John Ramsey: (04:34)
Now this is a police department that mostly deals with traffic tickets and college kids setting couches on fire during spring break. The same two detectives that are on the case today were there 25 years ago. Hadn’t changed. One of them got an award for solving a bicycle theft ring.

Sarah Abo: (05:01)
It doesn’t make any sense, John, that more experienced detectives, officers with greater expertise were not brought in to try and solve this murder.

John Ramsey: (05:09)
Absolutely. That was just unacceptable. But it’s big egos and arrogance and lack of knowledge. You combine those together, that’s a pretty dangerous cocktail.

Sarah Abo: (05:33)
It was clear from the beginning that this was a crime like no other. The first John and Patsy Ramsey knew about it was when they woke up early on Boxing Day and discovered JonBenet wasn’t in her bed. Concern became panic when the couple then found a note saying their daughter had been kidnapped and demanding $118,000 for her return.

Speaker 11: (05:58)
What’s going on there, ma’am?

Patsy Ramsey: (06:02)
We have a kidnapping. There’s a ransom note here.

Speaker 11: (06:03)
It’s a ransom note?

Patsy Ramsey: (06:05)

Speaker 11: (06:06)
Okay. What’s your name? Are you-

Patsy Ramsey: (06:06)
I’m Patsy Ramsey. I’m the mother. Oh my God! Please!

Sarah Abo: (06:12)
Patsy Ramsey’s 911 call certainly got police attention. But for the next six hours with no sign of JonBenet, confusion seemed to be driving the search. The crime scene was contaminated and early clues were either overlooked or discarded.

Paula Woodward: (06:30)
The case was a catastrophe. There is so much that does not make sense on this case, including, and probably especially, the police behavior. No one knows what evidence is gone because it was so massively goofed up.

Paula Woodward: (06:50)
Is your investigation focusing inside the Ramsey family or outside the Ramsey family as far as suspects?

Sarah Abo: (06:56)
Paula Woodward was a Colorado TV reporter when the story broke. She still remembers the chaos of the day, as well as the biggest police mistake of all: how JonBenet’s body was discovered in the Ramsey’s basement.

Paula Woodward: (07:12)
Her body was found by her father six hours after police were called, when the only detective in the house said, “Hey, why don’t you look around?” That was one of the things that was just so unforgivable. Think what would’ve happened if the police had found the body. The body had stayed where it was instead of the father picking her up and running her upstairs.

Sarah Abo: (07:41)
What was that moment like, john?

John Ramsey: (07:44)
Well, when I first found her, it was just a rush of thank God I found her and that it was a relief, like an overwhelming relief that I’d found her. Then I realized pretty quickly that she wasn’t alive. I just screamed. But I’d found her.

Sarah Abo: (08:05)
Like John, Paula Woodward believes the investigation by local police was doomed, because detectives instantly assumed one or both of JonBenet’s parents had killed the little girl.

Patsy Ramsey: (08:18)
I did not kill my child. Quit screwing around asking me about things that are ridiculous and let’s find the person that did this.

Sarah Abo: (08:29)
What difference would it have made if experienced detectives, homicide detectives, had been brought in from day one?

Paula Woodward: (08:37)
I don’t know. I do know that all of this incompetence and ineptitude would not exist if qualified homicide detectives had been on the scene. There was just nothing that was followed that was homicide protocol. Nothing. Then they began this deliberate campaign of leaking misinformation to what was a gullible press.

Speaker 13: (09:05)
Some media outlets and the police focused on the sensational aspects of the case.

Sarah Abo: (09:10)
But added to gullible was insatiable when it was revealed, JonBenet was a child beauty queen. The media couldn’t get enough of the story, which was the worst news for John and Patsy Ramsey.

Paula Woodward: (09:25)
Four days after the murder, the first child beauty pageant picture appeared, and I was hooked as well as national, international press. They just zoomed in. I think that that was probably the single most important factor in the case. What happened was that fascination turned into the judgment, and the judgment was I would never let my child do that.

Sarah Abo: (09:52)
Do you think that JonBenet’s involvement in beauty pageants was a factor here?

John Ramsey: (09:57)
She was an extrovert. So it fit her personality. In fact, we used to joke, we said JonBenet needs to lose one of these pageants so she understands you don’t always win in life. It needs to be a life lesson. Patsy’s been accused of dragging JonBenet to these pageants and living vicariously through her. That wasn’t the case at all. JonBenet loved it. She had fun with it. They had fun together doing it.

Sarah Abo: (10:26)
The photos of a perfectly coiffed JonBenet as a beauty queen, combined with plenty of rumor and gossip, seemed to sway most of the public that John and Patsy were involved in something sinister.

Speaker 14: (10:39)
[inaudible 00:10:39].

Speaker 15: (10:40)
[inaudible 00:10:40].

Sarah Abo: (10:40)
No number of denials, not to mention a lack of any evidence, could convince them otherwise.

Speaker 16: (10:46)
[inaudible 00:10:46].

Sarah Abo: (10:46)
For years, the case dragged on. Sadly in 2006, Patsy Ramsey died of cancer. But then, two years later, a breakthrough of sorts. The Boulder district attorney announced DNA from an unknown man had been found on clothing JonBenet was wearing when she was murdered.

John Ramsey: (11:08)
When the district attorney apologized, she was very sincere about it. We appreciated that step, but we looked at it as just a step. It wasn’t a celebration yet. We hadn’t solved the problem. But we eliminated one of the obstacles to solving the problem was how I looked at it.

Sarah Abo: (11:33)
The discovery of DNA had been made possible through advances in technology. It cleared John and Patsy once and for all, but it didn’t reveal the murderer. The investigation stalled again.

Speaker 17: (11:46)
Ultimately, a DNA match led to DeAngelo.

Speaker 18: (11:49)
Now to a break in a case cold for 44 years.

Sarah Abo: (11:52)
But then in 2018, the best news so far for John. Similar DNA technology was used to identify and catch America’s most wanted serial murderer and rapist, the Golden State Killer.

John Ramsey: (12:06)
I had a crash course at one of the labs for about an hour. It was like, holy mackerel, there’s more to this than I thought.

Sarah Abo: (12:12)
Learning a little bit about DNA gave John a great deal of hope. He reasoned if the Golden State Killer could be found, so too could JonBenet’s murderer.

John Ramsey: (12:25)
Let’s use the latest technology, stuff we haven’t that’s come along in the last 10 years and let’s see what we’ve got then.

Sarah Abo: (12:32)
So at long last, JonBenet’s killer could be found.

CeCe Moore: (12:35)
Absolutely, yes.

Sarah Abo: (12:41)
Cece Moore is no cop, but her DNA detective work has helped crack more than 200 cold cases in the past four years. What she does is called DNA genealogy. It was first developed to help people track down their long lost relatives on ancestry websites. But these days, CeCe uses it to hunt for criminals.

CeCe Moore: (13:05)
So it’s like a big puzzle. We have to put all the puzzle pieces back together little by little by little. So what I’m doing all day long is building the family trees of these individuals that are sharing DNA with this unknown suspect. When I do believe I have identified that DNA contributor, it’s a very strange feeling to know that I’m probably the only person in the world other than that killer that knows what they did. It is a very heavy moment.

Sarah Abo: (13:39)
If given the chance, CeCe is confident she could help find whoever murdered JonBenet Ramsey 25 years ago. The case of JonBenet is one of the most enduring unsolved cases in the world. What would it mean to solve this case?

CeCe Moore: (13:54)
There are people all over the world that want to see her killer brought to justice, who want to know what happened, and who want the answers.

Sarah Abo: (14:03)
If the DNA found on JonBenet is viable, how long could it take to catch her killer?

CeCe Moore: (14:09)
It might only be a matter of hours before that DNA contributor is identified.

Sarah Abo: (14:18)
It’s a substantial boast to make that all these years later, identifying JonBenet’s killer could happen quickly and easily. CeCe’s colleague, Dr. Ellen Greytak from Parabon NanoLabs agrees. She says DNA technology is now much more intricate and therefore much more accurate.

Ellen Greytak: (14:38)
The work that we do is really sort of a new way to think about how you can treat forensic DNA. Traditional forensic DNA looks at a DNA like a fingerprint. You can match it to a database or to a suspect who’s already been identified. It’s great for that if the person you’re looking for is in that database or is one of the suspects you’ve already identified. But if they’re not, it really couldn’t tell you anything more. And so, that’s where we come in is using the DNA in a different way to actually try to generate new leads, new leads in those cases, to help figure out who that person could have been.

Sarah Abo: (15:13)
And what is it that’s different about the way you analyze DNA?

Ellen Greytak: (15:17)
In a traditional forensic profile, they’re looking at around 13 to 20 different spots in the DNA. We’re looking at around a million.

Sarah Abo: (15:27)

Ellen Greytak: (15:27)
So it’s just a big difference in scale. And so, we’re looking at a lot more data, which means we can do a lot more with that DNA.

Sarah Abo: (15:36)
Is now the time to retest the DNA in the JonBenet case.

Ellen Greytak: (15:41)
I think now could be the time.

Sarah Abo: (15:45)
It’s precisely what John Ramsey wants to hear. He sees this new DNA technology as the key to solving his daughter’s murder. But he says whenever he’s asked the Boulder police to look into it, he’s been met with ambivalence.

John Ramsey: (16:02)
Take the samples that have never been tested from the crime scene, use an outside lab to do the testing, the latest technology that’s available, and let’s see what we can do. But to do nothing continuously after 25 years is not acceptable anymore.

Sarah Abo: (16:21)
But here’s where the story becomes even more frustrating. John Ramsey has never gotten along with the detectives in charge of the investigation. He says they’ve always suspected him of being involved in the crime. Because of that, he’s now accusing them of not wanting to help. He believes police should hand over the DNA found on JonBenet’s clothes so that it can be properly tested by experts like CeCe Moore.

CeCe Moore: (16:47)
People write me every single day asking me why I haven’t solved it. I can’t solve it if I don’t have access to the DNA and have the agency invite me to be part of their team.

Sarah Abo: (16:58)
To think that in the archives of the Boulder police station is the remaining DNA that was found on JonBenet and that you have the ability to today solve this case, yet they’re not handing it over. That’s heartbreaking.

CeCe Moore: (17:09)
It is heartbreaking. If their reasons are anything less than transparency, than full transparency, it is heartbreaking

Sarah Abo: (17:20)
In desperation, John Ramsey is petitioning the governor of Colorado to force the local police to hand over the DNA samples they’ve collected. It’s not too much to ask after all these years, is it, John?

John Ramsey: (17:34)
No. No, it really isn’t. The comments that people have left as to why they’re assigning the petition was really pretty heartwarming and overwhelming. They basically said, “Look, a child was murdered and we need to solve it. We need to put all our resources available and solve it,” and that’s not happening. And so, that’s our frustration.

Sarah Abo: (18:00)
So are you hanging your hopes on this new technology?

John Ramsey: (18:03)
We want to do whatever can be done technically and resource-wise to find the killer of our daughter. If we do that and we can’t, then we’ll have to live with it. But to not do it is criminal and just negligent and lazy.

Sarah Abo: (18:33)
John welcomes all the help he can get. As you’ll see, some of it is coming from the most unlikely places.

Cindy Mara: (18:41)
We’re releasing the recordings now because we want to find the killer of JonBenet. We believe he’s still out there.

Sarah Abo: (18:56)
It’s been a long and exhausting 25 years for John Ramsey. As if the murder of his daughter wasn’t torment enough, he’s also endured the death from cancer of JonBenet’s mom, his wife Patsy, as well he’s faced constant scrutiny and often suspicion from the world’s media. Even when he remarried, there were headlines. His new wife, Jan, couldn’t believe all the attention.

Jan: (19:23)
When we ended up, after we were married, on the front page of the Globe magazine, I was shocked.

Sarah Abo: (19:36)
But throughout it all, John’s fight to find the truth about JonBenet’s murder hasn’t wavered. While he’s been hugely critical of the local Boulder investigators, there has been one police officer he says is a hero.

Larry King: (19:52)
Tonight, it’s one of the most sensational unsolved crimes in US history. It’s a great pleasure to welcome to Larry King Live tonight Lou Smit. [inaudible 00:20:02].

Sarah Abo: (20:02)
Retired detective Lou Smit, an outsider from nearby Colorado Springs, worked right up until his death trying to find JonBenet’s killer.

Lou Smit: (20:11)
I believe this case can be solved because a detective always believes that the case could be solved. It’s not a question of solving it. It’s just a question of when it will be solved.

John Ramsey: (20:22)
Lou was a legendary detective, retired, solved over 200 homicides in his career, many of them cold cases. Lou felt it was a kidnapping gone wrong.

Sarah Abo: (20:35)
Lou Smit meet died 12 years ago, but video and audio recordings he made while he was still investigating the murder have now been aired in a Discovery Plus documentary called JonBenet: What Really Happened?

Lou Smit: (20:47)
There is evidence of an intruder. I say this over and over and over again. Nobody wants to listen. It’s like a magic show.

Sarah Abo: (20:49)
His daughter, Cindy Mara, says this is the case her father always wanted to solve.

Lou Smit: (20:54)
They can take perfectly good evidence that you can see, and then it’s gone.

Cindy Mara: (20:56)
We’re releasing the recordings now because we want to find the killer of JonBenet. We believe he’s still out there.

Lou Smit: (21:02)
When I walked up to the district attorney’s office that first day, there were just press all over the place. I’m Lou Smit. I’m the investigator that’s going to be working the Ramsey case.

Sarah Abo: (21:13)
It was three months after JonBenet’s violent death when the Boulder district attorney asked Lou to join the murder task force. Almost immediately, he backed the thinking of local detectives by declaring the Ramsey family wasn’t involved.

Lou Smit: (21:29)
It’s only my first day, but everything is telling me that something is wrong here.

Sarah Abo: (21:36)
After reviewing evidence Boulder police had ignored, Lou was convinced the murderer had broken into the family home. His new theory wasn’t something his colleagues wanted to hear.

Lou Smit: (21:47)
I really think that it is an intruder and it’s looking more and more like that all the time. However, every time I bring that up, that we have to look at it more closely, I’m shot down.

Sarah Abo: (21:58)
Journalist and author Paula Woodward, who’s been covering the case since day one, says Lou’s work was impressive, but it made him enemies.

Paula Woodward: (22:07)
Lou Smit took all the reports, put them together, collated them, centralized them. In doing that, he said the evidence is not there that the family did it. The evidence is pointing to an outsider having broken into the house. As soon as he said that, he was ridiculed, besmirched, just savaged by the Boulder Police Department.

Sarah Abo: (22:36)
After only 12 months on the team, Lou left in frustration, but continued investigating for the family.

Lou Smit: (22:44)
Thousands of tips were called in to the Boulder Police Department during the initial investigation. 98% of all tips were called in, were never even called back.

Sarah Abo: (22:58)
Over the years, he compiled a long list of suspects from undeveloped leads, which he gave to his daughter just before he died in 2010. Cindy Mara took up where her father left off and began the difficult task of collecting DNA samples from every suspect on the list. It’s now her hope that if John Ramsey wins his battle for access to the DNA of the unknown male found on JonBenet’s clothing, it will provide a match with someone on the list of suspects.

Cindy Mara: (23:28)
He gave me a name. He said, “This is who you need to start with.” We decided that we would try and do our best to carry that on, to not let the case die.

Sarah Abo: (23:38)
Do you still have hope, John, that your daughter’s killer will be found?

John Ramsey: (23:47)
I have some hope, yeah. I think DNA technology continues to advance and, if it’s used, may lead to a solution. I’m going to keep pushing, certainly, as long as I live that the right things be done, but it may not be solved. I don’t know.

Sarah Abo: (24:24)
John Ramsey’s request to the Colorado governor for access to the DNA has so far been met with silence. Without it, John is unsure how the murder will ever be solved, or how he’ll ever be able to honor his little girl. It’s a thought that breaks his heart. When you think about JonBenet today, what goes through your mind? What do you say to your little girl?

John Ramsey: (24:51)
Frankly, it’s I’m sorry I didn’t protect you. That’s a dad’s job, and that’s my regret. I would tell her that, I guess. But she knew she was loved. No question. We miss her and we’ll see her again.

Sarah Abo: (25:15)
Hello, I’m Sarah Abo. Thanks for watching 60 Minutes Australia. Subscribe to our channel now for brand new stories and exclusive clips every week. Don’t miss out on our extra minute segments and full episodes of 60 minutes on 9now.com.au and the 9Now app.

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