Guests: Susan Filan, Dan Abrams, Clint Van Zandt, Leo Terrell, Dr. Henry Lee, Mickey Sherman
MONICA CROWLEY, HOST: Hi, everybody. And welcome to the show.
I‘m Monica Crowley, in today for Tucker Carlson.
And we want to begin now with some breaking news in the case of JonBenet Ramsey.
NBC News has learned that the Ramsey family expects an arrest in the almost 10-year-old murder case.
Joining us now by phone to discuss the situation is MSNBC analyst Susan Filan.
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Hi, Monica.
CROWLEY: Hi. Well, what do you make, Susan, of this arrest, coming as it is almost 10 years to the day of JonBenet‘s murder?
FILAN: Monica, this is huge, earth-shattering, ground-breaking news. This was an incredibly difficult case to wrap our minds around.
At times, the family was the people most under suspicion. They could never tell if it was family members or a stranger/intruder that committed this heinous crime of this beautiful, beautiful girl. And now to have an arrest presumably outside the family confirms what the family had been saying all along, the reputations had been smeared, they had protested their innocence, and yet they were under a cloud of suspicion for years. And, of course, JonBenet‘s mom has since passed away, and if this is in fact an arrest of the person who did commit this, she‘ll never see justice for her little girl.
CROWLEY: Susan, let me ask you—you mentioned Patsy Ramsey, the mother of JonBenet, who passed away a couple of weeks ago of ovarian cancer. She had a long struggle with that disease.
She and her husband John, JonBenet‘s father, always maintained their innocence in this case. What do we know about the extent to which they cooperated with police, not just at the beginning of this case, but throughout it?
FILAN: We know that they cooperated fully throughout it. They let their house be searched, they were questioned extensively. They did at some point have to retain legal counsel that did to some put them under a cloud of suspicion. But to others, they were simply protecting themselves in an investigation which looked like it was focusing more and are more on them.
And what they always maintained was that they wanted to get to the bottom of this, that somebody tragically snuffed out the life of this absolutely adorable little girl, and it was not them.
CROWLEY: All right.
Susan Filan, please stand by.
Right now we want to bring in our own Dan Abrams.
Dan, what do you make of this situation? This arrest coming now almost 10 years from the point this child was murdered back in 1996.
DAN ABRAMS, NBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Monica, let‘s be clear. Here‘s what we know.
We don‘t know for a fact that there is an arrest. What we do know, what NBC News has confirmed, is that John Ramsey, the father of JonBenet, has been told by authorities to expect an arrest in connection with the case, and that an arrest was made overseas. That‘s all we know for certain.
Now, it is certainly possible that John Ramsey and those around him may—may have overstated what they have heard, but they certainly sound very confident about the fact that an arrest was made. And they were told by the authorities that an announcement would be made.
Now, what they have been told—again, this is what John Ramsey has been told—is that an arrest has already been made and that an announcement would be coming. But again, we have not been able to confirm that with the authorities in Boulder. So far, the police department not having anything to say about it, and the D.A.‘s office in Boulder saying that they have no comment.
With that said, if this does happen, oh, my, this is a really big deal, because remember, we have been talking really literally for years. I‘ve been covering this case nor almost 10 years, you know, eight-plus years of covering the JonBenet Ramsey case. And the parents constantly referred to as under an “umbrella of suspicion.” Not my words, the words of the Boulder Police at the time.
There was a grand jury convened to determine whether to indict John and/or Patsy Ramsey in connection with this case. And has time has gone on, there has been more and more indications that the authorities have been looking elsewhere.
There was a case that went to court, where a judge ruled that there seemed to be evidence that an intruder, not the family, was involved. The new D.A. in Boulder has been booking elsewhere in connection with this case. So, if this happens, this is a very big development and a very big change, in large part, because of the change in who was running the Boulder Police Department.
In the old days, back in the late 1990‘s and in early 2000, 2001, you had a team there in Boulder who no question were convinced Patsy Ramsey killed her daughter. You had—you had John and Patsy Ramsey going out from day one saying it didn‘t happen, it‘s simply not true.
Then you had this—a new lawyer, Lin Wood, come on and publicly defend the Ramseys and start suing people on behalf of the Ramseys for anyone who said that John or Patsy or their son might have been involved in any way. And we‘ve seen the pressure, both behind the scenes and publicly, move more and more toward the idea that it was an intruder and not either of the Ramseys involved at all.
And so, again, John Ramsey, the father—Patsy Ramsey has since died very recently, so it‘s just John Ramsey right now. John Ramsey expecting an arrest in connection with the case.
We‘ll just have to see if it happens.
CROWLEY: Dan, what have investigators really been looking for over the last 10 years? And when you‘re dealing with a case that‘s this extended over this kind of period of time, does the investigation change over time?
ABRAMS: Well, it absolutely changes over time. I mean, in particular, based on who they were looking at initially.
Look, you can—you can sugarcoat it or you can tell the truth, which is, the bottom line is, they were looking at Patsy Ramsey early on in this case. They were focused on Patsy Ramsey as the person who killed JonBenet. And after Lin Wood came on this team on behalf of the Ramseys, you saw a shift.
You saw him safe enough is enough. He took the Ramseys, he planted them in front of reporters. He had them do interviews. And he started going after people, including behind the scenes, after the authorities, after the police, after anyone who was suggesting it was John or Patsy Ramsey, and saying to them, “bring me the evidence,” because again, the evidence that was cited early on was pretty weak.
Remember, there was a ransom note that was written—that appeared to have been written on paper that had been in the house. Someone had practiced the ransom note. People said, would an intruder have really practiced a ransom note?
The said that the scene seemed to be staged, that it didn‘t seem real the way it was found, indicating that whoever did this had time to set it up. Again, people at the time said, oh, that couldn‘t be an intruder.
But again, as time passed, as they got a former investigator named Lou Smit, who had worked on the investigation initially for the D.A.‘s office, then the defense team hired him and he started pointing out holes in that account and started saying publicly that he was convince that an intruder was responsible and not—and not the Ramsey family.
CROWLEY: Dan, I know you said that details about this potential suspect are very, very limited at this point, but you also mentioned that, according to what you heard from the Ramsey family, that this arrest has taken place overseas.
Do we have any idea whether this suspect is an American citizen?
ABRAMS: Don‘t know. We really don‘t know anything about that.
And again, we have to be very careful here that this is information that John Ramsey says he‘s received in connection with this case. But I can tell you that this is more than just speculation. That, you know, this is someone who has been involved in this case for a long time.
You don‘t here John Ramsey going around every day telling people, “Oh, yes, by the way, there‘s an arrest being made in the JonBenet Ramsey case.” It‘s a big deal that John Ramsey is saying this.
But as to who it is, we don‘t know. As to exactly where the arrest was made, we don‘t know. And about why the D.A.‘s office is not confirming yet that there‘s been an arrest, that‘s the crucial question.
That makes you say, let‘s wait, let‘s see why it is that John Ramsey is saying this, and let‘s see what the D.A.‘s office is going to say.
CROWLEY: All right. Dan, please stand by.
Right now we want to turn to the phone and Clint Van Zandt, who is a former FBI profiler and also MSNBC analyst.
Clint, a 10-year-old case like this, it sounds like it was for a long time considered a cold case. Not that investigators ever set it aside, but it was considered largely unsolved.
How unusual is it for developments to occur after this length of time?
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FMR. FBI PROFILER: Well, that‘s of course why we do have cold case squads. That‘s why especially in the death, murder of a child, we like to believe law enforcement is never going to give up.
Of course, we know the Unabomber, for example, took 18 years to solve. But as Dan Abrams was just suggesting, the two primary theories were, of course, someone within that household speculated it was an accident, but, nonetheless, the child died, or an unknown intruder. And the challenge seemed to be the—what some suggested was the initial contamination of the crime scene, that the linking physical evidence that you would need to link an unknown offender to the crime scene, either was not there at all or had been destroyed, cleaned up, something, before the house was really considered a formal crime scene.
So I think many speculated that this case would never be solved, not because one side or the other didn‘t have their favorite suspect, i.e., someone within the Ramsey family or some unknown intruder who knew the family well enough to pull this off, but the challenge was going to be, what physical evidence would you have that would link anyone to this crime?
Now, we have the handwriting, of course, in the note that Dan suggested, the longest kidnap ransom note, to my knowledge, that the FBI had ever seen. The speculation that the paper, the pen came from the house themselves. So a lot of the implements of the crime came from inside that house.
So I think that was one of the primary reasons why the split, the investigator, the lead investigator in the Boulder Police Department felt that the suspect came from within the Ramsey household. Others said no, that can‘t be, it‘s outside.
But here we are. This case, short of probably the kidnap and murder of the Lindbergh baby, one of the most sensational murder cases of a child that we‘ve seen, at least in the 20th and now 21st century. And there‘s a chance that that may be solved.
And I tell you what, 50 percent of the people are going to be wrong, because 50 percent-plus would err on one side or the other, saying it was the family, or saying it was an unknown intruder. The challenge is going to be, it‘s outside the family, who was that unknown intruder and how was he, she, or they able to pull this off and avoid apprehension for this almost 10-year period?
CROWLEY: Yes, Clint, you mentioned the 10-year period here from the time that JonBenet was murdered on Christmas night, 1996, to today. And can you talk a little bit about the degradation of the forensic evidence that you mentioned earlier and how that might complicate the investigation—or rather the prosecution?
VAN ZANDT: Well, yes. I mean, you know, one of the more watched programs on television, of course, is “CSI,” and there‘s probably not a person in your listening—in your listening audience that doesn‘t understand the significance of hairs, fibers, body fluid, semen, saliva, blood, shoeprints, fingerprints, all of this physical evidence that one would normally find at a crime scene. And there are those who suggested that initially the Ramsey household wasn‘t treated as a crime scene, per se.
I‘ve heard some people suggest that friends, neighbors, good meaning people, had come over to the house, even before JonBenet‘s body was found and had contaminated that crime scene, making it almost impossible for the police department crime scene investigators to separate the unknown prints and unknown physical evidence that might have been left by an unknown intruder, versus that of all the well-meaning friends, neighbors, and every one else who had trooped through the house before it was finally received that respect of a crime scene that it should have had from square one. So that becomes the challenge.
And over the years, we know that a case was presented to the grand jury concerning the Ramsey family themselves. As Susan suggested, there was this—there was this cloud of suspicion that hung over the family. And as I‘ve long indicated, the only thing worse than losing a child is being a suspect in the death of your child.
And if this has nothing to do with the Ramsey household whatsoever, what a terrible 10 years that family had to live under, both the cloud of suspicion and the loss of their precious child.
CROWLEY: All right. Clint Van Zandt, thank you so much.
We want to take you now back to Dan Abrams, who—Dan, I understand you have some new information for us.
ABRAMS: Yes. I can tell you this, that sources close to the Ramseys are now saying that this has been a long-standing investigation—and this is the most notable part—is that Patsy Ramsey, the mother of JonBenet, who died recently, knew about this, knew about this suspect, was involved, as the Ramseys have long been, in trying to help further the leads. The investigator I mentioned before, Lou Smit, who was a former D.A. investigator, who was investigating the case, for the D.A.‘s office, who then went to work for the Ramseys, was apparently instrumental in helping the authorities with this investigation.
This, again, according to sources close to the Ramseys.
Now, remember, he is a really sort of spectacular figure in connection with this case, because this is a guy who‘s working for the D.A.‘s office, the D.A.‘s office is looking at Patsy Ramsey. He leaves the D.A.‘s office because he is so convinced that they are innocent, and he then goes and works for John Patsy Ramsey to prove their innocence.
He has been working on this case for years. Probably, off the top of my head, for at least five, may six years. Lou Smit has been working on this case, and now again sources close to the Ramsey family telling me that Lou Smit was instrumental in what they believe is an arrest that has already been made in connection with the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.
CROWLEY: All right.
Dan, Susan, Clint, guys, please stand by. We‘re going to have much more on this JonBenet Ramsey breaking news on the other side of the break.
CROWLEY: Welcome back. I‘m Monica Crowley, in today for Tucker Carlson.
And we continue now our breaking news coverage of the story coming out of Colorado at this hour.
As you just heard from our own Dan Abrams, NBC News has learned that the family of JonBenet Ramsey, that 6-year-old girl who was murdered on Christmas night of 1996, her family is now expecting an arrest in this case.
We are now hearing from KUSA in Denver, Colorado, that a Boulder County district attorney investigator made an arrest earlier this morning in Bangkok, Thailand, in connection with this murder. According to the KUSA and the Boulder County investigator, the suspect in question here confessed certain elements of this crime, elements of the crime that perhaps nobody else might know.
Once again, an arrest in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, almost 10 years later, taking place in Bangkok, Thailand. We do not have specific details of the suspect, but, of course, as we learn more about that, we will bring it to you.
Right now we want to turn to our own Susan Filan, MSNBC legal analyst.
Susan, what do you think when the investigators have been pursuing this case for over—well, almost 10 years now, I should say. They did have the cooperation of John and Patsy Ramsey over the years, and, of course, Patsy Ramsey passing away just several weeks ago from ovarian cancer.
How do you think a prosecution might proceed? Let‘s take it in two different tacts (ph).
If, in fact, the suspect is an American citizen, how will the prosecution proceed then? If the suspect is not an American citizen, how might it go?
Susan, are you with us? Susan Filan?
Dan, those questions to you. How might a prosecution proceed, first of all, if this person is an American citizen?
ABRAMS: Well, look, the prosecution itself wouldn‘t be any different, whether it‘s an American citizen or not an American citizen. The only question would be extradition.
The arrest, it seems, as we had reported earlier, made overseas. Now KUSA confirming what—what we had heard, that it was in Bangkok, Thailand. And so the question becomes, how do they get the person out of Thailand?
How do they get the person back to the United States?
Now, the information that KUSA reporting consistent with—with what we had heard, which was that the Boulder D.A. was expected to have a press conference about this. If that‘s the case, if the Boulder D.A. is ready to speak out about this, that would mean that they‘re ready to talk specifics about where this person is and how the person is going to be coming back to the United States.
It is tougher to extradite someone who is a national. For example, if this person is Thai, it would probably be a longer process in getting the person, if possible, back to the United States. If the person is an American, much easier to get them back from Thailand to the United States.
CROWLEY: Dan, let me ask you, according to KUSA, we heard that this suspect has apparently confessed to certain elements of this crime. Does that indicate to you perhaps this person is a primary suspect or could be an accomplice?
ABRAMS: Well, look, I mean, we don‘t know that there was more than one person involved. So, you know, I think—I think that if this is true, we move forward with the assumption this is someone involved in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. But again, you know, we need to be careful here, just in the sense that—that there have been a number of whackos who have come forward and confessed to certain elements of the crime in the JonBenet Ramsey case.
Now, the fact that there are still elements of this crime that are unknown to the general public, that in and of itself shocks me. I have to tell you, I‘ll be amazed if there are aspects of this case that remain unknown to the general public.
That‘s why I‘m a little suspect of that particular paragraph in the KUSA report. But it is possible, and that is generally—Clint can tell you this—this is how investigators work.
When someone comes in and confesses, they want to know more than just what‘s out there in the public. They want to make sure this person is confessing so something that only the killer or killers would have known.
So, I think we‘ve got to be careful about that part of the KUSA report. But again, what we know, what we confirmed, you know, again, about 45 minutes ago, was that the Ramsey family was told that there was an arrest made, that we were expecting some sort of announcement from the Boulder D.A.‘s Office.
And I‘m certainly that our breaking this story will probably put some pressure on the Boulder D.A.‘s Office to come out and make a statement about this.
CROWLEY: All right. Dan, please stand by.
Right now we want to go back to Susan Filan, MSNBC legal analyst.
Susan, you just heard us talking about this report coming out of KUSA, out of Denver, Colorado, that apparently this suspect confessed to certain element of this crime. Can you talk a little bit about the role such a confession might play going forward?
FILAN: This would be enormously important, because this is what‘s considered a cold case. Ten years have gone by, so the forensic evidence, especially if you have a potentially contaminated crime scene, may cause some difficulty for the prosecution. But a confession, assuming it isn‘t going to be suppressed for some violation of a Fourth Amendment right, is going to be extremely, extremely important in the presentation of this case to a grand jury for an indictment, or to a judge for an arrest warrant, and ultimately to a jury for a conviction.
So this statement, especially if it contains details unreleased heretofore to the public, something known only to the killer, would be of enormous importance to the prosecution and ultimately to the conviction of this suspect.
CROWLEY: And Susan, I would think that such a confession would even be more important, given the fact that this case is 10 years old and that a lot of the forensic evidence, as you indicated, might be already degraded.
FILAN: That‘s right. And ultimately, a juror who hears the chilling details, the gruesome, graphic description of this heinous murder in the murderer‘s own words is some of the most powerful, persuasive evidence ever to be put before a jury. And it would be—it would go a long way towards justice for JonBenet.
But I have to say that even without this, the prosecution has relied on what I would have to believe is pretty good solid forensic links that link this alleged killer to that crime scene, contaminated or not, 10 years old or not. There has to be some kind of forensic links, some kind of circumstantial links beyond the confession that would help put this guy or woman or couple, whatever it is, behind bars, if they in fact did commit this crime.
CROWLEY: All right.
Everybody, please stand by. We want to take a quick break.
And when we come back, we‘re going to have much more on this breaking story involving JonBenet Ramsey and an arrest in that 10-year-old murder case.
Stay with us.
CROWLEY: We continue to follow this breaking story out of the state of Colorado at this hour. An arrest being made in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.
JonBenet Ramsey, of course, the 6-year-old little girl who was killed on Christmas night, 1996, almost 10 years ago, in her Boulder, Colorado, home. Police now, according to NBC News, have made an arrest. And according to KUSA out of Denver, Colorado, a suspect was arrested earlier this morning out of Bangkok, Thailand.
CROWLEY: A suspect was arrested earlier this morning out of Bangkok, Thailand, allegedly also having confessed to certain elements of this crime, this according to Boulder County district attorney investigators in this case.
Right now we want to turn to attorney Leo Terrell with more. Leo, I know that you‘ve been following this case for quite a long time, and again this case is almost 10 years old now. Why do you think it took investigators so long to focus on suspects that were perhaps outside of this family?
LEO TERRELL, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: One of the problems that police departments have when they come up with their own theory of this case as Dan said correctly, there was all this focus on the Ramsey family, they hate to get off their old theory. And what usually happens is sometimes evidence is confronted to them or brought before them, but because they have their own theory for reasons of maybe ego or whatever, they stick with their theory.
What I would suspect, Monica, is that independent evidence came in, a whole way of thinking changed and an open mind set developed in order for these cold cases to sort of warm up, but what usually happens is departments are so gung ho on their theory, they‘re reluctant to hear new evidence.
So I would submit to you that something came forward over the last couple of months, years, to give them a whole different perspective and changed their focus away from the Ramseys, and I believe that‘s what happened. It will be quite interesting to hear from the D.A. if there is a press conference as to what led them to this new person, which hopefully will lead to an arrest and a conviction.
CROWLEY: Yes Leo, on this point, how unusual is it for a case that‘s almost 10 years old, as this one is, to get fresh evidence, at this point in time?
TERRELL: A lot of it has to do with luck and again as I‘ve mentioned, I can‘t stress this enough, because I do a lot of police cases. A lot of it has to do with a new chain of command, a new mind set, so I would submit to you, again going back to what Dan said, there may have been a turnover in the personnel in the police department, in the district attorney‘s office and a whole fresh new look, coupled with, I guarantee you, some new leads, that led them to now Thailand for the—for this possible arrest.
And again, a commitment, more importantly, a commitment of resources, police resources, to set aside, to change the focus. This is significant because without the change of the mind set, without the resources, and again, the luck, maybe a tip, you don‘t have these cold cases warming up.
CROWLEY: You know it‘s going to be very interesting Leo to see if you are correct on both scores, number one, whether or not there were new investigators brought into this case at some point and also whether there is new evidence. And maybe there‘s some combination of both of those things, where you had a fresh set of eyes, on fresh sets of evidence.
TERRELL: So help me, Monica, I can‘t stress enough, because like I said, you know, for the first couple of years, this whole country was suspecting the Ramsey family. Not withstanding their admission to innocence, not withstanding everything they did, but there was this mind set.
And the police departments and law enforcement have a P.R. machine and again, to support their theory, no one else was considered. Again, over the next 24 hours, 48 hours, if there is a true arrest and with the D.A.‘s press conference, we‘re going to find out what mind set changed, what led to this whole new start. But thank goodness for the Ramsey family, it‘s true, a suspect has been arrested.
CROWLEY: All right, Leo Terrell, please stand by. Right now we want to turn to Dr. Henry Lee, forensic criminologist, who worked on the JonBenet Ramsey case in its early stages. Dr. Lee welcome to you. And what can you tell us, I mean this looked like a cold case for a very long time. So what do you suspect happened over the course of the last 10 years to bring us to this point today? Dr. Lee, do we have Dr. Henry Lee?
OK, Leo, why don‘t you field that question then while we wait for Dr.
TERRELL: I‘m sorry, you‘re talking to me Monica?
CROWLEY: Yes, go ahead Leo.
TERRELL: Well I‘ll tell you, what we‘re doing right now is trying to pierce what the D.A. had in its possession right now which led to this arrest. Again, from my almost 20-years plus experience, I would submit to you that leads were revisited, leads that were totally ignored in the past, something came about over the period of time that led to a commitment of resources and a whole new strategy as to focusing on suspects other than the Ramseys.
And as earlier reported, if Patty Ramsey suspected this possible individual, what does that tell you about the initial investigation and its failure to look at possible alternatives, other than the Ramseys. It tells you it‘s a tragedy to the Ramsey family, but in the end result, it might be a sign that the Ramseys have been vindicated. Again, time will tell and the D.A.‘s press conference will be very significant to this question.
CROWLEY: All right, Leo Terrell thank you for that. Please stand by. Now we want to go to Dr. Henry Lee who joins us by phone, he of course the forensic criminologist of some renown, he worked on the JonBenet Ramsey case in its earliest stages. Dr. Lee welcome to you and let me restate my question to you. This case, almost 10 years old, it had been considered a cold case for a very long time. What do you think transpired over the last 10 years to bring us to this point where we are today?
DR. HENRY LEE, CRIMINOLOGIST, WORKED ON RAMSEY CASE: Well, this case being investigated thoroughly, there is some evidence. Of course my evidence is DNA evidence. There are foreign DNA, male DNA was found on her underwear and fingernails. That‘s one of the pieces of evidence, of course. DNA did match this so-called individual arrested in Thailand, that‘s an excellent piece of information.
Of course, this individual, whether or not that path is in Boulder, Colorado, becomes important. Apparently people say he was working in Colorado at that point in time, so now that‘s become important. If he gives some statement, which information nobody else knows the fact of the case, that becomes important. So it‘s just a, you know, cold cases, you basically need some luck, you need some physical evidence, and crime scene reconstruction.
CROWLEY: Dr. Lee, can you talk a little bit about the degradation of the forensic evidence that you just referenced there and how difficult it is after 10 years to use that kind of evidence in a prosecution?
LEE: Well, it‘s not, because the DNA evidence has already been memorialized. They‘ve been analyzed 10 years ago. So nothing—degradation is not going to affect that because it‘s already been examined, and it‘s in digital format, database. Now if this individual‘s DNA, collected, compared, and matched the profile, then that‘s a match. Time will not impact this. We just solved a 26 years old serial killer homicide DNA match, did not change anything.
CROWLEY: Also Dr. Lee one of the signal elements to this case very early on, which is why the investigators focused primarily on the parents John and Patsy Ramsey was that there did not appear to be any sort of forced entry into the house. What do you make of that?
LEE: That‘s, you know, that‘s the fact, and—but they do have a broken window in the basement. Of course, first leading to this case is the note, three pages of ransom note and the demand, $118,000. There were two pages from this note found in the garbage can, so that‘s kind of a—make an investigator thinking it‘s impossible, never have this type of situation before.
So that‘s why they start focusing on the family and because the family have lawyers, refuse to make statements and all kind of stuff, that kind of complicated the case. I have to leave now. I‘m in the middle of a meeting with U.S. marshals. OK.
CROWLEY: OK. Thank you so much for your time. Dr. Henry Lee, forensic criminologist who worked on the JonBenet Ramsey case. Stick around, we‘ve got much more on this big breaking story out of the state of Colorado at this hour. An arrest in the JonBenet Ramsey case. Stay with us.
CROWLEY: An arrest has been made earlier today in Bangkok, Thailand, involving a suspect allegedly involved in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case. JonBenet Ramsey of course that 6-year-old girl who was murdered on Christmas night 1996 in her Boulder, Colorado home while her family slept in other rooms in that house. John and Patsy Ramsey professing their innocence over the years, even though investigators continually considered them under a cloud of suspicion.
Patsy Ramsey, the mother of JonBenet passing away several weeks ago of ovarian cancer. So the father, you can see him there on the left of your screen, John Ramsey, the only surviving parent in this. But again, an arrest has been made earlier today in Bangkok, Thailand, allegedly involving a suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder of almost 10 years ago.
Right now we want to go to Clint Van Zandt, who is an MSNBC analyst, and former FBI profiler. Clint, talk to us a little bit about the kind of profile that has been developed, well, let‘s say early on in this case, and then perhaps if that profile may have changed over time, what sort of things influenced that?
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Sure, well you know, as one of your previous guests, an attorney was suggesting, I‘ll comment on that as we go, you know, police always have to have a working theory. I mean, you start an investigation, it‘s like a blackboard and there‘s nothing written on it, but you have to start developing information, you have to start coming up with some type of a working theory to start building your case around, but again, this—the Ramsey investigation like any other case, it‘s a two track case.
When you have the death of a child, it‘s always a two-track, just like a set of railroad tracks running side by side. One track is that you have to statistically, you have to look inside that common household, you have to look for the parents, you have to look for family members, you have to look for visitors with inside the house and that other entirely independent track that there‘s an outside offender, there‘s an unknown person who broke into the house, either intentionally because they wanted to do something against the family, or that just happens to be the house this intruder broke into.
Most know that prior to the death of JonBenet Ramsey, I think there had only been one homicide in the previous two years in Boulder, there had never been a case like this before, there had never been a case like it afterwards, so it was this massive criminal anomaly where a crime like this had simply not been seen. That pretty much ruled out a child pedophile, a child killer, a serial killer working in the area, because there was nothing else to link it to.
But again, I think the police had two different working theories. One said you have to look inside the family, but the other said, let‘s look and rule in or rule out every potential person, friend, neighbor, criminal in the entire Boulder area, and I think that was part of the investigation.
Now a fresh look always helps a case, a new set of eyes, where you come in, you don‘t have someone says, oh, yes, we looked at him, we looked at her. No, let‘s look at everybody all over again. And hopefully over the last decade, that has been part of this investigation.
But as Henry Lee suggests, this unknown DNA, the two things that are going to link this person, hopefully will be number one, physical evidence in the form perhaps of that unknown DNA or the handwriting on that three page demand note, and number two, is some unique kind of knowledge that no one else knows about in the crime scene.
And the challenge is that almost everything about that crime and the death of that child and the crime scene has been in the public, it‘s been in books, so the authorities have got to be very careful they don‘t have someone confessing to a crime that they really were not involved in, simply because they‘re looking perhaps for their 15 minutes of fame and that‘s why they have to be so careful at this point.
CROWLEY: We also want to mention Clint, that the suspect who was arrested earlier today in Bangkok, Thailand, is currently being held in Bangkok on unrelated sex charges. Clint, it looks like, from what we‘ve learned over the years of this investigation, that there wasn‘t forced entry necessarily, that there wasn‘t anything missing from the house. It did not look like a classic robbery. Does that suggest to you that perhaps a suspect may have known the child.
VAN ZANDT: Well, that‘s the frightening challenging thing is that perhaps that household was targeted to go after one of the two children. Of course JonBenet and her brother Burke were both in the house at the same time. But if this offender, you know, you mentioned Bangkok, Thailand and unfortunately, there are ties between the United States and countries such as Bangkok, that have to do with child pornography, various other crimes against children.
So if this offender, either targeted the house because of JonBenet or her brother, or in some horrific way did it as some form of action against John or Patsy, well this has still got to come out. You know motive is going to be the primary thing. Everyone is going to want to know what was the motive for doing something like this and how could an offender escape for 10 years and finally be caught up. If anything, this speaks to the diligence of both the Ramsey household and law enforcement, who worked this case for this last decade.
CROWLEY: All right, Clint Van Zandt, please stand by. Thank you for that. Right now we want to turn to criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman. Mickey, from a criminal defense standpoint, what we‘re hearing from KUSA in Denver, Colorado at this hour, is that apparently the suspect has confessed to certain elements of this crime. What does that tell you?
MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It seems that they may have the right person. I mean, shame on all of us for condemning the Ramsey family all these years. I mean, there were so many people who refused to defend these people and saying, well, they must be guilty, because the odds are that they are guilty. And if in fact as Clint points out, if they‘re going to make an arrest, we have to believe that they‘re going to be pretty damn sure they have the right person this time.
CROWLEY: Well Mickey, as a criminal defense attorney, if you were hypothetically defending this suspect, what do you do with a confession like this, assuming that the confession had been made in Bangkok, what do you do?
SHERMAN: Well, you hope that he‘s a nut and you hope that the confession is being made because they want 15 minutes of fame, they want 20 minutes on NBC and they want to sit down with Monica Crowley and be interviewed and not because they actually did it. So you have to find out as Clint points out what special circumstances or special knowledge do they really, really have that has not been put out by the media over the last 10 years.
And there must be something that the real killer knows that we don‘t know, but in this day and age of the mediazation of the big crimes, it‘s as likely as not that we, the public, know everything about this case. The other thing complicating this thing was—which was so horrible, was the lack of communication between the district attorney‘s office and the police. I mean, that was just always seemed to be pretty blatant and very pathetic.
CROWLEY: Mickey, also you know, you‘ve worked on some very high-profile murder cases that took place a very long time ago. How unusual is it for a fresh piece of evidence to come in, for a fresh tip, for somebody to come forward after all of these years?
SHERMAN: Well, it seems it‘s been happening more in the last 10 years than we‘ve seen and that‘s with the advent of the CSI technology, especially DNA. But you know, people think that the cold cases are difficult to try on behalf of the state.
Well they‘re more difficult to try on behalf of the defense, because witnesses on both sides have been lost, memories have faded, but the public and that translates to the jury, really wants you to get closure, wants to see justice done and they take it out on the person who‘s been accused, whether it‘s by confession or not, saying you know you could have caused—you‘ve caused enough grieve over these 26 years or whatever, and now we‘re going to get you. So the fact that the case is old generally does not benefit the defendant as many people think.
CROWLEY: You know let‘s think a little bit out of the box here Mickey and when we talk about the professional investigators, of course they have been doggedly pursuing this case for almost 10 years now, but what about the pop culture angle to this?
You mentioned CSI, meaning crime scene investigations, but there‘s also a wildly popular television showed called “CSI.” Do you think that perhaps out of the public, somebody watching some of these shows like “Law and Order” or something like that, perhaps either had guilt triggered by watching some of those shows or had something that got triggered by this pop culture phenomenon of forensic evidence and investigations that could lead police to the real killer?
Mickey, are you still with us? All right, we lost Mickey Sherman, defense attorney. Thank you for that, Mickey. Let‘s turn to Leo Terrell. Leo, were you able to hear that question?
TERRELL: Yes. And again, it goes back into the luck aspect of these
of the lead that possibly could have led to this arrest. I mean, popular shows like CSI have led people to sort of revisit issues that may have been motivated by what they‘ve seen on TV and provided the proper tips, the proper information. We don‘t know, it‘s pure speculation at this point.
But I do want to go back to what Clint said, which I think is, if I may, which I think is quite important. You know there‘s always a track to find evidence to incriminate and there‘s tracks of evidence to exonerate. And what I find disturbing at the point was that the Ramsey family was never on that track to be exonerated in the evidence that was collected.
Clint brought up a very significant point as well, the absence of homicides in Boulder, Colorado, which leads me to also believe that again, maybe the Boulder Colorado Police Department wasn‘t adept to consider possible alternatives. When Dr. Lee mentioned the DNA evidence, they probably ruled out the aspect of a child predator, simply because there was no such history of that type of activity.
And unfortunately, that mind set ruled out possible suspects at the outset of this crime, hopefully this new evidence that came in, again, and a fresh pair of eyes, gave a new perspective. But you have to remember, that at the outset of this crime, the Ramseys were focused on and yet there may have been evidence to exonerate them, but the initial theory probably never focused away from the Ramseys.
CROWLEY: All right, Leo Terrell, attorney, thank you so much for your time and insights. Thank you. Right now we do have a statement from the family attorney of JonBenet Ramsey. This comes from Hal Hadden, who again is the family attorney.
And he says this, “The diligent investigation of JonBenet Ramsey‘s murder by Boulder District Attorney Lacey (ph) and detectives working with her has been extraordinary. It is our hope that this arrest will bring some closure to the Ramsey family after a 10 year ordeal. We respect the legal process and will have no further comment about the case or the evidence until that process is concluded.” Much more on the arrest in the JonBenet Ramsey case in just a moment.
CROWLEY: We broke this story first right here on MSNBC, and alongside NBC News, an arrest in the JonBenet Ramsey case. Earlier today, a suspect taken into custody in Bangkok, Thailand. This murder case almost 10 years old at this point. JonBenet Ramsey, 6 years old, when she was killed in her Boulder, Colorado home, back on Christmas night 1996.
Over the course of that investigation, John and Patsy Ramsey, her mother and her father, were considered under a cloud of suspicion for an extended period of time. They always, always professed their innocence and cooperated with the investigators over the years. Now an arrest coming out of Bangkok, Thailand, the suspect being held at this hour in Bangkok on unrelated sex charges. And according to KUSA out of Denver, Colorado, that suspect confessing to certain elements of this crime.
We‘re joined once again by Clint Van Zandt, he is a former FBI profiler and also MSNBC analyst. Clint, you know, when we hear cases about murdered children, we think about some of these high profile cases and Polly Klaas‘ murder in California many years ago also comes to mind in this. What kind of person kills a child?
VAN ZANDT: Well, I mean, you get on the other side of just human reason. I mean, you have to get into a sociopathic or psychopathic personality. You find individuals who suggest that they‘re able to develop some type of relationship with a child, many times in the case of a child molester. But when you have someone that goes in that commits what we see here, this brutal homicide, this is someone who just lacks any type of empathy, any ability to understand both the pain of the child and the pain that parents would go through.
And to be able to almost with stealth-like ability get into the Ramsey household, get all the way up to like the second or third floor of that house, be able to attack this child, murder her, then take her body down to the basement, write a three page demand note and then get out of the house without anyone being aware, I mean, you know, sometimes you can have someone who is just a very good criminal and sometimes unfortunately, luck is not with you. And the challenge I think for the Ramsey family, again, not withstanding losing their child, is how do you prove your innocence?
You know, if this is the case, if this person actually proves to be the individual responsible and no one within that family setting or household had anything to do with this, I mean, this tells law enforcement that you can‘t go with sheer statistical probabilities. I have read one article that said 14 to 1, the killer of a child comes from the common household. Well this is one more chance where certain statistics don‘t count.
CROWLEY: All right, Clint Van Zandt, we‘ve got to run. Thank you so much Clint. I‘m going to turn it over now to Milissa Rehberger who picks up our continuing coverage of the JonBenet Ramsey investigation.
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