Guests: Henry Lee, Francene Cucinello, Clint Van Zandt, Trip Demuth
MONICA CROWLEY, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to our special continuing coverage, a major breakthrough in the JonBenet Ramsey case today. JonBenet Ramsey, of course, the six year old little girl from Boulder, Colorado who was slain in her home as she slept Christmas Night, 1996. And here we are almost 10 years later and a major, major breaking news story today in the arrest of a suspect in that murder. We are hearing at this hour that the suspect was arrested, taken into custody earlier today in Bangkok, Thailand.
“The Rocky Mountain News” now reporting that he is a 41 year old male who taught the second grade. A schoolteacher there. Also, the “Rocky Mountain News” reporting that he hailed from Conyers, Georgia. An American citizen now in custody for the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Also, our affiliate KUSA in Denver, Colorado reported earlier this afternoon that the suspect allegedly confessed to certain elements of this crime.
We‘ve got details coming at us fast and furious this hour. Right now we want to go to chief legal correspondent, Dan Abrams with more. Hi, Dan.
DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey there, Monica. You head the story first here on MSNBC. The arrest in Bangkok, Thailand of a 41-year old school teacher. School teacher. And I will had this detail as well. According to the attorney for John Ramsey a convicted sex offender as well. So we‘ll have to wait until we get more details on that. We received exclusively a statement from John Ramsey. And let me read it to you. It says the following.
“I want to have only very limited comments on today‘s arrest because I feel as though it is extremely important to not only let the justice system operate to its conclusion in an orderly manner, but also to avoid feeding the type of media speculation that my wife and I were subjected to for so many years.
“I do want to say, however, that the investigation of the individual arrested today in connection with JonBenet‘s death was discussed with Patsy and me by the Boulder district attorney‘s office prior to Patsy‘s death in June. So Patsy was aware that authorities were close to making an arrest in the case and had she lived to see this day would no doubt have been as pleased as I am with today‘s development almost 10 years after our daughter‘s murder.”
Now I got chance to speak with the Eamsey‘s attorney, long time attorney, Lin Wood who has been fighting for the Ramsey for many years in an exclusive interview only minutes ago.
ABRAMS: Give us a little history here. How long have you known about this person as a possible suspect?
LIN WOOD, RAMSEY ATTORNEY: I have known about this particular person without knowing his name probably for about three months. I learned about it about a month before Patsy died in late June.
ABRAMS: And how did the authorities come to find this person? I mean, I think a lot of people are looking at this and saying 10 years later, how do you get a tip about a convicted sex offender that suddenly materializes?
WOOD: This individual has been under investigation for an extended period of time. I don‘t want to go into any details. I would be the first to say, Dan, that this gentleman is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and I would not want to publicly comment in a way that might be prejudicial to him, just like I did not want make people making comments and accusations about my clients for the past 10 years.
What I can say is that the law enforcement—members of the law enforcement came out in Boulder under the direction of district attorney Lacey have never given up on pursuing the truth in this case, they have worked the leads diligently, they felt this lead was one that in fact might bear fruit, and it ultimately did. They feel this individual was the person that should be arrested and charged with the crime.
ABRAMS: Let‘s be clear, they believe this is the person who killed JonBenet Ramsey?
WOOD: My understanding is this individual has been arrested and charged with the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.
ABRAMS: Do they believe that there could be other possible suspects?
WOOD: I don‘t have any details to share with you in that regard. That type of information would have to come from district attorney Lacey‘s office.
ABRAMS: This is an American citizen, correct, 41-year-old former school teacher?
WOOD: That‘s my understanding, yes.
ABRAMS: So when we talk about a arrest in Bangkok, Thailand, we‘re not talking about someone who is a Thai citizen. As far as you know, is the extradition process moving forward? Is this going to be a long legal fight?
WOOD: My understanding is that that process is moving forward, and this individual is on his way back to the United States.
ABRAMS: Do you know how long he has been in Bangkok?
WOOD: I do not.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you this. Lin, look, this is a case that I know you take personally. You have come to know John and Patsy Ramsey very well. I know from talking to you over the years, I know from talking to the Ramseys over the years that you view this as a personal cause on your part. How do you feel about the fact that now someone else has been arrested?
WOOD: I will tell you, Dan, I care deeply for this family. And I regret that—I am not able to hug Patsy Ramsey‘s neck today, but I take some real comfort in the fact that she knew an arrest was close before she died. I have, as you know, urged publicly the innocence of this family, seeking to have them vindicated in the court of public opinion, just as I believe years ago they were vindicated in a court of law. Not indicted by the grand jury in 1999, and a federal judge here in Atlanta in March of 2003 in a 93 page ruling finding that the evidence in the case was that an intruder killed JonBenet, and then in 2003 when district attorney Lacey issued a statement agreeing with the conclusion of Judge Korns (ph), and yet that news that was exculpatory that should have vindicated the family in the minds of objective people, really was not conveyed by the media. The frenzy around the case had pretty much subsided.
Obviously today is another step toward their complete and full vindication and exoneration, so it‘s an emotional day. It‘s difficult to say that one would celebrate. It‘s a day that I believed should occur, and I guess it is still kind of hard to believe that it actually has occurred.
ABRAMS: How about john Ramsey? I know that you have talked to him about this. When you have been under what the authorities described as an umbrella of suspicion for 10 years in the killing of your own daughter, this has got to be a moment, a day, that is just overwhelming?
WOOD: Well I will tell you, I spoke with John right after I spoke with district attorney Lacey, and John Ramsey continues to this very day to exhibit the same type of dignity and grace that I have seen him exhibit privately and publicly for the many years that I have had the privilege to know him and to represent him.
John and Patsy lived their lives knowing they were innocent, trying to raise a son despite the furor around them. And I have got to tell you, the story of this family is a story of courage, and at the same time, a story of an American injustice and tragedy that ultimately people will have to look back and hopefully learn from.
ABRAMS: And I would ask you the question, is John Ramsey angry, but I would assume based on your experience with him that the anger came years ago?
WOOD: I have seen John angry maybe on one or two occasions. When accusations or insults were made against his wife in his presence. But I have at the same time watched him endure those accusations, as I said, with the grace that literally defies belief. It‘s hard to belief that a family could go through such tragedy. John losing and Patsy losing their stepdaughter, John‘s daughter in 1992, to a tragic automobile accident, and then Patsy‘s diagnosis with cancer, stage IV cancer in 1993, followed by the murder, the brutal murder of their child and then years of accusations.
I‘ve got to tell you, how they survived and managed to raise a wonderful young man, their son, grandparents, it‘s just a story of courage, Dan, that one day people should study and learn from.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you this, Lin. As far as you know, did JonBenet know this man who has now been arrested?
WOOD: I don‘t have that type of information. Again, that would be something that ultimately would have to come from the district attorney‘s office.
ABRAMS: OK. So you don‘t know if she went to the same school where he taught or anything like that?
WOOD: I don‘t have any information about that.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you, and this is again a broader question. What do you think happened here? Why do you think, then, that John and Patsy Ramsey became the primary suspects so quickly? Was it just the combination of the Boulder Police Department and how the Ramseys responded initially in a particular way. Do you have any theories?
WOOD: Well, I have said many times over the years that clearly this investigation in its initial stages was handled by individuals in law enforcement who were totally inexperienced in homicide investigations who jumped to conclusions as opposed to correctly following the evidence. Obviously the Ramseys in the exercise of their rights as I would urge any American citizen to exercise sought the advice and protection of lawyers, and the public perceived that as an act consistent with guilt when it is in fact not at all inconsistent with innocence.
And I think the media frenzy that was led by accusations of guilt filled with the most obscene false accusations against this family, from calling them pornographers to child molestors to devil worshipers, and I think the public‘s mind was so poisoned against this family, that no one was able for too many years to take an objective look at the evidence.
And the people that looked at that evidence, that are experienced, have all been unanimous. The federal judge in Atlanta, district attorney Mary Lacey unanimously have all found that the evidence in this case was an intruder killed JonBenet. But that type of information simply does not get the headlines like the accusations get.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you about this. There is a man named Lou Smith, who you have come to know very well.
WOOD: He is an American hero.
ABRAMS: Who worked at the D.A.‘s office initially on this case, quit the case because he said he was convinced that John and Patsy were not guilty, and that an intruder was involved. He came to assist you and the Ramsey family in trying to find the real killer in this case.
How involved was he in ultimately finding the 41-year-old school teacher that has now been arrested in Thailand?
WOOD: I don‘t have the details of Lou‘s involvement, so I don‘t want to misstate except to say that he has remained active in the investigation, and he is, I believe, along with District Attorney Mary Lacey, individuals who from a law enforcement perspective, even though they would tell you they were simply doing their jobs, these people are heroes, because they never gave up in their pursuit of the truth by following the evidence in the case.
And Lou Smith said long ago, and I know you spoke with him many times, that he believed that a pedophile murdered this child, and it appears that at least from what we know today that the individual arrested may very well fit that profile.
ABRAMS: Now, the Ramseys are from Atlanta, Georgia. I am told you had made some comment about you said he had been from nearby in Georgia. Do you know anything else about that?
WOOD: I do not.
ABRAMS: OK. So no information about where he may have lived vis-a-vis the Ramseys?
WOOD: No. None whatsoever at this point. Other than some connection to Conyers.
ABRAMS: OK. Patsy Ramsey, you talked about her a moment ago, she passed away in June. How much did she know? You said that she knew about this investigation. Do you think that she believed before she passed away that this person was absolutely going to be arrested, or do you think that she had kind of thrown in the towel as many had saying this case—they will never arrest the real killer?
WOOD: Patsy believed, as I believe and I think John has believed, that the killer would one day be brought to justice. And again let me preface that by saying that this individual has been arrested and charged with the murder. But I do not take away from him the presumption of innocence. But I do believe that Patsy felt before her death confident that an arrest was going to be made in the case in the near future.
ABRAMS: Lin. Anything else that you know about how this arrest occurred that you can tell us? Did the Thai authorities involved with this? Was - were there—international customs officials that told us they were also involved. Have you been told anything about that?
WOOD: All those details - that‘s information that I again would defer to the district attorney‘s office.
ABRAMS: So finally, again, let me ask you one more personal note, because you and I have had so many conversations about this, and I will tell the public, you have screamed at me at times about this case.
WOOD: Only when you deserved it, Dan.
ABRAMS: You have yelled at the top of your lungs about this, and you have taken this so very personally. Your effort to demonstrate that John and Patsy Ramsey were innocent, and I know you have done this with many reporters and others who have spoken about this case, you threatened them, you have done this with a single handed goal, and that was to ultimately prove that they were innocent, is this the most important case of your life at this point?
WOOD: It is, without a doubt, one of the most important cases in my life, Dan.
I got to tell you, I was—two weeks ago I had the privilege of standing next to Richard Jewell who was falsely accused in the media of the Olympic Park bombing. I was able to stand beside Richard Jewell when he was given a commendation for heroism by Governor Sonny Purdue, the governor of Georgia.
And that was a pretty special day from the standpoint of being Richard‘s lawyer and fighting for almost 10 years for that day to come when he would be recognized as a hero.
This day and what I have experienced in representing John and Patsy Ramsey is right up there with the way I felt when I saw Richard Jewell accept that commendation. These are special people, Dan, that I represent, and they are individuals who were never charged with a crime, but yet were tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion.
And it‘s mighty tough when you are fighting for folks who don‘t have the protections of the legal systems, in terms of being formally charged with a crime, but yet you find yourself fighting some law enforcement and fighting a lot of media folks trying to urge their innocence.
So I wouldn‘t try to say that this was the most important case, but I can only tell you that it has been a privilege to represent this family, and it has been a privilege to represent Richard Jewell, and I am mighty glad that I had the chance to do it.
ABRAMS: Lin, I told you that this was the last question, but I have a crack team of producers here who have been covering this case for many, many years as well. And so I have been slipped one more question that they were hoping you might be able to answer.
And that is that there is a report from our local affiliate KUSA in Denver saying this person apparently confessed to certain elements of the crime that only the killer would have known about, and my response was that I find it hard to believe that at this point there are any elements of this crime that the public doesn‘t know about. But do you know anything about that?
WOOD: Again, I don‘t want to comment on the evidence, or at least the information that I have. I am just going to have to defer, again, to district attorney Lacey for comment on that particular area.
ABRAMS: When do you expect the district attorney to make an announcement?
WOOD: I understand there has been some formal announcement about the arrest. District attorney Lacey has a history now of many years in not discussing the case with the media. I don‘t expect that will change, particularly now that we have a .
ABRAMS: I was told just now that it‘s 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time since we‘ve been on the air. And they announced that she will make an announcement at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.
WOOD: Great. Well, I expected that and again, I don‘t expect beyond just some very basic details that Mary Lacey is going to attempt in any way to try this case in the media, and she will maintain the posture that she has for several years, and that is that she is going to pursue this particular individual in a court of law, and I don‘t think that her position will change.
And that position has been borne out as what I would call almost a text book example of how to handle a case like this. They have been pursuing this individual for months and yet nothing has ever been leaked about him, and I think that‘s outstanding work on the part of district attorney Lacey and the members of her investigative team.
ABRAMS: Are you going to start demanding apologies from some others involved in this case?
WOOD: I‘ve never - I don‘t think I‘ve demanded apologies for my clients. I did for many years ask for Richard Jewell to be asked or recognized for his heroism because no one ever bothered to do it. And as far as an apology goes to the Ramsey family. That‘s not something they ever asked for. They understood why they were initially investigated. I think that what they want is what I want, not an apology, but ultimately for the killer of this child to be brought to justice.
ABRAMS: How is their son doing? There was a lot of attention focused on him. At the time he was nine years old when this happened? How is he doing?
WOOD: Remarkably well. And again, the fact that he is doing so well speaks volumes about how he was raised by John and Patsy. And I‘ll leave it at that. He‘s a great young man.
ABRAMS: Lin Wood, I will tell you this. That before this announcement and before an arrest, I have often said that your taking over the representation of John and Patsy Ramsey, I think single-handedly changed the direction of both the investigation and of the public perception of the Ramseys and I think that you too deserve a lot of credit for what has happened today.
And as you know, I don‘t say things lightly, and so I say to you as well congratulations on this, although as you point out, there is the presumption of innocence, and we will see what happens at the trial. But the fact that even this investigation has moved forward in this direction I think is in a large part due to your persistence in connection with this case.
WOOD: Dan, I appreciate that very much. I think that every lawyer wants to make a difference in the lives of his and her clients, and the idea that I may have contributed to that occurring in the lives of John and Patsy and Burke Ramsey is a professional accomplishment that I am proud of, and I appreciate your comments in that regard.
ABRAMS: Lin Wood, thank you very much for coming on. We appreciate it.
WOOD: Thank you, Dan.
CROWLEY: That was Dan Abrams exclusive interview with Lin Wood who has been for a long time the Ramseys‘ personal family attorney.
And oftentimes very emotional interview there by Mr. Wood as he expressed a sense of vindication for his clients, the Ramseys.
Once again a breakthrough in the case of the JonBenet murder investigation with an arrest coming today of a suspect in Bangkok, Thailand. We will have much more on the other side. Stay with us.
CROWLEY: And welcome back to our special coverage of the arrest in the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation. That murder taking place almost 10 years ago on Christmas Night 1996, almost 10 years have passed and finally, finally we have an arrest.
We have a suspect taken into custody in Bangkok, Thailand. Right now I am joined on the phone by Dr. Henry Lee, he, of course, the renowned forensic criminologist who worked on the JonBenet murder investigation in its earliest stages. Dr. Lee, welcome.
HENRY LEE, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Yeah. How are you doing?
CROWLEY: I‘m fine, thank you. And thank you for being here.
Dr. Lee, what we are hearing now from the “Rocky Mountain News” is that this suspect is a 41-year-old male, taught second grade with some connection to Conyers, Georgia, and an American citizen.
Based on that profile of this suspect, does that fit with the evidence you saw when you were conducting your investigation?
LEE: Yes. The physical evidence at the crime scene, it was kind of confusing. It was confused. A lot of confusion in this case, because of the ransom note. Three-pages long ransom note. The note started with Mr. Ramsey (inaudible) group basically tried to introduce themselves wanting $118,000 ransom money. That specific figure was kind of interesting. As you know, that‘s the bonus of Mr. Ramsey.
And the investigator found two pages of a practice note. This type of thing never happened in—before, somebody writing a practice ransom note.
And of course, later, the Bureau of Colorado Investigation found foreign DNA, male DNA on JonBenet‘s underwear. That male DNA can be a crucial piece of evidence in the whole investigation. Right now we have a suspect, he confessed. That is excellent news for the family. I‘m happy for the family.
Of course, the society feels much happier if somebody in this case is finally solved. But however, this physical evidence, the handwriting plus the DNA have to confirm. Once it‘s confirmed, of course we know he is a definitive suspect now.
CROWLEY: Dr. Lee based on your initial investigations at the crime scene, did this looks like the work of one person or perhaps more than one?
LEE: This case, it‘s kind of a—her body was found in a so-called wine cellar in the basement. Somebody has to know the house layout so well, to find her bedroom, to move her from the upstairs to downstairs and then to the basement. And that wine cellar, it‘s a room inside another room so only somebody that knows the layout can find this place.
And in addition, apparently, involving ligature, and the source of the ligature can be important, too. Two inch tape was found on her mouth, covered her mouth. That two inches tape is also important.
So all of those indications from the physical evidence and the crime scene patter yearn, we have to try and look into and to connect all the dots.
CROWLEY: Dr. Lee, in the early stages of this investigation, we all recall hearing that it did not look like there was any forced sign of entry into the house, and there was snow on the ground and there were no footprints in the snow, and yet you have reminded us, Dr. Lee, that there was a broken basement window.
LEE: Window, right.
CROWLEY: So it sounds as you mentioned, it was somebody that knew the house and perhaps knew the family?
LEE: Right. This window, it‘s in the basement. However, the window, the father indicates a couple weeks before the incident, he forgot the key and he broke the window.
And of course that could be a point of entry. As one of the investigators from the Boulder district attorney‘s office and Lee Smith pointed out that could be a sex offender, a sex predator. And apparently the person arrested has some record.
CROWLEY: Dr. Henry Lee, the renowned forensic criminologist. Thank you, sir, so much for your time today.
LEE: OK. Thank you. Bye.
CROWLEY: And now joining us in studio is Susan Filan, she is an MSNBC legal analysis. And Susan we are hearing the profile of this suspect taken into custody. Forty-one years old. A male. Second grade schoolteacher. Some connection to Conyers, Georgia.
And we‘re also hearing through Dan Abrams that according to John Ramsey, this person is also a previously convicted sex offender. Is this somebody that perhaps should have come to the fore in this investigation a lot sooner?
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well it isn‘t clear what clues the police and law enforcement have been following all along. Don‘t forget it seems that they did get off on the wrong track by focusing more on the Ramsey family than on the intruder theory. Once you go to the intruder theory, however, this little girl was a beauty queen contestant in pageants and she was well photographed and she was out in the public eye. It‘s quite possible that she did, being so beautiful, catch the attention of a pedophile, he was a school teacher. He‘s from Georgia, the Ramsey family is originally from Georgia. Again, we don‘t know what connection that is. But it does sound like this is an act of pedophilia, an adult that fell in love with a child, wanted to have inappropriate relations and then for whatever reason, remorse, guilt, shame, disgust, self loathing, snuffed out her life like blowing out a candle on a birthday cake.
So whether they should have focused on him before or not isn‘t ultimately clear. As Dr .Lee said, this case had a lot of forensic confusion, but it has enough forensic clarity now, it sounds like, with the DNA on the underwear, there sounds like there‘s some other hair and fiber links. And now we have this statement or this confession from this person in custody. It doesn‘t sound like he‘s fighting extradition. It almost sounds perhaps like maybe he‘s relieved to be caught and to be coming home. We believe that he is being held in Thailand on other sex offense charges. Maybe Thailand is not the place you want to be held. The good ole U.S.A. prisons look a lot better to him. It‘s unclear why he‘s willingly coming back. But that sounds very promising for the prosecution.
CROWLEY: Susan, why do you think the investigators in this case were so invested for so long in taking a look at this family and perhaps overlooked other evidence and other clues that might have led them earlier to this other person?
FILAN: I think in some ways for the right reasons and some ways for the wrong reasons. When you‘ve got a child that‘s murdered in the home, you do have to look at the family members, you do have to look at the people in that house. But you don‘t stop there. You also have to look at other people that could have—you know—strangers, intruders, other people, handy men, that worked in the home and had access to this home. We know they had a party with a lot of people at it a week ago before her murder. So they should have ultimately looked at the family but they shouldn‘t have just looked at the family. It does seem like they got stuck there, because the ransom amount was weird, $118,000. The stationery, they believed the pen came from inside the home. The location of the child‘s body in that wine cellar, seemed to indicate that somebody knew this house and they kind of just thought, well, it has to be someone in that family. Thank goodness their lawyer stuck with them so hard and so fast and so long, and now it looks like they are ultimately going to be vindicated. It‘s such a tragedy that her mom, JonBenet‘s mom has passed away. But it‘s also great that it sounds like the DA gave her some comfort before she passed in that they were close to this suspect. It will be very interesting to see how this develops. This is one of the true, whodunits of all times. This has captured our imaginations, this beautiful little girl‘s murder has fascinated all of us. It‘s been a real mystery and perhaps now it‘s finally solved.
CROWLEY: 10 years later, Susan. You know a lot of people who have paid closed attention to this case over the years, have leveled some criticism at the district attorney‘s office there in Boulder, Colorado, and also the police department, saying that the DA‘s office and the police really didn‘t coordinate, they didn‘t get along all that well, they really didn‘t get the investigation on sort of a smooth even keel when they should have. Did you hear that, and is there any indication that perhaps both of those institutions and organizations tripped themselves up doing this investigation?
FILAN: Well sometimes law enforcement in their effort to do their absolute best gets a little territorial about their handling of the case or handling of the evidence. I hate when I hear that, I think it should all be one team and everybody should share and play together. But that doesn‘t always happen. I‘m not aware what exactly went wrong in this case, that it takes us 10 years later to actually solve it. And I‘m loathed to be critical of law enforcement when I don‘t know the intimate details of how those organizations work. But I can tell you that it sounds like the current DA and the investigators that have stuck with this case and have worked on it now, have—really do deserve a great deal of credit in that this person is now under arrest, is being brought back to the U.S. and has been arrested and is charged with her murder. We know this person will be in a United States court to face our justice system.
CROWLEY: We also heard from the local affiliate out of Denver, KUSA earlier this afternoon, that apparently the suspect has confessed to certain elements of this crime. Now if you are the prosecutor in this case 10 years later Susan, how do you lock down that confession? And again, we assume that the confession took place in Bangkok, Thailand, not on American soil. Although our understanding is that the suspect is en route to the United States now as we speak. But assuming that that confession took place on foreign soil, as the prosecutor, how do you lock that down and make sure that that is presented in any trial?
FILAN: Monica, you have to safeguard that American citizen‘s constitutional protections to due process against unlawful interrogation. They do have a right to counsel, they have to be told what their rights are. But once those rights have been established and those rights are knowingly and intentionally and intelligently waived, whatever statement follows is fair game and would not be suppressed and would be allowed in a court of law. So law enforcement has to be very careful to safeguard these protections. No matter how bad they want to hear what this guy has to say, and no matter how eager they are to get him to confess. You cannot break the rules, you have to do it fair and square. Once those rules however are followed, that statement, that confession comes in.
CROWLEY: All right, MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan. Susan great to see you. Thanks as always.
FILAN: You‘re welcome Monica.
CROWLEY: And right now we are hearing that federal officials are telling the “Associated Press” at this hour, that the suspect‘s name is John Mark Karr, John Mark Karr, a 41 year old male, second grade school teacher with some connection to Conyers, Georgia. An American citizen now in custody for the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Stick around, we have much more on the other side of the break.
CROWLEY: Almost 10 years after her murder, we finally have an arrest in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. And finally we now have a name. According to federal officials who are telling the “Associated Press” that they do have a suspect in custody, his name John Mark Karr, 41 years old, second grade school teacher. Right now we want to turn to Leanne Gregg, she is an NBC News Channel reporter out of Denver. And Lee Ann if you could, bring us up to speed if you would on the details of this story coming from there?
LEANNE GREGG, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Monica, it is a stunning development. Almost a decade after little JonBenet was found in the basement of her home in Boulder, Colorado, and now this man has confessed to the crime. He was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand Wednesday morning in connection with the murder. A Boulder County district attorney investigator is expected to bring him back to the United States within the next couple of days. He was apparently picked up on an unrelated sex charge, and his DNA matched with JonBenet‘s killer. Investigators say he admitted to certain elements of the JonBenet crime, that no one else could possibly know about. Of course JonBenet‘s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey had been under an umbrella of suspicion from the very beginning, all along they said they believed an intruder killed their daughter.
The name of this man, according to federal officials, John Mark Karr, 42 years old, a second grade school teacher who did have ties to Georgia. Patsy Ramsey, of course, died of cancer earlier this summer, and to the very end she had encouraged her friends and family members to never give up trying to find her daughter‘s killer. John Ramsey said in a statement he didn‘t want to say much about the arrest, not many comments because he wanted to avoid feeding the media speculation that he and his wife had to endure for so long in relation to this crime. He did say that Patsy Ramsey knew that there were developments and that they may be getting close to an arrest. Monica that‘s the latest from Denver.
CROWLEY: Leanne, what is the reaction of the community there?
GREGG: People truly are stunned. I think many people believed this case would go unsolved. By now there were not any solid leads that the public was aware of. So it‘s stunning and I think people feel pleased for the family that there may finally be some justice.
CROWLEY: And also Leanne, is there any reaction from the Colorado police there, Boulder or Denver as to this latest development? Any indication that the police might make a statement?
GREGG: Not yet. We don‘t know. We do know that the Boulder District Attorney‘s office plans to hold a news conference tomorrow afternoon and talk about what may have led to this arrest a little bit more about the suspect and what they know. But we haven‘t heard yet about the police department.
CROWLEY: All right. NBC News Channel reporter Leanne Gregg live for us out of Denver. Leanne thanks.
And right now we want to turn to Francene Cucinello, she is a radio talk show host out of Louisville, Kentucky, and she joins us now live. Francine great to see you. So I understand that you spoke with the Ramsey‘s back in 1999 when their book about this case came out. Can you give us a little bit of your impressions of Patsy and John Ramsey?
FRANCENE CUCINELLO, INTERVIEWED RAMSEYS AHEAD OF THEIR BOOK: Well Monica, this development is purely extraordinary, and back then we were never thinking we were going to actually find a killer, no less have a suspect come out of Bangkok, as you can imagine. Now when I was getting to know John and Patsy Ramsey about the time they wrote the book, they had been very, very quiet. Again, they had just moved back to Georgia, they didn‘t want anybody to focus on them or their child. They wanted Burke who was just nine years old when JonBenet was killed, to grow up in as much normalcy as possible.
Now everybody has been saying today, Dan Abrams, we heard Mickey Sherman, we also heard Lynn Woods saying why was there so much speculation about the family so quickly. Well there was very good reason. First of all the police looked at the family and I think that‘s what pulled John and Patsy and Ramsey into a shell. They were very nice, but they were extremely guarded as you can imagine when I had talked to them. However, they wanted to clear their names and they knew that wasn‘t going to happen until the real killer was found. But you have to remember, and one thing that nobody is bringing up Monica, is the speculation was not did just John and Patsy have something to do with this murder, but was their son involved perhaps because of jealousy.
Now you have to remember, there was no sign of forced entry. It seemed like JonBenet was possibly lured down to this basement wine cellar. So you would think it was somebody who said hey JonBenet come with me, let‘s play a game. She didn‘t make a sound, her parents weren‘t awoken by any screams. And then the question as Dr. Henry Lee brought up, what happen with this garret or this ligature, it was wood and some rope. Because an adult who would strangle a child would have the strength to strangle someone with their hands. Why would someone actually fashion some kind of instrument to tighten around the neck. So there was a lot of questions and the fact that --
CROWLEY: And Francene we should point out that there was never any evidence to suggest that their son Burke was ever involved in anything like this?
CUCINELLO: No, not at all, all speculation.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you Francene, when you spoke with them, this was three years after the murder, this was in 1999, were they just as passionate and driven about finding the killer and about their own innocence?
CUCINELLO: They were Monica, but there was also and I think Lynn Wood talked about this as well, there was also a defensiveness, because a lot of people came out and attacked Patsy Ramsey. She was an ex beauty queen, she was driving her young daughter to be put in lipstick and costumes and prance around on a stage, and that was to a lot of people sexing up a 6-year-old, which is an invitation to a pedophile. It‘s going to be interesting to find out what kind of connection this John Mark Karr has with the family. Because as you and I both know, criminologists will say that pedophiles usually know their victims, they‘re in their sights, it‘s somebody that they see on a daily basis. And one of the questions that I would also raise, is what is with the note that was written? The two versions and then the final note. If the reason of breaking in the home was to murder or to kidnap or to assault this young woman, why would you leave a note if she is already dead? It doesn‘t make sense. So there‘s still going to be a lot of questions that come up, Monica, as you know.
CROWLEY: When you spoke with them, this was seven years ago when you talked to them Francene, did they have confidence that this investigation would ultimately lead to the killer, or did they think in their heart of hearts that this case would remain unsolved?
CUCINELLO: I think Patsy Ramsey believed that justice would be served. I am not really sure if that‘s exactly what John Ramsey believed, because he had reached a point of saturation. You know they wrote the book, they needed to exonerate themselves in print, they needed to tell their side of the story, unfettered by questions and I really am not sure. I think the rest of the country, it was like Elizabeth Smart, we didn‘t think we were ever going to see her again. So this comes as a huge surprise, and it is truly a shame that Patsy Ramsey is not seeing this now. But I think everyone, it‘s been brought up on your show today, that everyone was ready to convict these people through circumstantial evidence. You know people just wanted to make sure a killer was put behind bars, and this little girl, this precious little girl‘s death, had some justice to it.
CROWLEY: All right, radio talk show host Francene Cucinello, Francene thanks so much. And we are going to have much more on the arrest of the suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case on the other side of the break. Don‘t go anywhere.
CROWLEY: In a short time ago JonBenet‘s father and only surviving parent John Ramsey called into KUSA in Denver, Colorado, and gave them a short interview. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN RAMSEY, JONBENET‘S FATHER: Based on what happened to us I don‘t think it‘s proper that we speculate or discuss the case. I think it‘s important that justice be allowed to run its course and do its job. And so I really won‘t speculate or discuss what I know or don‘t know. I just think that‘s an important lesson we can learn from this whole episode that we shouldn‘t subvert a very good justice system.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the hardest part for you and your wife during this whole ordeal since your daughter was murdered?
RAMSEY: Well the hardest part was losing our child, by far.
(END OF AUDIO CLIP)
CROWLEY: John Ramsey, JonBenet‘s father speaking just moments ago to KUSA in Denver. Right now we want to go to Clint Van Zandt, MSNBC analyst and also former FBI profiler. Clint welcome back.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Hi, thank you.
CROWLEY: Well since we last spoke to you Clint, we have a name, John Mark Karr, 41-year-old male, second grade school teacher, with some connection as far as we know to Conyers, Georgia, an American citizen now in custody for this murder. Based on those facts, Clint, and based on what you know about profiling these kinds of murders, does this fit the profile?
VAN ZANDT: Well, there is a lot of things law enforcement is going to have to put together right now. Number one, it was a legitimate thing for law enforcement to look at the Ramsey family, for the DA‘s office and the police department to consider them, as they were trying to identify a suspect who had the three basic things in any crime you look for, means, motive and opportunity. The means to commit the crime would have been the implements that was used to kill this child, and as Henry Lee and others have stated on your air today, of course the grat, the rope that was placed around her neck, the paint brush that was used to choke her, the instrument that was used to hit her in the head, it‘s still apparently unidentified, they came from the house. What we have to find out with Mr. Karr is, was he in fact in the Boulder area at the time. Now motive, we don‘t really care about motive, per se, because you don‘t have to prove that in a court of law. But I tell you what, in the court of public opinion, in which the Ramsey‘s were pretty much convicted of, we still have to find out what was his motive?
Was it simply he was a pedophile? He saw JonBenet in some type of performance that she had, and he just zeroed in on her? These are the questions that the DA‘s office is going to have to answer to satisfy what the jury wants to know, means, motive and opportunity. But again, that linking physical evidence, what would cause at that time, a 31-year-old second grade teacher we‘re told, to travel from Georgia to Boulder, Colorado, to single in on that household and that child to the exclusion of anybody else. There is 18,000 homicides in the United States every year, only about half of which are solved. But this crime has really become, as far as a crime against a child, almost a crime of the century.
CROWLEY: All right Clint Van Zandt, please stand by. Thank you so much. Right now we want to go to Trip Demuth, he‘s the former Boulder deputy district attorney who also spent two years investigating this case. Trip, welcome, and your reaction to this arrest coming as it is almost 10 years after the crime?
TRIP DEMUTH, FORMER BOULDER DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, you know, I‘m extremely hopeful. Unfortunately it is 10 years after the crime, but if it turns out to be a good arrest, it‘s better late than never.
CROWLEY: Why do you think it took so long to focus on somebody outside of this family? You know for a long time these investigators as you well know focused on John and Patsy Ramsey, and who was in that house that night. And yet now it appears that this suspect had nothing to do with the family, although may have known the family. So why do you think it took so long for the focus to shift off those two on the screen, John and Patsy Ramsey, and on to somebody else?
DEMUTH: Well, you know, unfortunately in my opinion, the Boulder Police Department was too focused on one single possibility. They were myopic in their approach to the investigation and I think that what shifted was that the investigation was transferred from the Boulder Police Department to the Boulder District Attorney‘s office, and I think that that‘s when it started to take on a broader view of possibilities.
CROWLEY: Trip are you still with us?
CROWLEY: Let me ask you. What leads to an arrest after almost 10 years? Is it a combination of new investigators coming into the investigation over time? Is it new evidence? Is it a new tip? Is it just fresh sets of eyes looking at all of these things, or is it some sort of combination?
DEMUTH: You know I think in this particular case, it‘s a little bit of luck, quite honestly. From the very early days of the investigation, I saw evidence that an intruder could have committed this crime, and we just got more and more evidence as time passed that an intruder may have committed this crime. The police remained focused only on the Ramseys, and the trail grew cold. And I believe that all we ever needed was a name to start matching the evidence to. And I think that they have gotten lucky and they have by one way or another finally gotten the name of a person with whom they can compare all of that physical scientific evidence that I was aware of. And I think that having received that name and identifying that person, that‘s what‘s broken the case.
CROWLEY: Based on what you know so far Trip, do you believe that this crime was committed by a single individual?
DEMUTH: I do. It‘s my belief that it was a single individual.
CROWLEY: Also let me ask you, early on in this investigation and over the years we‘ve heard over and over again that there was no forced entry, although there was a broken window leading into the basement, also no footprints in the newly fallen snow there. Does that tell you that this is somebody who knew the family, perhaps even knew the child?
DEMUTH: You know, one of the unfortunate things that happened in this case is that there was a lot of misinformation that was given to the media in the first days of this investigation and actually throughout the early years of this investigation. One of them that there was no footprints in the snow. The fact of the matter is there was no snow on the sidewalks leading up to this house and at the possible points of entry. Also, the other one is, that there was no evidence of a forced entry. In fact there was a broken basement window that was left open when the police arrived. So there were places that an intruder could get into, and he could do it without ever stepping in the snow. So that‘s, I think, what distracted a lot of people from the possibility of an intruder committing this crime.
CROWLEY: All right. Trip Demuth, thank you so much for your time and expertise today.
DEMUTH: Not a problem.
CROWLEY: And you heard it here first on MSNBC, an arrest in the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation 10 years after the murder of that child, one male, John Mark Karr, 41 years old taken into custody earlier today in Bangkok, Thailand. We will have continuing coverage right here on MSNBC, including a 10:00 p.m. eastern time special report. So stay with us all night long right here on MSNBC. And once again if you‘re just joining us, a huge breakthrough in the murder investigation of JonBenet Ramsey, a case that has really flummoxed all kinds of observers, legal and investigative and otherwise, for almost 10 years now. And now it looks as if this murder could be solved. A suspect now in custody. Please keep it right here on MSNBC, continuing coverage all night long, including a special report at 10:00.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 NBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.