BOULDER, Colo. — Directly answering for the first time the question that has hung over them ever since their daughter's slaying, JonBenet Ramsey's parents declared Thursday that they did not kill their little girl.
"I'm appalled that anyone would think that John or I would be involved in such a hideous, heinous crime. I did not kill JonBenet. I did not have anything to do with it," said Patsy Ramsey, who with her husband broke four months of public silence. "I loved that child with my--whole of my heart and soul."
John Ramsey said: "I did not kill my daughter JonBenet."
A teary-eyed Patsy Ramsey sat close to her husband, hands clasped, as the couple spoke to a small group of local reporters at a hotel for more than half an hour.
They asked the public for help in finding the killer and called for the harshest penalty for anyone convicted.
"This is a solvable crime, and it will be solved," John Ramsey said. Patsy Ramsey added: "God knows who you are and we will find you."
Six-year-old JonBenet was found strangled in the basement of the family's large, Tudor-style home after Patsy Ramsey reported finding a ransom note demanding $118,000. An autopsy indicated the former Little Miss Colorado may have been sexually assaulted.
Dist. Atty. Alex Hunter recently acknowledged that the couple were the focus of the investigation. They were questioned by police at length on Wednesday--separately, as investigators had demanded--after months of wrangling over the terms of the interrogation.
The couple had not spoken with reporters since a Jan. 1 interview with CNN.
Reporters from the Boulder newspaper, two Denver newspapers and three Denver TV stations were forbidden to ask about the police interrogation or the night of the slaying. Other reporters were excluded entirely.
John Ramsey, who maintained his composure and appeared to be supporting Patsy Ramsey at points, acknowledged the suspicion that has surrounded the couple because of their reluctance to speak to police and because they hired lawyers shortly after the slaying.
"Sadly for our country most tragedies of this nature--the killing of a child--apparently in the majority of cases are family-related," John Ramsey said. "That's a tragic statement for our country, but because we were the parents of JonBenet, we were automatically put in the suspect pool."
As for the suggestions that the girl was molested long before the slaying, John Ramsey said: "I can tell you those were the most hurtful innuendoes to us as a family. They are totally false. JonBenet and I had a very close relationship."
The parents also defended their daughter's involvement in beauty pageants. Images of the child in glittery dresses and makeup have appeared in magazines and on news programs, prompting some criticism of child beauty pageants.
"Those were beautiful pictures. I'm so happy that we have those pictures," Patsy Ramsey said.
Investigators are awaiting Patsy Ramsey's response to a request for a fifth handwriting sample. Her husband was ruled out as author of the ransom note.