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National Perspective | UPDATE

Ramseys Say Talks Did Little to Lift 'Umbrella of Suspicion'

August 30, 2000|EDITH STANLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — Expressing confidence that they had aided the investigation of their daughter's murder, John and Patsy Ramsey said they nonetheless doubted that two days of questioning had lifted the "umbrella of suspicion" over the couple since JonBenet was found dead nearly four years ago.

"I think they still have doubt," Patsy Ramsey said Tuesday of police investigators from the couple's former hometown of Boulder, Colo. "They've been down this road so long. I don't think one of two mornings talking with them will make them do an abrupt about-face."

According to Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner, the Ramseys have been under suspicion since Dec. 26, 1996, when JonBenet's body was found in the basement of the family's home. The 6-year-old had been beaten and strangled. No suspects have been named.

The Ramseys, who now live in Atlanta with JonBenet's older brother, Burke, 13, agreed to two days of questioning in their attorney's office in what they called an effort to help solve the case. "I want to find out who did this to my daughter," Patsy Ramsey said at a news conference. "I want her to be proud of us that we are persisting in finding out who did this."

Then, in a pointed comment directed to Beckner, Patsy Ramsey added: "Whatever obstacles are in your way that make you think I killed my child, I want to help you get over that."

L. Lin Wood, the couple's attorney, called on police to publicly exonerate the Ramseys. "The evidence is not there," he said.

Much-Watched Mystery

The murder of the blond, blue-eyed beauty queen has become one of the most well-known unsolved mysteries of modern times, a staple of television talk shows and the tabloid press, and the subject of several books. One of those books, "The Death of Innocence," was written by the Ramseys and provided the basis for some of the questions asked of the couple by Beckner and special prosecutor Michael Kane.

After Monday's session, in which Patsy Ramsey was questioned for seven hours separately from her husband, Wood charged that Kane had turned the interview into a "fishing expedition." The attorney threatened to walk out with his clients if investigators continued to ask about fiber evidence and security precautions for Burke.

But Patsy Ramsey said she thought the meetings--running more than 10 hours over two days--were productive. "I believe they're asking pertinent questions, so I'm happy to be there," she told reporters Monday during a break.

Wood said the Ramseys provided police with two leads, generated either by publication of their book or by the full-time investigator they have employed. The attorney did not elaborate.

Publicity in Question

But Beckner issued a statement saying he and other members of the seven-person team questioning the Ramseys were stymied at times by restrictions imposed by Wood. "We were not able to go into everything we had hoped to in this setting," Beckner said, "and in that respect it was less than we had hoped for."

The Ramseys have been questioned twice before, first in April 1997, four months after the slaying. They answered questions again in June 1998. But they did not appear before a grand jury, which was convened in 1998. The panel disbanded 13 months later without an indictment.

Attorney Craig Silverman, a former Denver prosecutor, said Tuesday that the Ramseys' willingness to meet again with police and prosecutors represents the couple's "continuing public relations campaign to suggest their innocence."

"The Ramseys have made clear that they are not going to leave the spotlight. Law enforcement got statements from prime suspects in the case. So both sides had something to gain," Silverman said.

Wood dismissed the suggestion that the Ramseys were seeking attention. "Only a fool would subject themselves to questioning by seven investigators as some sort of publicity stunt."

Added John Ramsey: "We want closure. For three and a half years our name, and our family's name, has been destroyed. We will never regain that, and we have no interest in attempting to do that. We want the killer of our daughter found."

*

Times staff writer Mike Clary in Miami contributed to this story.

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