Who Was Lou Smit? The JonBenet Detective Promoted An Important Narrative During The Investigation

No matter how many criminal cases a detective solves over his or her lifetime, it would be difficult to get over the one that caused an immense amount media attention, and remains unsolved even today. For former Colorado Springs Detective Lou Smit, the unsolved case was the tragic 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey. Smit died on Aug. 11, 2010 at the age of 75, but his work in the Ramsey case will continue to live on, especially as the twentieth anniversary of the crime approaches.

As The Denver Post reported on Smit's legacy in 2012, he was integral in maintaining the innocence of Ramsey's parents in the case. According to the paper, one piece of evidence that made police question the Ramseys during the investigation was the amount of snow on the driveway the night of the crime. Apparently, investigators thought that there was so much snow that a killer wouldn't have been able to get inside the house without leaving tracks. However, Smit observed in a photo of the house taken on Dec. 26, 1996 that there was in fact a clear path to the basement window.

In other words, Smit was the one to break away from the narrative that the killer was allegedly one of the girl's parents and offer up some other explanation based on the evidence that was collected. Since Ramsey's parents were ultimately cleared of involvement in the murder, his side of the story became the more widely accepted one.

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However, Smit's explanations weren't enough to convince some others that the Ramseys were not involved. About 18 months after he began investigating the Ramsey case, Smit quit because of the direction of the investigation. According to Time, Smit's theory on the death of JonBenet was that a stranger spotted the young girl during Boulder, CO's annual Parade Of Lights festival, then broke into the basement of the house, penned the ransom note, left, then returned during the night to tranquilize the girl. According to Smit's theory, the criminal then carried her to the basement and sexually assaulted her when she woke up and started screaming. Then, the suspect panicked, struck her, then fled. Smit also believed that the killer planned to flee for Mexico, hence the $118,000 ransom note, because at the time that amount was close to a million pesos. Again, this is a theory, as none of it has been proven.

In 2001, Smit told Larry King in an interview that he wasn't angry, but felt he could not go along with the way the police were heading in the investigation:

When I quit, I believed that the law enforcement agency was probably going to indict John and Patsy Ramsey. That's not the way the case told me to go. I didn't want to be a part of perhaps putting an innocent person in jail... I believe that there is evidence pointing toward an intruder, strong, credible evidence. And I believe that if law enforcement and others look carefully at the case, we have a good chance at catching the killer.

Considering that it's been 15 years since that Larry King interview and police have not found the intruder Smit claims committed the crime, we may never know if his theory was correct or not.