Why John Ramsey Regrets That First Interview

A three-part interview series with Dr. Phil, which delves into the still-unsolved murder case of 6-year-old JonBenét Ramsey, is expected to be her father John Ramsey's last public discussion of her death. He recently reflected on the first interview he and his wife, Patsy, gave roughly a week after they found their daughter's body in the basement of their Boulder, Colorado, home. As shown in the transcript of John and Patsy Ramsey's first interview in January 1997, the child beauty queen's parents spoke to CNN's Brian Cabell about the launch of the investigation into JonBenét's death, an interview he would come to regret.

"I’m sure we were in a state of shock," John told Dr. Phil as to why they did the interview. "Secondly, once you participate in the public arena, you become a public figure."

In the immediate aftermath of JonBenét's murder, John and Patsy — along with their son Burke — were the primary suspects in the case. Although they were eventually cleared in 2008, the weeks and months following JonBenét's death were filled with public speculation about their possible involvement. On Jan. 1, 1997, John told Cabell what that first week had been like, and explained why he and his wife had decided to speak out for the first time.

Well we have been pretty isolated — totally isolated — for the last five days, but we've sensed from our friends that this tragedy has touched not just ourselves and our friends but many people. And we know that there's many people that are praying for us, that are grieving with us. And we want to thank them, to let them know that we are healing, and that we know in our hearts that JonBenét is safe and with God and that the grieving that we all have to do is for ourselves and for our loss, but we want to thank those people that care about us.

But John and Patsy told Cabell that they wanted to speak out for another reason: They wanted to find out what had happened to JonBenét and why. They explained why they had hired a defense attorney and asked anyone with information to come forward. John also confirmed to Cabell that he and Patsy both believed an outsider — someone who was not among their family and friends — had kidnapped JonBenét. "Our family is a loving family," John said. "It's a gentle family. We have lost one child. We know how precious their lives are."

Then Cabell started to engage the Ramseys in a discussion about the ransom note. Patsy explained how she found the ransom note as she walked down the back staircase and started to read it. When she realized it was about her daughter, she searched for JonBenét before calling for her husband. John read the note next, and when he saw that the note instructed them not to tell the police, he told Patsy to call the police right away. It was only later, after a detective asked John to search the entire house for clues, that they found JonBenét's body in the basement.

Cabell pointed out to the Ramseys that talk shows and news stories would paint them as likely suspects, at least at first. It was something they were told to be ready for, but while they said they willingly provided hair, blood, and writing samples, being investigated in their daughter's death was what John described as "nauseating beyond belief." But Patsy said she understood the necessity — after all, she believed that "there is a killer on the loose."

It was a chilling statement to make; the police in Boulder had reportedly reassured the Ramseys' neighbors that they had nothing to worry about. That did not sway Patsy. "I were a resident of Boulder, I would tell my friends to keep — keep your babies close to you. There's someone out there," she warned CNN viewers.

To conclude the interview, Cabell asked the Ramseys if they were comforted by the fact that JonBenét was in a better place. They both said yes, and John added that he had learned an important lesson in the days after his daughter's murder. "We learned when we lost our first child that people would come forward to us, that sooner or later everyone carries a very heavy burden in this life," John said. "And JonBenét didn't carry any burdens."

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As the 20th anniversary of JonBenét's death approaches, multiple networks have either released or are preparing to release TV specials and documentaries that focus on the investigation and feature interviews with key figures who were involved. But even as John Ramsey prepares to publicly reflect on his daughter's death for the last time, it's clear that the search for JonBenét's killer hasn't come to an end.