John Ramsey under oath
JonBenet's father talks about Fleet White, the media in deposition for civil lawsuit
By Christopher Anderson
Camera Staff Writer
Since the mysterious death of his 6-year-old daughter, John Ramsey's relationship with Boulder oilman Fleet White has been the source of widespread speculation.
White, a friend of the Ramseys, was with John Ramsey when he found JonBenet's body Dec. 26, 1996, in a cellar of the Ramsey's home.
But shortly after the killing, White and John Ramsey's relationship abruptly ended.
Much has been made in the media of the falling out between the two men and what White may know about the death of JonBenet Ramsey.
In a recently unsealed deposition, John Ramsey denies a much-publicized argument with White — about Ramsey's cooperation with police — ever occurred.
In the deposition, reviewed by police and prosecutors for the first time last week,
Ramsey speaks at length about his relationship with White. He talks about what he calls White's "strange behavior" and criticizes him for insisting the Ramseys do a CNN interview days after the killing.
Ramsey also speaks about his battles with tabloid reporters and having to live suspecting "everyone" of his daughter's death.
Although the deposition offers few new insights into the killing of JonBenet, it marks the only time John Ramsey has answered questions under oath related to his daughter's death.
Ramsey's statements are contained in a 110-page transcript of a video-taped deposition taken Oct. 20, 1998, as part of Boulder photographer Stephen Miles' libel and slander lawsuit against Ramsey and the National Enquirer.
The lawsuit was eventually thrown out. A federal district court judge ordered the deposition unsealed in November.
Although the deposition has been unsealed for almost three months, neither the Boulder police nor the Boulder County District Attorney's office had reviewed the documents when asked to comment Thursday.
By Friday, District Attorney Alex Hunter said prosecutors and detectives had reviewed the deposition but did not find any useful new information.
Fleet WhiteOn Dec. 26, 1996, JonBenet's beaten and strangled body was found in her family's home in a basement room.
From 6 a.m. that day, Boulder police had worked on what first appeared to be a kidnapping. But by 1 p.m., Detective Linda Arndt asked parents John and Patsy Ramsey and friends of theirs inside the house to search the residence one more time for JonBenét.
According to Boulder police search warrant affidavits, John Ramsey "immediately" went to the basement, followed by White.
Within a few minutes, White "came running upstairs" yelling for someone to call an ambulance, according to the affidavits.
John Ramsey found his daughter's dead body in a cellar. She lay underneath a blanket, her wrists tied above her head and a piece of tape covering her mouth.
The night before the discovery, the Ramseys and their two children were at White's residence. The couple told police they returned home, put JonBenét to bed and last saw her alive about 10 p.m. Christmas night.
Although police cleared White, John and Patsy Ramsey have remained the focus of a Boulder police investigation.
About the time of JonBenét's Dec. 31 memorial service in Atlanta, White and Ramsey were no longer on speaking terms. Sources say the two men parted ways after a heated argument in which White insisted the Ramseys do more to cooperate with police.
Although published reports have cited sources who allegedly witnessed the dispute in Atlanta, Ramsey denies in the Miles lawsuit deposition that the argument took place.
"There was no altercation," Ramsey says in response to a question.
When Miles' attorney, Lee Hill, asks again if there was a "dispute" or "argument" where police were rumored to have been called, Ramsey answers: "I am not aware of any of that."
Ramsey also says he did not remember much of the Atlanta trip.
Ramsey says he believes his last contact with White was in the office of Ramsey's priest, but he couldn't remember when that meeting took place. Although he tried to contact White, he says his calls went unanswered.
White declined to comment or review the transcript last week. Ramsey's attorney, Bryan Morgan, also declined to comment.
Ramsey says he did not suspect White of killing his daughter, but he repeatedly mentions in the deposition what he calls White's "very strange behavior."
"There were a number of people that questioned the Whites' behavior to us: 'Why are they acting so strange?'" Ramsey says. Ramsey says White's behavior could be the result of trauma.
As examples of "strange behavior," Ramsey mentions White's barging into a friend's office and his criticism of the investigation in letters he wrote and gave to the media.
As another example, Ramsey cites White's insistence the Ramseys do the Jan. 1 CNN interview days after their daughter's death. The CNN interview, aired together with footage of JonBenét's beauty pageant contests, fueled national interest on the case. Many thought the interview was the idea of the Ramsey's public relations team.
"That was done entirely because of Fleet White's angry and/or, emotional insistence that we do it," Ramsey says. "He was strongly promoting it.
"The stated reason was that we were getting crucified in the press," Ramsey says. "We ought to let people see who we were."
Ramsey says he felt media attention was hurting the case.
"Our focus was that we wanted this case to be out of the media limelight so it could be investigated properly, because this was a drain on the police as well," Ramsey says. "It was not productive."
By the time of the depositions, however, the Ramseys had agreed to cooperate in a television documentary about their experiences. They are currently writing a book.
Although some media reports suggest Ramsey may have named White as a suspect to police, Ramsey says police never asked who the Ramseys thought killed their daughter.
"We never gave a list to the police of people we thought could be responsible, which negates a lot of stuff that follows," Ramsey says.
Instead, detectives asked them questions such as who might be angry with them and who had keys to the house, he says.
"Unfortunately, a lot of people had keys to our house, contractors, plumbers, cleaning ladies, neighbors," he says.
But Ramsey says he and his wife would find it hard to believe anyone they knew would have killed their daughter.
"We honestly don't think we know anybody that could be this evil," he says, a comment he makes at least two other times during the deposition.
Life of suspicionThe trauma of his daughter's death had taken an emotional toll on John Ramsey. At the time of the deposition, he says, he had been under a doctor's care for almost two years and was taking Prozac, a medication commonly prescribed for depression.
At the beginning of the questioning, John Ramsey indicates his memory could be somewhat impaired but that he was not sure whether it was the result of medication or the trauma he had experienced.
The pain from JonBenét's death was compounded by intense media scrutiny. Ramsey recalls several stories about how his family had been accosted and conned by tabloid reporters.
On one occasion, at their summer vacation home in Charlevoix, Mich., Patsy Ramsey noticed a woman painting a picture in front of their house.
Patsy Ramsey, who also paints, went outside and struck up a conversation with the woman, who claimed to be a tourist, John Ramsey says.
"We were told later she was a tabloid reporter," he says.
Another person Ramsey suspected of being an undercover tabloid reporter went to the home of Patsy Ramsey's mother, claiming to be a representative of Princess Diana and saying she "wanted to bring flowers on behalf of the British people," Ramsey says.
For months after the murder, the Ramseys stayed at friends' homes.
"We were pretty much in isolation for a long time, just because we were devastated," Ramsey says. "We weren't particularly open to wanting to socialize for a long time."
They shut themselves off from the world.
"For the better part of a year, we just didn't answer the phone," Ramsey says. "We took television out of our house in March. ...
"You get angry, you know. People don't like untruths said about them."
When asked if he suspected anyone of having killed his daughter, Ramsey gives one of his longest answers of the daylong interview.
"Let me say two things," Ramsey begins. "One, when you have something like this happen in your life, you lose trust. Virtually anyone. So do you suspect everyone? Yes.
"Secondly, I try to remind myself to not rush to judgment, as obviously happened in this case, and I don't want to be guilty of that myself.
"Unfortunately, you suspect everyone."
February 6, 2000