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The 911 Call

Contents of 911 Call

  • Audio File. An audio version of the 911 call is posted at acandyrose.com.

Audio Analyses of 911 Tape

  • There have been at least 10 audio analyses of the 911 tape used to determine whether there are additional voices that can be recovered from garbled portions of the tape.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (Washington, DC; requested by BPD (1997).
  • United States Secret Service (Washington, DC); requested by BPD (1997).
  • Aerospace Corporation (El Segundo, California); requested by BPD (1997).
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos, NM); requested informally by Pete Hofstrom.
  • Legal Audio (New York, NY); requested by MSNBC (2003).
  • Team Audio (Toledo, OH); requested by MSNBC (2003).
  • An unnamed company used by CBS.
  • Professional Audio Laboratories (then in Spring Valley, New York; now headquartered in Park Lawn, NJ); commissioned by Tricia Griffith, forum owner of Websleuths and Forums For Justice.
  • CBS/Critical Content (2016). Jim Clemente and Laura Richards purportedly did a re-analysis of an enhanced tape, although Burke Ramsey attorney Lin Wood has challenged this claim, asserting that the "re-analysis" merely restated the long-known Aerospace Corporation findings from 1997, as reported in James Kolar's 2012 book Foreign Faction; if true, this is not an independent analysis.

Key Areas of Controversy

  • Is Burke's Voice on an "Enhanced" Tape? There is a major dispute about whether Burke's or John's voices can be heard at the end of the tape. RDI theorists argue that if such voices can be heard, this is proof that the Ramseys were lying about events that morning since they assert Burke was asleep in his bed when the 911 call was made.
  • Was an "Enhanced" Tape Ever Aired on TV? Because there is a question about the authenticity of the tape, there is also a major dispute about whether the enhanced tape ever was aired on TV. Believers are certain that it was (in which case there can be less doubt about the tapes' existence) where skeptics are certain it was not.

Aerospace Corporation Analysis

  • Analysis Requested by BPD. At the request of BPD, Aerospace Corporation, which reportedly had more advanced equipment for such analysis, conducted a test of the 911 tape. According to Internet poster, Aerospace works free of charge for law enforcement agencies. The official report from Aerospace was given to BPD in May 1997, but has never been released to the public.
  • No Comment by Aerospace. On August 21, 1998, it was reported "Robert Pentz, director of the National Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology Center for the Western Region, operated by Aerospace Corp. for the National Institute of Justice, said the company had no comment on the tape. "Even though we acknowledge the fact we do work for law enforcement agencies ... it is a matter of policy we don't comment on cases that are open without written permission of the affected law enforcement agency," Pentz said."
  • Aerospace Stands Behind its Work. However, in 2003, according to the National Enquirer, in response to claims that two firms hired by NBC to analyze the tape had found no evidence of Burke's voice, "the renowned high-tech company that enhanced the tape for the Boulder police says its original findings that Burke's voice is on the tape is correct. We stand by our work," Linda Brill, spokesperson for The Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, Calif., told the Enquirer. The company maintains a division of a Department of Justice - funded institute that offers space-age e xpertise to police departments nationwide. "We are top shelf," said Brill.
  • Burke Granted Access to Enhanced Tape. According to lawyer Darnay Hoffman, Boulder judge Roxanne Bailin ruled that Burke was entitled to receive a copy of the 911 tape prior to his testifying before the grand jury. Hoffman posed the rhetorical question: "Does this mean that Judge Roxanne Bailin LISTENED to the 911 tape and made an independent assessment that Burke's voice was on it and therefore was a "prior statement?"

Leaked Aerospace Findings

  • National Enquirer (1998). The National Enquirer leaked the Aerospace findings in a world exclusive appearing in its September 1, 1998 issue. In a later article written by Don Gentile appearing in July 2003, the following was leaked:
    • "Boulder Detective Melissa Hickman took the tape to the Aerospace Corporation for enhancement. There, experts enhanced the tape. At first they heard Patsy saying "Help me, Jesus, help me, Jesus," and Burke saying, "Please, what do I do?" according to a source."
    • "After further analysis, they heard three distinct voices, then gave the enhanced recording to Det. Hickman. "Hickman heard John Ramsey say, "We're not speaking to you," in what sounded like a very angry voice," the source said. "Patsy then says, "Help me Jesus, help me Jesus," and finally Burke is clearly heard to say "Well what did you find?" with an emphasis on the word "did."
    • When the original leak appeared in 1998, the Boulder Daily Camera reported: "The general content of the transcript in the supermarket tabloid is accurate, according to sources familiar with the investigation."
    • But the same article also reported: "Spokeswomen for the Boulder police and the Boulder County District Attorney's Office would not comment on the 911 tape from Dec. 26,1996."
  • Lawrence Schiller Book (1999). A slightly different version of this conversation is reported in a review by the Boston Globe: ``[Boulder Police Detective Melissa] Hickman listened to the tape and wrote down what she heard.
    • " 'Help me, Jesus, help me, Jesus.' That was clearly Patsy's voice. Then, in the distance, there was another voice, which sounded like JonBenet's brother.
    • " 'Please, what do I do?' Burke said.
    • " 'We're not speaking to you,' Hickman heard John Ramsey say.
    • " Patsy screamed again. 'Help me, Jesus, help me, Jesus.'
    • " And then, more clearly, Burke said, 'What did you find?' "
  • Steve Thomas Book (2000). The purported Aerospace findings also were leaked by Steve Thomas in his book and another book by Henry Lee (2001): "For a few tantalizing seconds, police heard background sounds that they could not understand. Detectives sent this tape out to the best electronic experts in the region and, still, save for Patsy Ramsey's sobbing and prayers, nothing more could be made out of the background noise. Then the police discovered a new and expert electronics company, Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California, that they provided with a copy of the tape. What came back was worth all of this trouble. When these sounds were brought up many times over, police heard Burke and John Ramsey in an exchange. The child said, "Please, what do I do?" To this John Ramsey replied, "We are not speaking to you." Finally, Burke is heard to ask, "What did you find?"
  • Steve Thomas Chat Session (2000). The following is an excerpt from a November 14, 2000 chat session (also available at acandyrose.com) with Steve Thomas: crimeADM: "Did you hear the 911 tape personally; and if so, once and for all, was Burke on it?" stevethomas: "I heard the 911 tape. repeatedly, as did the other detectives. the consensus was unanimous, as supported by the enhancement -- there is a 3rd voice on the tape, appears to be Burke (unless there was someone else present who has never been identified...)"
  • Bonita Papers. A 5-paragraph section of the Bonita Papers provides even further detail which is consistent with the wording of the additional conversations as stated in the Thomas book. Note that the reliability of the Bonita Papers has been called in question.
  • James Kolar Book (2012). According to Lin Wood's motion in Burke Ramsey's case against CBS, "Aerospace's 1997 transcript was published in....Kolar in 2012. See...Foreign Faction, pp. 101-102 (paragraph 253).
  • Accuracy of Transcripts Disputed. According to Lin Wood's motion in Burke Ramsey's case against CBS, These transcripts have always been the subject of dispute, with their accuracy being denied by members of law enforcement investigating the case and by John, Patsy, and Burke" (paragraph 253).

Other Assessments of 911 Tape

  • Professional Audio Laboratories Analysis. Tricia Griffith, forum owner of Forums for Justice, commissioned an analysis by Professional Audio Laboratories in Spring Valley, NY.
  • What Lab Found. The revised transcript from this analysis showed a few new words at the beginning of the tape and, following the keyboard typing heard on the end of the tape, has an "unknown female" saying "Help me, Jesus" three times in succession.
  • What Lab Did Not Find.This lab found no evidence of Burke's or John's voices at the end of the tape nor did it find any evidence of alteration of the tape or mechanical sounds. Tricia Griffith's Explanation. However, the Laboratories were using a 3rd generation copy of the tape and Tricia argues that the "Help me Jesus" comments at the end prove Lin Wood was lying when he claimed there were no other voices at the end.
  • Critiques of Analyses Finding No Evidence of Burke's Voice
    • Critique of FBI Analysis. Internet poster has asserted: "it is acknowledged as a FACT that the FBI do not have the luxury of state of the art equipment. In doing my research on this fascinating subject, I made an excellent contact who informed me that the government agencies often sub-contract work to private companies for this reason."
    • Critique of Secret Service Analysis. Internet poster has also claimed that (as with the FBI), "it is known that they do not have state of the art equipment and often contract-out the work."
    • Critique of Los Alamos Lab Analysis. Internet poster has observed: "What is important to note is that this company ALSO LIFTED VOICES - they just didn't agree on what those voices said."
    • Critique of Legal Audio Analysis. In response to Frank Piazza's claim that "There's not enough there to give any sort of conclusive, intelligible argument," Internet poster has suggested "Note - he did not say there was nothing on the tape, just that they couldn't decipher it." In addition, a National Enquirer article from July 2003 claimed that "a technician at Legal Audio, who did not want his name used, admitted, 'There is what I perceived to be a male voice that is so buried in noise, you can't tell.
    • Critique of Team Audio's Analysis. In response to David Mariasy's statement "When it was suggested that we look for these other lines of dialogue and there is two or three other people after the hang up, that didn't happen," Internet poster has pointed out: "What a strangely worded statement. What didn't happen? Didn't they look for the dialogue? Didn't they find these other lines of dialogue? Or weren't there two or three other people? Is he referring to one, two or all three of these? His statement is ambiguous/poorly worded."
  • Explanations for Failure to Corroborate Aerospace Analysis. Three explanations have been offered to explain why no professional analysis of the publicly released 911 tapes have ever corroborated the reported finding by Aerospace that Burke's voice is at the end of the tape.
    • Tapes Partially Erased? Internet poster Spade claims that he personally delivered a copy of the tape and CD of the phone call that he received from Boulder DA office and delivered it to the "top data recovery firm in Colorado." This firm allegedly found that the portion of the tape following the attempted hang-up had been erased by passing a magnet over the original. A timeline of this effort has been posted. However, this account would appear to conflict with the Professional Audio Laboratories assessment that no evidence of erasure was found.
    • Enhanced Tapes Never Released. Internet poster has stated: "please note that we have not heard the enhanced 911 tape - the copies which were released a few years ago were of the unenhanced version. If you do the research on forensic audio analysis you'll discover that they sometimes recommend that clients listen to the results of the enhancement on the labs equipment."
    • Publicly Released Tapes Are 3rd Generation. Internet poster claims to have a letter from Bill Nagel stating that the original 911 tape was put onto cassette and that this cassette was used to create additional cassettes and CDs released by Mary Keenan. These 3rd generation copies of the tape may well not be of high enough quality to reveal the additional voices in the background.
  • Lin Wood's motion in Burke Ramsey's 2016 defamation case against CBS includes a thorough refutation of the claim that Burke can be heard on the 9-1-1 call (detailed in pp. 49-56).

Other Expert Assessments of 911 Tape

  • Two government agencies and three independent labs all analyzed the 911 tape but were unable to identify any voices at the end.
  • FBI/Secret Service Analysis. Both the FBI and Secret Service reportedly examined the tape to determine whether extraneous sounds at the end of the tape were human voices. They were unable to identify any such voices (NBC News 2003).
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory Analysis. According to Internet poster, a post made by jameson on a thread named "Opposing the BPD's request to seal 911" in March 2003 (a thread that evidently has disappeared) made the following claim: "Pete Hofstrom would later take the 911 tape enhanced by the Aerospace Corporation to New Mexico to let his brother-in-law, who worked in the Los Alamos scientific complex, have a crack at analyzing it. The brother-in-law apparently declared that he heard a voice say, "I scream at you." That meaningless comment managed to cast doubt on the Aerospace conclusion that Burke said, "What did you find?" and was another gift to the defense lawyers. They would now be able to point out that even the prosecutor's office and the police did not agree about what was on the tape."
  • Legal Audio Analysis. "I would say my findings are much more in parallel with the FBI's findings. There's not enough there to give any sort of conclusive, intelligible argument," says Frank Piazza of Legal Audio in New York City (NBC News 2003).
  • Team Audio Analysis. David Mariasy from Team Audio in Toledo, Ohio, agrees. "When it was suggested that we look for these other lines of dialogue and there's two or three other people after the hang up, that didn't happen," he says (NBC News 2003).

Analysis of 911 Tape By Internet Sleuths

  • Did Steve Thomas Lie About 911 Tape? Skeptics argue that the Professional Audio Laboratories findings (see above) as well as FBI, Secret Service and other expert findings prove that neither John nor Burke's voices were at the end of the call as alleged in the Thomas book. Thus, they interpret these findings as evidence that Thomas lied in his efforts to frame Patsy; to date, Thomas is the only individual to have provided a first-hand account of the Aerospace findings. All other claims of what police may have heard on an "enhanced" tape are hearsay.
  • Florida Case Shows Local Police Misrepresented Recording Tape Contents. The possibility that Steve Thomas lied cannot be dismissed out of hand since there have been such cases in the past.
  • Internet poster has asserted that "The Eisenberg's of Tampa Bay, accused of disposing of their missing daughter, Sabrina, were also charged with saying many many things on a hidden recorder tape placed in their bedroom after the disappearance. They were reported as saying, "It was your fault" "It was the cocaine." and other insinuations that they were involved. After the tapes were reviewed again by NASA, it was proved to be complete speculation by the Tampa police department. The Eisenberg's sued and WON! The tapes were played on television and I could not believe that the police could attribute complete static to such precise wording. For the record, Sabrina Eisenberg has never been found. The parents could very well be involved. However, our country's top experts proved that the tapes recorded nothing of the sort as reported by local police" [emphasis added].
  • Burke Ramsey Police Interview. In his interviews with police, Burke Ramsey admitted he had been awakened by loud voices during the 911 call but had stayed in bed (Schiller 1999a:678, according to Internet Poster; later in 1998, Jim Jenkins said that "possibly" Burke had gotten out of bed and gone to the top of the stairs Schiller 1999a:678-679, according to Internet poster Tril.)
  • 911 Tape Recycled. Another possibility is that other voices at the end of the tape are remnants from another call rather than statements uttered in the Ramsey house. In Burke Ramsey's defamation suit against CBS News and other parties, it is stated (item #207) "The city of Boulder recorded the 9-1-1 Call on a recycled tape that had previously been used to record unknown numbers of other 9-1-1 calls." Hypothetically, Ramsey lawyer could have been lying on this matter, but this seems unlikely in light of the severe legal consequences and the ease with which this statement could be disproved if it were in fact false.

Was the Enhanced Tape Aired on TV?

  • A very fine-grained assessment of the evidence regarding whether the enhanced tape was actually aired on Geraldo Rivera's show, concludes that the tape was aired once but that in subsequent broacasts (and transcripts of the show), this segment was redacted (which explains why there is so much confusion, as many posters saw only the later version of the show).
  • Many on-line posters claim to have heard the "enhanced" tape, including John's angry voice and Burke's question, on a TV show. However, there is disagreement among them whether that show was Geraldo Rivera's or some other similar show.

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