On January 8, John and Patsy took Burke to the Child Advocacy Center in Niwot, Colorado, through arrangements made by the Boulder Police department, to be interviewed by Dr. Suzanne Bernard, a specialist in child psychology. As is customary in interrogations of children, Dr. Bernhard played a game with Burke throughout the interview and the entire interview was videotaped.
When left alone with the psychologist, Burke appeared to be at ease and even told the doctor that be felt safe, even though he did say that he had not wanted to come that day! Dr. Bernhard thought it was unusual for this child to feel safe. "People in this entire town didn't feel safe with the concept that there was someone running around that could be snatching children, and this was his own sister and happened in his own home. Generally speaking, a child who goes through this kind of trauma, where a sibling or a family member has been killed, they dont feel safe.
Burke described his father as quiet and that he was "always at work", and that his mother "worked as a mom'. The thing he liked most about his mom was that she gave him lots of hugs and kisses, and the thing he liked most about his dad were "planes". Throughout the interview he showed little warmth towards his family, but at the same time was very protective of them. According to Burke, the worst thing they did was not buy him, expensive toys. Dr. Bernhard explained that most children in interviews will discuss things about the family that angers them even if they love them, but Burke appeared to have difficulty in opening up about his family, similar to children who can't say things, because they feel that there are some things they shouldn't say.
Social Services had previously provided Dr. Bernhard with some history on Burke which indicated an ongoing bedwetting problem, but Burke denied this saying that it happened a long time ago. Children are usually honest about this in interviews, and Dr. Bernhard wondered why Burke was not.
Many of Burke's other responses also created areas of concern for the doctor. Burke displayed an enormous amount of lack of emotion, almost to the point of indifference, which Dr. Bernard explained may be attributed to shock, but could also have been a lack of attachment to his family. Since his mother had appeared very emotional when she brought Burke for the interview, Dr. Bernard thought that perhaps Burke could not deal with the familys emotions and had therefore just withdrawn. Even in response to questions which should have elicited strong emotions, he remained non-expressive. When asked How have things been since your only sister died?, Burke responded, Its been okay. And when asked if he missed her, he said, Yep. Burke continuously told Dr. Bernhard that he tried to forget about things and just play his Nintendo.
'When asked to draw a picture of his family, he drew a father figure who was distanced from Burke, a mother figure which was the smallest figure in the picture, and JonBenet was not in the picture at all. Dr. Bernhard interpreted the drawing to suggest that Burke felt his father was not emotionally available to him and that his mother was insignificant and did not have a great deal of power. Dr. Bernhard thought it extremely abnormal that JonBenet was not in the family picture at all, since her heath had occurred only 13 days prior. Most children continue to include deceased siblings in family drawings years after the death because it is too devastating for them to think about the loss. Burke also told Dr. Bernhard that he was getting on with his life., another very abnormal reaction for a child who had so recently lost his sibling.
When specifically discussing the crime, he related that he did not hear any noises that night and that he was asleep, but he admitted that he usually hears when someone opens the refrigerator door downstairs. Dr. Bernhard asked what he thought happened to his sister. Burke, showing the first signs of irritation during the interview, responded, "I know what happened, she was killed. Burke's explanation to the doctor was someone took her quietly and took her down in the basement took a knife out or hit her on the head." He said that the only thing he asked his dad was "where did you find her body", a highly unusual query from a child considering the possible questions a child might ask about the death of a sibling.
Dr. Bernhard felt there needed to be more follow-up with Burke in the discussion of sexual contact. The only show of emotion by Burke, other than the irritation with the questions about the actual crime, was when Dr. Bernhard began to ask about uncomfortable touching. Burke picked up a board game and put it on his head an action indicating anxiety or discomfort with these types of questions and that there was more that he was not telling her. Dr. Bernhard asked Burke if he had any secrets, and he said, probably, if I did, I wouldn't tell you, because then it wouldnt be a secret.
What's everyone's opinions on this interview? Does anything stand out?
I'll post what I find interesting in my next post so this one doesn't get too long