Whether it's a hurried whisper or a befuddling mumble, sounds that seem just out of reach are within the grasp of Toledo's Team Audio.
The company, which enhances audio and videotapes for crime investigations, recently examined a tape connected to the infamous murder of 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey.
At the request of NBC News, Team Audio enhanced the tape of the 911 call made by Patsy Ramsey, JonBenet's mother, when she found her daughter missing in 1996. Katie Couric, of the Today show and Dateline NBC, discussed the tape on television yesterday.
“We did our usual bit, which is to enhance the audio and make everything as clear as it could be,” David Mariasy, president of Team Audio, said. “It was a very easy thing.”
Mr. Mariasy played his enhanced version of the phone call yesterday in his “crime lab,” a narrow room filled with speakers, computers, and a many-pegged switchboard located inside a building on South Erie Street in downtown Toledo.
Mrs. Ramsey breathed heavily and wailed as the 911 operator tried to keep her calm. Mr. Mariasy pointed out the noise of the operator's typing and noted the click where Mrs. Ramsey hung up the phone.
Steve Thomas, a former lead detective on the murder case, wrote a book claiming Mrs. Ramsey did not hang up the phone completely, so the tape included a conversation between her and her 10-year-old son. The Ramseys said their son was asleep when Mrs. Ramsey called 911.
“We asked [Team Audio] to listen to the tape and see what conversations were on it,” Sarah Clagett, a Today show associate producer, said. “They were very knowledgeable and did a good job in a timely manner.”
After two days of analysis, Team Audio determined the only conversation on the tape was between Mrs. Ramsey and the 911 operator.
Team Audio has analyzed evidence for civil and criminal cases all over the world. Mr. Mariasy, a music professor at the University of Toledo, runs the company in addition to operating Audiomatrix recording studios and writing commercial jingles.
Mark Szych, a University of Toledo student working for Team Audio, said his most exciting project for the company was working with tapes of a murder suspect using the phone in prison.
“It was almost like watching a movie,” he said.
Not all Team Audio's work is for the justice system. Two years ago, the group enhanced excerpts from 200 micro-cassettes containing conversations with Mother Teresa. The Rev. Angelo Devananda Scolozzi, her assistant, made the recordings.
Team Audio's most challenging job for law enforcement is separating conversations from background noise in cases like drug deals, which often occur in bars with loud music.
Mr. Mariasy described one tricky tape. An undercover police officer posed as a hit man and recorded his conversation with a husband plotting to kill his wife. It took place at a Denny's.
“That was difficult because of all the talking in the background,” Mr. Mariasy said. It's like archaeology. We're digging an object out of the dirt. If we use too big a shovel, we'll destroy the object as we're getting it out.”