Thursday, August 17, 2006

Arrest In JonBenet Ramsey Case


Authorities think they've solved the nearly 10-year-old mystery of who killed 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey.

Police in Thailand said the man accused of murdering JonBenet claims he drugged the 6-year-old and had sex with her before accidentally killing her.

A general who heads Thailand's immigration police said he wasn't there when U.S. officials questioned John Karr, but that he was told what happened. According to the general, Karr claims the girl was still alive when he had sex with her, but then realized he "accidentally" killed her.

The autopsy on JonBenet showed no alcohol or drugs in her body, though it said she had vaginal abrasions.

The general didn't say who briefed him, and U.S. officials could not immediately be reached.

The child was found murdered in her home in Boulder, Colo., the day after Christmas in 1996. For a long time, her parents were identified by authorities as possible suspects.

Karr said publicly Thursday he was with the child when she died and called her death "an accident," a stunning admission that may help answer 10 years of questions in the unsolved murder case.

"I was with JonBenet when she died," John Mark Karr told reporters in Bangkok, visibly nervous and stuttering as he spoke. "Her death was an accident."

Police said Karr, a youthful-looking 41-year-old school teacher from Georgia, admitted to the killing after he was arrested Wednesday at his downtown Bangkok apartment by Thai and American authorities.

Asked if he was an innocent man, Karr said: "No."

Later, as he was escorted to his guesthouse by U.S. and Thai authorities to pick up his belongings, he told The Associated Press: "I am so very sorry for what happened to JonBenet. It's very important for me that everyone knows that I love her very much, that her death was unintentional, that it was an accident."

Asked what happened when JonBenet died, he said: "It would take several hours to describe that. It's a very involved series of events that would involve a lot of time. It's very painful for me to talk about it."

Karr, a divorced father of three boys, also said he wrote JonBenet's mother, Patsy Ramsey, before her death in June and told her "many things."

The head of Thailand's immigration police said Karr has told authorities that he had intended to kidnap JonBenet for a $118,000 ransom but that something went wrong and he strangled her. Patsy Ramsey reported finding a ransom note in the house.

Karr will be transported to Colorado, where he will face charges of murder, kidnapping and child sexual assault, said Ann Hurst, a U.S. official with the Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier Thursday, Lt. Gen. Suwat Tumrongsiskul told The Associated Press that Karr arrived in Bangkok on June 6 from Malaysia to look for a teaching job. The police officer said it was not clear whether he got a teaching position.

Suwat said Karr's visa had been revoked as an "undesirable person" given the accusations against him, and U.S. authorities are expected to take him to the United States in the next few days.

The Boulder prosecutor said there's still "much more work to be done" in the Ramsey investigation.

In a news conference Thursday where more questions went unanswered than answered, District Attorney Mary Lacy stressed that suspect John Karr is presumed innocent. She then said the same thing when asked if JonBenet's father is still considered a suspect.

Lacy was also asked if she's worried that Karr may be making a false confession. To that she said she "can't comment on the evidence."

Karr is under arrest in Thailand, and according to Lacy he had just started working there this week as a second grade teacher. She said Karr has traveled extensively since leaving the United States, and it took months to identify, locate and arrest him.

Attorney Gives Details

An attorney for the Ramseys is offering more details on the family's contacts with Karr.

Atlanta attorney Lin Wood said Karr tried to correspond with Patsy Ramsey in writing in the months before Patsy Ramsey died this year. He said Mrs. Ramsey didn't reply, but that she handed the information over to investigators, and that it helped link Karr to the case.

Wood is also disputing news reports that said Karr spent a Christmas at the Ramsey home. He said that's not true.

He said Karr has been sending a number of e-mails in recent months to a Colorado professor, in which he made statements about JonBenet's death. He said the e-mails were a key development in linking Karr to the murder.

Wood said authorities should be able to tell whether Karr has first-hand knowledge of the case. He said, "There is information about the murder that has never been publicly disclosed."

Karr's Family Says He Was Fascinated By Case

Long before his arrest, Karr had a deep fascination with JonBenet Ramsey, according to his family members.
John Mark Karr
John Mark Karr

His ex-wife, who lives in Petaluma, Calif., told a San Francisco TV station he often spent time reading up on the cases of Ramsey and of Polly Klaas, the Petaluma girl who was abducted and killed in 1993.

The Denver Post reported that Karr disappeared in 2001 when he and his wife divorced after his release from jail on child pornography charges.

Karr's father told the paper that while Karr was in college as an adult, a professor encouraged him to write a book about the Ramsey case after being impressed with a school paper. John Karr spoke with JonBenet's grandparents, but the Ramseys refused an interview, Wexford Karr said.

Wexford Karr said that until Wednesday's arrest, he had feared his son might have died.

An attorney for the Ramseys said Karr once lived near the family in Conyers, Ga., but the Ramseys moved to Colorado when JonBenet was a baby.

Ramsey Praises Arrest, But Keeps Mum On Specifics

John Ramsey said in a public statement Wednesday that his wife knew authorities "were close to making an arrest" before she died.

Ramsey declined to comment on the specifics surrounding the arrest. He told a Denver television station that wouldn't be proper, especially considering the experience of his family. Not long after the murder, authorities said Ramsey and his late wife, Patsy, were considered to be under an umbrella of suspicion in their daughter's death. The child beauty queen was found dead in their home.

Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in June, but the family said she did know that authorities were close to making an arrest.

John Ramsey praised prosecutors in Boulder for closing the case. And he said the hardest part "by far" of all the family has been through was losing JonBenet.

The seemingly out-of-the-blue arrest has relatives and even a former prosecutor surprised.

JonBenet's aunt said that while the arrest was "a long time in coming," she said it still came as "quite a shock."

Pamela Paugh also dismissed the suspect's claims that he loved JonBenet. Paugh points out that she also loved the girl -- but never did her any harm.

Former Boulder Deputy District Attorney Trip DeMuth was also caught off-guard by the arrest -- and he knew the investigation was under way. DeMuth figured it would be like past investigations that never panned out.

DeMuth and Paugh agree investigators were too focused on JonBenet's parents and brother as suspects. The ex-prosecutor said some had "blinders on" that kept them from following the evidence.

Patsy Ramsey Knew Arrest Was Near

Patsy Ramsey died in June of ovarian cancer. John Ramsey said in a public statement Wednesday that his wife knew authorities "were close to making an arrest" before she died.

Patsy Ramsey always maintained that she found a ransom note on a back staircase demanding $118,000 for her daughter's return. John Ramsey said he discovered the body in the basement eight hours later.

A grand jury investigated the case but returned with no indictments. In December 2003, after investigators obtained a new DNA sample, a federal judge in Atlanta concluded that the evidence suggested an intruder killed JonBenet.

JonBenet and Patsy are both buried in Cobb County, Ga.

Tracked Online By Boulder Police

According to law enforcement officials, Karr was tracked online by Boulder police.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, federal officials told The Associated Press that Karr had been communicating with somebody in Boulder, who was cooperating with police.

A spokesman for the University of Colorado, Barrie Hartman, confirmed that journalism professor Michael Tracey communicated with Karr over several months and contacted police.

An attorney for Ramsey's family said the family had given authorities information about the man, but would not say how they knew him.

Officials told the AP that Karr was arrested Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. (EDT) in Bangkok, Thailand, where he's being held on unrelated sex charges. Boulder, Colo., District Attorney Mary Lacy confirmed the arrest, which she called the result of a "focused and complex investigation," but did not confirm details about the suspect.

Globe-Trotting Teacher?

Karr's resume painted a portrait of a globe-trotting elementary school teacher who is good with children.
This resume was posted on a Web site for teachers seeking jobs.
His mission statement said:

To provide excellence in education that develops academic and technological skills, instills strong values of superior character, develops interpersonal skills and nurtures leadership qualities amongst students to prepare them for a successful future with the expectation that such an education will result in a student of superior poise.

The resume listed places of employment in Honduras; Costa Rica; Germany; Heemstede, Netherlands; and Seoul, Korea.

It also said that Karr is "world travelled," having visited places such as London; Paris; Amsterdam; Zurich; Milan; Bologna; Stuttgart; Munich; Sydney, Australia; Taipei; Singapore; and Istanbul, among others.

The job list also noted his responsibilities at each of those positions. In Germany, Karr said that he taught English to two girls, ages 5 and 8, and a 10-year-old boy. He said that he awoke the children in the mornings and fed them breakfast. He also said that he helped the children get ready for school and "made sure the children had their evening bath, then put them to bed and read to them before they went to sleep."

The man also claimed to have worked at some of the "most prestigious schools in the United States."

posted by David at 5:25 PM :: Permalink ::

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