Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder of JonBenet Ramsey

John Mark Karr

By Marilyn Bardsley 

It appears as though the confirmation of John Mark Karr as a reasonable suspect in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey is still up in the air. While DNA samples were supposedly taken from him while he was in custody in Thailand, the results are not yet available.

It now appears that the arrest is currently based solely on Karr's alleged confession via emails to Michael Tracey and a recent press conference in Thailand, in which he told the media that he was with JonBenet when she died and that it was an accidental death.

Michael Tracey, a journalism professor at the University of Colorado, who made several documentaries on the case and who allegedly is publishing a book on the case, has been the primary contact with Karr via email. Several weeks ago, Tracey became very concerned about the content of Karr's messages and brought them to the attention of Boulder law enforcement.

JonBenet Ramsey
JonBenet Ramsey

Already, John Mark Karr has made some unusual statements that conflict with the autopsy of JonBenet. Karr told the media that he had drugged JonBenet Ramsey, although there was no evidence in the autopsy that corroborates any use of drugs.

Then he told the media that he had picked JonBenet up from school, although school was not in session, as it was during Christmas vacation that she was murdered.

When asked how he got into the Ramsey house, Karr refused comment.

Though Karr's name is on record with the Colorado's Department of Education, there is no record that that man ever sought a teaching license in the state. The only record of a Karr in the department's database is a file that was started in 2001, after Karr, then a substitute teacher in California, was charged with possession of child pornography. Karr fled the country to avoid the charges, and information about the allegations was forwarded by a national database to school officials in all 50 states, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Education told Crime Library. Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy told the media that when John Karr was arrested in Bangkok, he had been teaching in several schools in that city.

Lacy said that several months were spent identifying and locating John Karr from his emails, but that much more investigation must be done. She said that she would have preferred that the investigation could have been conducted without media scrutiny, but that was not possible. Karr's arrest was made before the investigation, including the results of DNA tests, could be completed. The concern was that the suspect would flee as he did in California when convicted of possessing child pornography.

Lacy took very few questions at the press conference and those that she took were not really answered except with "I'm sorry, I can't answer that question." It was hard to say why Lacy even scheduled a press conference, since so little information was divulged.

The doubts that have been raised already about this particular suspect deepened after the press conference. It looks again like the Boulder law enforcement community is setting itself up for embarrassment in this high-profile case.

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