Suspect in child beauty star murder arrives in US

A United States teacher arrested in connection with the decade-old killing of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey arrived in Los Angeles from Thailand late on Sunday to undergo more questioning about his possible role in the 1996 murder.

John Mark Karr (41) flew in business class on a Thai Airways flight that landed at Los Angeles International Airport at about 04.27am GMT on Monday.

Karr was expected to spend the night at a local jail as issues related to his extradition to Colorado are being resolved.

The suspect will face US investigators trying to solve the murder of six-year old Ramsey, in a lurid case that captured the nation’s attention for years.

Three US security officials escorted him without handcuffs during the flight.

Thai police have said he had confessed to killing Ramsey unintentionally. They said Karr told them that he was “in love” with the little blonde girl, who wore makeup, glamorous outfits and struck seductive adult poses in her appearances at child beauty pageants.

However, Karr told reporters in Bangkok on Thursday, a day after his arrest, that he did not kill her and that her death “was an accident”.

Karr was tracked down in Bangkok after authorities studied four years of e-mails between him and University of Colorado journalism professor Michael Tracey, who himself has closely followed the Ramsey case.

According to excerpts of some of the e-mails published in the Rocky Mountain News, the two discussed Karr’s sexuality conflicts.

“I am trapped in a world that does not understand,” Karr said in one exchange. “I can understand people like Michael Jackson and feel sympathy when he suffers as he has ...
I do think that he is sexually attracted to certain children but could never divulge this.”

While his arrest has revived huge interest in the murder—in which, at one point, JonBenet Ramsey’s parents were investigated as possible suspects—suspicions transpired that Karr might not be the girl’s killer.

Earlier this week, Karr’s former wife, Lara Marie Knutson, told a San Francisco television station off-camera that on the day Ramsey’s strangled body was found, she, her then-husband and their three sons were together in the south-eastern state of Alabama, KGO-TV said.

Her lawyer also said that she recalls that they were spending the Christmas holiday together when the murder took place on December 26—the day after Christmas—in the western state of Colorado.

Although Knutson’s 11-year marriage to Karr was unhappy and their 2001 divorce bitter, lawyer Harry Stern said that she was a pious woman “who wants the truth to be told”.

The marriage ended in 2001, the year Karr was charged with possession of child pornography in Sonoma County, California, north of San Francisco.

A report in The Denver Post newspaper suggested on Sunday that Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy has left large gaps in her investigative work as she tried to build a case against Karr before his arrest.

It was only on Wednesday, when Karr was already in Thai custody, that the prosecutor’s office called the Marion County School District in Alabama to seek a sample of Karr’s handwriting to compare it with the ransom note allegedly left by Ramsey’s killer, the paper said.

Experts believe the handwritings don’t match.

Lacy’s office has still not contacted the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to compare Karr’s handwriting, a palm print, footprint or even shoe size to the evidence found at the murder scene, The Post said.

Nor has the prosecutor contacted Karr’s ex-wife and kids to see if they would provide an alibi for Karr’s whereabouts at the time of Ramsey’s murder, according to the report.

Karr’s departure followed a report he had sought surgery at a sex change clinic in central Bangkok.

“Yes, he had treatment here,” an official of the Pratunam Clinic said. “He was our patient. He came a number of times. But we cannot give out details on his treatment as we are ethically bound to keep these things private.” - AFP

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