BOULDER, Colo. — Prosecutors abruptly dropped their case against John Mark Karr in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey on Monday, saying DNA tests failed to put him at the crime scene despite his repeated insistence he killed the 6-year-old beauty queen.
The move came just a week and a half after the 41-year-old schoolteacher was arrested in Thailand and put on a plane to the U.S. in what was regarded as a remarkable break in the decade-old murder mystery that had cast suspicion on JonBenet's parents.
Karr, 41, will be held in custody by the Boulder County sheriff's office pending extradition to Sonoma County, Calif., to face child pornography charges dating to 2001. Earlier in the day, the sheriff's department announced Karr had been released.
Sheriff Joe Pelle said Karr will be held in the same jail cell where he's been since last week. He described Karr as "polite and cooperative."
Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy’s office did not return repeated calls from The Associated Press. A news conference was scheduled for 10 a.m. MT Tuesday.
Defense ‘deeply distressed’
“The warrant on Mr. Karr has been dropped by the district attorney,” public defender Seth Temin said outside the jail, a few hours before he was cleared in the Ramsey case. “They are not proceeding with the case.”
“We’re deeply distressed by the fact that they took this man and dragged him here from Bangkok, Thailand, with no forensic evidence confirming the allegations against him and no independent factors leading to a presumption that he did anything wrong,” Temin said.
Earlier in the day, Denver’s KUSA, citing two sources close to the investigation, said that hair and saliva taken from Karr in Boulder after his arrival last week were tested over the weekend at the Denver police crime lab and that he was ruled out as the source of the DNA taken from the crime scene. Prosecutors later confirmed that.
The schoolteacher’s arrest in Thailand a week and a half ago was seen as a surprise break in the decade-old murder mystery that had cast suspicion over JonBenet’s parents. But inconsistencies in Karr’s account immediately raised suspicions that he might be an obsessed follower of the case who confessed to a crime he didn’t commit.
Among other things, Karr’s relatives insisted that he was with them, celebrating Christmas in Georgia and Alabama, around the time the child beauty queen was found strangled and beaten at her Boulder home on Dec. 26, 1996. They said that if Karr had not been with his family at Christmas, they would have certainly remembered it.
In an interview with the media in Thailand, Karr said that he was with JonBenet when she died and that her death was an accident. Asked if he was innocent, he said no.
In an interview Monday with MSNBC's Rita Cosby, Gary Harris, who had been spokesman for the Karr family, said of the DNA: “I knew it wouldn’t match.”
Karr has been “obsessed with this case for a long time. He may have some personality problems, but he’s not a killer,” Harris said. “He obsesses. He wanted to be a rock star one time. ... He’s a dreamer. He’s the kind of guy who wants to be famous.”
Ramsey family attorney Lin Wood had no immediate comment.
Karr began teaching children in Georgia and Alabama before he became a substitute in Petaluma, Calif., where he lived until 2001 with his wife and three sons.
Picked up by police in Thailand on Aug. 16, Karr said that he was guilty in the slaying of JonBenet at her family’s Boulder home in 1996. The case has vexed experts for a decade.
Karr told reporters he was "with JonBenet when she died" but that "her death was an accident." But aside from his confession, there was little evidence linking him to the crime, leading some experts to speculate that he was either lying or delusional.
On Monday, after DNA testing failed to implicate Karr in the girl’s murder, the Boulder County District Attorney moved to quash the arrest warrant against Karr, to dismiss the case and to vacate all orders to seal documents in the case. Later in the day, Karr was cleared in the Ramsey case. He will be held by the Boulder authorities pending his extradition to California to face the child porn charges.
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