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Who killed JonBenet?

10 years after the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, a suspect emerges. But is it a true confession?  Hoda Kotb brings us the latest details.
Unidentified U.S. officials escort US teacher John Mark Karr at the Thai Immigration Department in Bangkok, August 17, 2006.
Unidentified U.S. officials escort US teacher John Mark Karr at the Thai Immigration Department in Bangkok, August 17, 2006. Saeed Khan / AFP - Getty Images

To some, the image was strangely reminiscent of another infamous suspect. Like Lee Harvey Oswald, who told reporters he was innocent, John Mark Karr also spoke out as he was jostled by reporters in a chaotic and surreal scene in a crowded hallway.

“I love JonBenet and she died accidentally,” he said.

Unlike Oswald, Karr claims he actually knew something about this killing: “I was with JonBenet when she died,” he said.

Since news of the arrest broke, a story that has had so many strange twists and turns has turned stranger still  — with the man in the center of the case so mysterious even childhood friends don’t recognize him. Karr, said to be obsessed with high-profile crime cases and who continually surrounded himself with young children, is just the latest development in a mystery that has fascinated us for nearly a decade.

MSNBC’s Dan Abrams was first to report the news about the arrest Wednesday afternoon.

Dan Abrams, NBC legal analyst: I’ve never seen anything like this.  There’s something beyond weird about listening to this guy. The way he spoke about JonBenet. She was 6. He’s saying, “I loved her” and he  talking about how beautiful she was. This is really crazy talk.

But as strange as the latest developments seem, and no matter what ends up happening with suspect John Karr, some experts are shifting the focus in the case away from the Ramsey family and taking a closer look at something known as “the intruder theory.”

A review of the Ramsey case
Dateline talked to former investigators, an FBI profiler, and experts who have followed this case through every bizarre twist and turn every step of the way. Now of course, the facts of the case, are well known: the horror came to light at first light the morning after Christmas, December 26, 1996.

It happened at a million-dollar home in a quiet, upscale neighborhood in Boulder, Colorado.  6 year-old JonBenet was put to bed around 9 p.m. that Christmas night. The next morning, her mother, Patsy, said she discovered that JonBenet was missing.

In the kitchen, she said, she found a rambling three-page note  demanding $118,000 for JonBenet's return. Police soon arrived and began combing the house for any sign of JonBenet.  Friends joined the frantic search— a crucial crime scene error that would come back to haunt the Boulder police department:

Abrams: They shouldn’t have let people into the house, which was a crime scene.  They shouldn’t have let John Ramsey walk around the house. 

Finally, hours later, it was JonBenet’s father, John Ramsey, who discovered his daughter’s body in a small room in the basement. 

The injuries were gruesome.  She had been strangled with a homemade garotte made from rope and a paint brush handle.  Her mouth was bound by duct tape, and she’d been dealt a savage blow to her head.

There were few obvious signs of a break-in. Investigators began to focus on the people who were in the home that night: John and Patsy Ramsey.

The case became a media and national obsession,especially after John and Patsy Ramsey came under intense suspicion. The stories began to swirl—the Ramseys were uncooperative with police, the ransom note was a fake, there was no forced entry. 

On top of all the rumors, investigators knew that in the murder of a child, the parents are always prime suspects. According to the Justice Department, only one in 12 child murders is committed by a stranger.

Hoda Kotb, Dateline correspondent: Right away, the Ramseys were under suspicion.  They wouldn’t talk to the police, at least not extensively.  They hired a PR firm. So, instantly, people thought “Ah-ha, these people had something to do with it,” right?Abrams: There’s no question that the police department focused in on the Ramseys pretty quickly.

Among the evidence that seemed to point an accusing finger at the Ramseys: the ransom note was written with a pen and paper found inside the home, the broken paint brush that was used to make the garotte, and came from Patsy Ramsey’s art supply kit.

Theories implicating the Ramseys abounded: that Patsy Ramsey had flown into a rage  over bedwetting and killed JonBenet, that the Ramseys were covering  up for their son, Burke... all allegations the family repeatedly denied.

But the suspicions didn’t go away.  And in 1997, former FBI profiler John Douglas was hired by the Ramseys attorneys to help in a possible legal defense.  At first, Douglas, too, doubted their innocence.

John Douglas, former FBI profiler hired by the Ramseys: The news that was coming out over the air it seemed as if the family was responsible.

But then, in January 1997, Douglas conducted a four hour interview with the Ramseys. Days later, he shared his impressions with Dateline, noting he was immediately struck by the couple’s description of the moment John found JonBenet’s body.

Douglas: And everyone hears him screaming and running upstairs “My god! My baby!”  and he grabs the child and removes the duct tape and carries the child upstairs where they’re trying to resuscitate the child.

The Ramseys described to Douglas the horrific details of what they said happened in those next few frantic moments.

Douglas: It was a real emotional scene for the family, putting the child in front of the Christmas tree as they’re trying to rub the skin, the body is cold, the mother’s hysterical, the father’s hysterical, the minister is there, neighbors running in and out, so there really isn’t a crime scene...

The desperate rescue attempt, which completely contaminated any evidence at the scene, painted a picture of a family in agony, Douglas said, and he told  Dateline this week that he couldn’t believe the Ramseys he encountered in his interview were capable of such brutality. 

Douglas: And here is a young child, such force cracking her skull. This is not a crime of parents.  Parents certainly kill. But not these kinds of parents.

Indeed, Douglas says, even when parents commit murder, it’s not usually as horrific as the scene at the Ramsey’s.

Douglas: When parents kill, there’s generally a softening of the crime scene.  Where they take a blanket, cover up the child, roll the child over, face down or something like that. The child was found, JonBenet was face up.  Her hands were tied together.  Her head was off to the side.  She had a piece of duct tape over her mouth. 

And now, looking back nine and half years later, Douglas can’t shake the conclusions he first made about the case:

Douglas: I came to a very quick resolution that they’re barking up the wrong tree. This investigation is going in the wrong direction here. 

And it turns out, another expert thought the Ramseys were being  treated unfairly as well.

With the arrest of John Mark Karr, the spotlight is shining once again on the Boulder police department and prosecutor’s office,  on mistakes made and opportunities missed.

Were officials blindly obsessed with John and Patsy Ramsey, while an unknown intruder, perhaps someone very much like John Mark Karr, walked free?

Former FBI profiler John Douglas, who once worked for the Ramsey legal team, has long believed that to be the case.

John Douglas, former FBI profiler:  If I was within the law enforcement circles, like I’ve done for years in the bureau, I could be saying that. The problem was that the bureau and the police were on the same track.  And that track was leading to the Ramsey family.

But there was also at least one person inside the investigation who agreed with the intruder theory.

Former Detective Lou Smit: There’s evidence of somebody else doing this, and it’s credible evidence.

Smit first spoke to Katie Couric in an NBC news special in 2001. At the time, he said there were important clues that the police had ignored clues that would exonerate the Ramseys and point to an unknown intruder.

Smit: The Boulder Police Department has focused on the Ramseys. They’ve gone to the Ramseys and they’ve stopped. 

In his 33-year career, Smit helped solve more than 200 murder cases.  He retired in the early '90s, but three months after JonBenet was killed, he was called back into service by the Boulder county district attorney’s office.

Smit: I  thought this was going to be an easy case.

"Easy" because Smit, like everyone else, had followed the early media coverage and thought the Ramsey’s were prime suspects.

But Smit quickly discovered that he couldn’t believe everything he had heard, or seen.  And he began focusing on crime scene evidence that he thought the Boulder P.D. had been too quick to dismiss — the open window, the garotte, the suitcase, and possible stun gun marks.

Each, taken alone might not mean much. But taken as a whole, detective Lou Smit said, it was an altogether different story.

In fact, Smit soon quit the official investigation when he felt his intruder theory was being unfairly dismissed.

Smit: I just can’t turn my back on what I see to be the truth. 

Like others following the case, Smit had initially heard that there was no evidence of an intruder the night of the murder.But then he saw the actual crime scene photographs, taken the morning after the murder. 

Smit: And then once we got the photographs, then you could see that there was no snow around the various doors and entry doors on the house.

No snow, so no snowy footprints.  And then there was this photo of an open basement window.

Smit: The window was wide open.  And I said, “Wait a minute,  take a look at that.”

Some thought the open window was irrelevant, because no one could get through it.  Or could they?

Back in 2001, Smit demonstrated how, at age 66 and 5'9, even he could pull it off.

Smit: You notice, that this is an area that’s real hidden from view, there’s fences all around, this is a perfect place to go in because no one can see me here. 

According to Smit, there were signs that someone had disturbed the leaves in the window well, and of what he called finger marks on one of the window panes, possibly from someone wearing a glove.

He also pointed to what he believed to be a shoe scuff on the wall, and imprints of a high-tech brand boot, apparently not owned by any family member, in the wine cellar where JonBenet’s body was found. And, he said, a suitcase placed under the window to help an intruder get out.

But “the intruder theory” still raised many questions: How could an intruder have gotten into the Ramsey home, found his way to JonBenet’s bedroom, and have killed the little girl in such a violent way—all without the parents hearing a thing? After all, a neighbor had reported hearing a child’s scream in the middle of the night.

Smit: That’s a very good question to ask.

Detective Smit pointed out a vent pipe in the basement boiler room, where the most brutal part of the attack likely took place.

Smit: This has an open end in the basement, and also an open end to the outside.  It acts almost like a megaphone. And is aimed right in the myself, and other investigators, and has a general direction.

Smit explained that in an experiment, they had someone yell from the basement. It was audible from the neighbors but not from the Ramseys' bedroom. As Smit became increasingly convinced of his intruder theory, his frustration with the official investigation grew and in September 1998, he quit the D.A.’s office.

He believed there was yet another critical clue being ignored— a weapon he says should have pointed suspicion away from the Ramseys.

Smit: A stun gun is a very important part of this puzzle. And it points very strongly at an intruder.

At home with her family on Christmas morning, 1996, the last morning of her life, JonBenet looked like any innocent, carefree 6-year-old.

But the image that so many people remember is of the tiny beauty queen: a little girl dolled up like a grown woman made some TV viewers uncomfortable. And they might have led a few to think that something was not quite right with the Ramsey family.

A target for a sexual predator?
Five years ago, Detective Lou Smit said that those pageant videos, played over and over on TV, hurt the Ramseys' case.

Lou Smit, former detective: I’m not saying all the world but the majority of the people perceive the Ramseys to be guilty.  Not because of evidence but because of perception. 

But rather than implicating the Ramseys, Smit believed that JonBenet’s pint-sized beauty queen status made her an ideal target for a sexual predator.  Police, he said, should have been looking for an intruder or a stranger obsessed with JonBenet.

Smit: She’s a beautiful girl. Jon Bonet had her own float, Little Miss Colorado. JonBenet was a pedophile’s dream come true.    

If such an intruder did get into the Ramsey home that night, how did he get away with murder while the rest of the family slept?

In a crucial part of his theory, Smit concluded that an intruder got JonBenet from her bed by incapacitating her with a stun gun—a small battery-operated device designed to fend off attackers.

Autopsy photos provided to NBC News show that JonBenet had two distinct sets of marks on her face and back. 

Smit: Stun gun marks are very specific, very specific. Once you know what they look like, it’s hard to distinguish what they are. 

But Taser International, the company that makes the weapon  Smit believes was used, says their experts are convinced the marks did not come from a stun gun. And other investigators have theorized that the marks were caused by buttons or snaps on JonBenet’s clothing.

While much of the physical evidence at the crime scene was open for interpretation, there has never been any debate about this fact: DNA not belonging to any member of the Ramsey family was found on JonBenet’s body.

Smit: They found DNA in JonBenet’s panties. It can point a very strong finger at who may have done it. 

Life imitating art
Years ago, Smit suggested that the Boulder police were not giving this unidentified DNA evidence enough weight. But the most puzzling piece of evidence in the case was and remains— the bizarre ransom note left inside the Ramsey’s house.

Some handwriting analysts said it may have been written by Patsy Ramsey, but Smit claimed that analysis was really inconclusive at best.

Smit: She does have certain characteristics which are close in nature to that on the note, but what some of the examiners have said, and the majority of them is that there are many more differences.

What’s more, some investigators say the note’s bizarre content supports the intruder theory.

For example, a number of phrases from the note are taken from movies with story lines that revolve around kidnapping and  -- a case of life imitating art: movies like “Ruthless People”: “Any deviation of my instructions will result in the immediate execution of your daughter,” a phrase from the Ramsey ransom note.

And from the movie “Speed,” "Don't attempt to grow a brain," was a line in the movie, compared to “Don’t try to grow a brain” in the Ramsey ransom note.

Smit: It’s like a Ph.D. in ransom notes that was gained through watching movies.

And FBI profiler John Douglas says that the Ramseys were unlikely to have been familiar with any of those films.

Douglas: There was no way they would have had the knowledge. They weren’t big movie goers at all.

So who did write it? Will new handwriting analysis show that it was John Mark Karr, and if his handwriting doesn’t match, then who is the real author? 

It’s an enduring mystery, but certainly not the only one.

In the years following JonBenet’s murder, the Ramseys lived in a new home in Georgia, where JonBenet was buried. They were under a cloud of suspicion, even though they were never charged with anything in connection to their daughter’s murder. 

Patsy Ramsey was especially targeted by rumor and innuendo. The couple gave interviews to the media and  even wrote a book about the case. They denied over and over they had anything to do with the murder.

But supporters of the intruder theory and defenders of Patsy say, perhaps the most revealing words spoken by Patsy Ramsey came in the first few moments of the case, in a dramatic 911 call to police.

Patsy Ramsey’s frantic 911 call occurred at 5:52 a.m. on the morning after Christmas, 1996.    

The recording was obtained from the Ramsey’s attorney, Lin Wood, who considered it an indication of Ramsey’s innocence.

911 (call transcript): What's going on there ma'am?Patsy:      We have a kidnapping.  Hurry, please!911:  Explain to me what's going on. Ok?Patsy:      There...We have daughter’s gone.911:  A note was left and your daughter’s gone?Patsy:  Yes!911:    How old is your daughter?Patsy:   She’s six years old, she’s blonde, six years old 911: How long ago was this?Patsy:      I don’t know I just found the note, and my daughter’s gone911: Does it say who took her?Patsy:      What?911: Does it say who took her?Patsy:  No! I don’t know. There’s a... there’s a ransom note here. 911: It’s a ransom note?Patsy: It says SBTC....Victory....Please!911: Okay, what's your name? Are you  Kath.....Patsy:   Patsy Ramsey, I’m the mother. Oh my God! Please! 911:  Okay, I’m sending an officer over   okay?Patsy:   Please!                                        911:  Do you know how long she’s been gone? Patsy:    No I don’t! Please we just  got up and she’s not here. Oh my god! Please!911: Okay, Cal....Patsy:    Please send somebody911:  I am honey Patsy: Please911: Take a deep  breath and...Patsy:    Hurry. Hurry. Hurry!    911: Patsy! Patsy? Patsy? Patsy?

In 2003, Attorney Lin Wood told Katie Couric the call clearly showed Patsy Ramsey’s raw emotion, not the sound of a calculated killer.

Lin Wood, Ramsey family attorney: You hear the voice of Patsy Ramsey and it is the voice of anguish, it is a voice of panic.

Others tried to use the tape to point to the Ramsey’s guilt.  One former detective had claimed that a high tech audio analysis of the tape revealed the voice of the Ramseys’ son, Burke, in the background, which would contest the Ramseys’ claim that the boy was still asleep.   But other independent tests later disputed that.

The release of the 911 call brought renewed attention to the case and elements of the intruder theory. But a cloud of suspicion remained over Patsy. And that same year she received more terrible news.  In  2003, she had suffered a recurrence of  stage four ovarian cancer. She had barely survived her first bout with the disease a decade earlier.

Despite that devastating news, in 2003, there was a key development in the Ramseys’ favor.  A federal judge in Atlanta wrote an opinion in a civil suit that appeared to support the intruder theory that was introduced by detective Lou Smit and others. Judge Julie Carnes wrote, “The weight of the evidence is more consistent with a theory that an intruder murdered JonBenet than it is with a theory that Mrs. Ramsey did so.”

And MSNBC General Manager and legal analyst Dan Abrams says that there has clearly been a shift in the investigation in recent years.

Dan Abrams, legal analyst: I think this DA has made it pretty clear that she’s been looking in other directions.  She’s made it pretty clear that John and Patsy Ramsey were very cooperative and she’s not really investigating them at this point.

But whether you believe it was the Ramseys, or an intruder, who killed JonBenet, one thing seemed certain—by 2003, the case had grown completely cold—until this week.

Abrams: When I got the first call saying there may have been an arrest in the JonBenet Ramsey case, my first reaction was “you’ve got to be kidding me.”Hoda Kotb, Dateline correspondent: 10 years. Abrams: 10 years after the fact?  And they’ve made an arrest now?

In an instant, a once-obscure substitute teacher became infamous.  But even days after his arrest, John Mark Karr remains an enigma. Could he be that “intruder” some investigators have speculated about for nearly a decade?

He says he was with JonBenet Ramsey when she died, but that her death was an accident. Second degree murder, he says, not first.

But almost as soon as his face was beamed halfway around the world, Karr’s strange confession and news conference raised  questions among legal analysts.     

Dan Abrams, legal analyst: I’ve never seen anything like this.Hoda Kotb, Dateline correspondent: Why do you think a guy who says he committed a crime basically 10 years ago and didn’t say a word about it to anyone as far as we know for 10 years suddenly decides it’s time to talk about it and to continue talking about it?Abrams: Either he got tired of holding back the secret and figured they got me or he was a guy who just wanted to be in the middle of a high profile case.  Kotb: So, if that’s the case with him, he got exactly what he wanted, wouldn’t you say?Abrams: If he didn’t do this, then he succeeded in whatever sick game he’s playing.

A sick game? Some analysts think so because already parts of his story just don’t seem to fit with known facts in the case.

On Thursday, Colorado officials were careful to say Karr had not yet been formally charged in the case. And Boulder county district attorney Mary Lacy cautioned the public. Even John Ramsey warned against rushing to judgment.

John Ramsey, KUSA interview: I don’t think it’s proper that we speculate or discuss, uh, the case, I think it’s important that justice be allowed to run its course and, and do its job.

As the case moves along, more details may emerge. But for now, John Mark Karr’s story is murky.  There are more questions than answers.

Childhood friend speaks out
Karr, born in 1964, grew up in Hamilton, Alabama.  He was raised by his grandparents. 

Brian Fredrick, Karr childhood friend: John was just a good American Christian boy.       

Childhood friend Bryan Fredrick says Karr was serious but always polite and friendly. As he got older he withdrew.

Fredrick: The thing that struck me about John is that even when you were with him, it was like he wasn’t with you, it was like he wasn’t there.

But around Hamilton, there were times he did seem to crave attention. Even when he didn’t have a steady job, he drove a flashy car and that caused a lot of talk.

Frederick: The first thing that people was that he was selling drugs because he was driving a DeLorean and he wasn’t working.  But that was a rumor about John and he didn’t like it.

In high school, Karr, the sometimes withdrawn loner, wrote this strange inscription a classmate’s yearbooks.

“I shall be the conqueror and live in multiple peace” he said here...

And after high school, Karr attracted more unwanted attention in his small town when, at 19, he married a girl who was just 13 years old.

Frederick: He never really wanted to talk about it. It was his personal life, he didn’t want to share it. He didn’t want people involved in it.

The girl’s family alleged in court documents that the young girl was “forced” into marriage that she’d been “fearful for her life and safety.” Karr denied the charge, but that marriage was annulled within a year.

In the 1980s, according to a resume in his name posted online, Karr dabbled in real estate before marrying again.

His second wife, her name was Lara, was just 16 years old. In 1989 the couple had twins who died at birth. They went on to have three sons.

During that second marriage, in the 1990s, his wife says Karr developed a strange and perhaps troubling fascination with the murder case of Polly Klaas, who was kidnapped from her own home and brutally killed.  

Karr kept copies of the little girl’s death certificate, and a letter from her killer.

Polly’s father Marc Klaas commented on those revelations yesterday.

Marc Klaas, Polly Klass' father: If he didn’t commit any crime he certainly is fantasizing about crimes and he seems to be a little dead girl pedophile groupie.

Later in the 1990s, Karr made a career move that would put him in close proximity to children— he decided to pursue a career in education. He became  a substitute elementary school teacher in Marion county, Alabama where one former second grade student says she noticed unusual behavior.

Monica, former second grade student: He was just really strange.  He would always call the little girls up to his desk, and there was this one little girl who would always sing to him and rub on him and stuff.  It was really strange.

It appears a pattern was about to begin. Karr was fired from at least one job in Alabama soon after being hired. The school superintendent said it had to with an allegation of inappropriate conversations with a child.

Bravell Jackson, Marion County School Superintendent: Yes I did receive a complaint from a parent 10 years ago, it was an anonymous call that I got.

In 2000, John Mark Karr moved his family to Petaluma, California, the same city where Polly Klass had been killed.

There, in 2001, he was a substitute teacher at this Sonoma county elementary school for just two days when he was asked not to return.

Principal Bob Raines:  His teaching skills were just not what we would like to see. He struck me as inexperienced and probably somebody that wasn’t quite cut out for the position.

Soon after that failed teaching experience, Karr’s apparent fascination with young girls appeared to turn into something much darker. He had a run in with the law that would send his life into a downward spiral....

Acting on an anonymous tip, police charged Karr with possession of child pornography.   He pleaded not guilty but spent six months in jail, before being released with court orders forbidding him to use computers, go on the Internet, or visit with his own children without supervision.

Around this time, his second wife divorced him.

Mike Raines, ex-wife’s current attorney: She has a great deal of contempt for him. She has nothing good to say about him as a husband or a father.

To some, at his arrest in Bangkok last week, Karr might have appeared meek.  But his ex-wife had painted a very different portrait. After they split in 2001, she filed for a restraining order, alleging that Karr was “a threat to all children” and had been  “very controlling.”

Raines: It does not sound like that was a marriage of any healthy proportion.  Almost right after the marriage consummated, to be honest.

When Karr failed to show up for a court appearance on those child pornography charges, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

That was in December of 2001, five years after the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, but still years away from his shocking confession.       

It was then that Karr’s life took still another strange turn.

On Thursday, 41-year-old John Mark Karr shocked the media assembled in Bangkok, Thailand when he claimed that he was alone with JonBenet when she died, and even paused to answer questions.

But unanswered questions continue to swirl around his confession and around why he was in Thailand, the last stop in the strange odyssey of John Mark Karr.

Karr apparently left Petaluma, California in  the fall of 2001, while those child pornography charges were pending.

Around the world, and a dark turn
According to a resume Karr listed online, he has been out of the country ever since.  From Europe to Central America to Asia, Karr seemed to be a man constantly on the move, working as a teacher or caretaker of children. 

In one entry on the resume, he says he “made sure the children had their evening bath, then put them to bed and read to them before they went to sleep.”

In the Central American nation of Honduras, he worked as a teacher at this private school.  Some colleagues said Karr was affectionate with the children, but the vice principal told Telemundo he didn’t get along with some other teachers.

Vice principal: He was a disciplinarian. He was a good teacher.  And his character  was a little aggressive.                

Somewhere during his world travels, Karr apparently became very interested in a case back here at home.  It was the ongoing investigation of JonBenet Ramsey.

Around four years ago he began sending e-mails about the case to University of Colorado Journalism Professor Michael Tracey, who so far has refused to publicly disclose what was in them.

However, some details have leaked out. Reportedly, in one message, Karr asked Tracey to read a poem at the Ramsey house at Christmas time.

“I love you and shall forever love you. I pray that you can hear my voice calling out to you from my darkness  -- this darkness that now separates us.”

The e-mails were apparently a big turning point in the investigation.

Ramsey private investigator Ollie Gray, who collaborated with Tracey on documentaries about the case, says Tracey thought there were important details in the e-mail messages that needed to be followed up.

Ollie Gray, Ramsey investigator: There was, let’s just call it three and a half years of communications back and forth and you didn’t know who was on the other end.  But you knew that whoever was on the other end had some knowledge about the case. 

But eventually, Gray says, the e-mails grew so alarming that Michael Tracey contacted the district attorney’s office in May of this year. And it wasn’t just the professor who was hearing from Karr.

Karr had also attempted to e-mail Patsy Ramsey, who had actually agreed to meet with Karr if it would help the investigation. But it was too late. Patsy Ramsey died in June of ovarian cancer.

His life in Bangkok
That same month, Karr arrived in Bangkok for the fifth time in recent years.  It’s a city with a reputation as the center of southeast Asia's sex trade. And Karr lived at a budget apartment building. 

Nearby, in an Internet café, his unusual behavior attracted attention.

Ian Williams, ITV News in Bangkok: He would sit at his computer, edgy, looking over his shoulder, worried always that someone was trying to read his e-mails.

Teacher Bryce Smedley briefly worked with Karr in Bangkok.

Bryce Smedley, former co-teacher: He just came off as a very strange person, a loner, wasn’t very polite. You might say hello to him, and he may not even respond back to you.

Smedley knew Karr when he taught English to first graders at an elite boys school. But Karr only lasted two weeks in that job.

Smedley: I had also heard from other teachers that he was disciplining a student and yelling at the student, and the boy had wet his pants. The school once they became very aware of this, they dismissed him immediately.

Investigators reportedly began trailing Karr a few weeks ago just as he was preparing to take another new teaching job. He was arrested on Wednesday.

On Thursday, along with his on-camera news conference, Karr gave the Associated Press an exclusive audio interview. He said to tell what really happened would take hours, but during the day he admitted that JonBenet had died by accident while he was with her.

John Mark Karr (Associated Press interview): There’s no way that I could be brief about it. It’s a very involved series of events and it would require a lot of time and uh, I can’t, I wouldn’t want to say something brief about it. First of all, it’s very painful for me to talk about. The only thing I can say is that it is not what it seems to be.There’s no way that I could be brief about it. It’s a very involved series of events and it would require a lot of time and uh, I can’t, I wouldn’t want to say something brief about it... first of all it’s very painful for me to talk about. The only thing I can say is that it is not what it seems to be.

"Not what it seems to be": In so many ways, that’s been the story of the entire JonBenet case— where at varying times, leads have dried up,  suspects have changed, and investigators have been stumped.  

And now, investigators are pouring through the latest revelations about Karr, examining apparent inconsistencies in his comments and wondering what it all means.

Abrams: When we heard there was an arrest, it seemed that the case was cracked.  Yet, one day later, it became clear that maybe they’re just cracks in the case.

Earlier, a Thai investigator said Karr had claimed he drugged JonBenet and had picked her up after school. This would have been inconsistent with the known facts in the case.  But Friday, the investigator said Karr did not make those claims after all.

Kotb: So, this is either the biggest break in one of the biggest cases in the last decade or this is the biggest hoax, isn’t it?Abrams: That’s right. This is either an enormous development in a case the world was watching or an enormous embarrassment for the people involved in it.

Vital questions, like where Karr was on the night of the murder
Perhaps most importantly, investigators need to find out whether Karr was even in Boulder that Christmas night 10 years ago.

Karr’s second ex-wife, Lara, says she is certain Karr was with her in Alabama on Christmas night, 1996, 1500 miles away from Boulder.

Michael Raines, Karr’s ex-wife’s attorney: Her best memory is that during the years of their marriage, he was not away from the family at Christmas time ever.

But attorney Michael Raines says Lara is not happy that her recollection helps her ex-husband’s case.

Raines: She does not want to support him in any way shape or form. And probably it breaks her heart to think that her statement may in fact provide some kind of an alibi for this man. 

So, was this a false confession?

There is one piece of evidence that may turn out to be compelling. Remember Karr’s old high school yearbook inscription?  Some have speculated that “I Shall Be The Conqueror” might stand for “S.B.T.C.”—the mysterious letters left on the Ramsey ransom note.

In the end though, it may be another set of letters that decides John Karr’s fate— DNA.

Attorney Barry Scheck is a DNA expert.

Barry Scheck, DNA expert: If, the DNA in this instance is consistent with Mr. Karr, obviously that’s a corroborating physical fact of some serious significance.

On the other hand, if it doesn’t match him, that doesn’t necessarily rule him out because there was always a belief that the DNA that was found in this case could have come from extraneous sources, that’s always been a possibility.

On Saturday night, Karr is in Thailand on suicide watch. Until he is formally charged, and the prosecutor’s case is heard in court, there will continue to be speculation and conjecture, as everyone waits for a final answer to the question—who killed JonBenet?