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Meticulous details figure in a grand fabrication

Every detail John Mark Karr provided in a tantalizing narrative confession to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey turned out to be a lie.
John Mark Karr
John Mark Karr rides in a police vehicle Monday as he arrives at the Boulder County Jail in Boulder, Colo., shortly before prosecutors decided not to charge him in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey.Rick Bowmer / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

In year after year of e-mails, John Mark Karr described an aching love for JonBenet Ramsey and grisly details of how he killed her.

How the girl was hung by a rope, her wrists tied together, and how she was slowly strangled to put her in a “dream-like state” before he performed oral sex. How he was a “dashing prince” who loved the girl, tasted her blood after the sex went too far and how he tried to revive her when he realized she was dead.

But every detail Karr provided in a tantalizing narrative confession turned out to be a lie.

In a stunning development, prosecutors abruptly dropped their case Monday against Karr after DNA tests failed to put him at the crime scene, despite his insistence he sexually assaulted and strangled the 6-year-old beauty queen.

“I loved her so much and I am so sorry that she died in my arms,” Karr wrote to a Colorado professor in May, part of a longtime correspondence that led to his arrest. “If anyone came close to screaming, it was I. ... ’Please don’t leave me. I love you so much. Oh, babydoll, please come back to me!”’

Just a week and a half after Karr’s arrest in Thailand was seen as a remarkable break in the sensational, decade-old case, prosecutors suggested in court papers that he was just a man with a twisted fascination with JonBenet who confessed to a crime he didn’t commit.

“The people would not be able to establish that Mr. Karr committed this crime despite his repeated insistence that he did,” District Attorney Mary Lacy said.

The 41-year-old schoolteacher will be kept in jail in Boulder until he can be sent to Sonoma County, Calif., to face child pornography charges dating to 2001.

The district attorney vowed to keep pursuing leads in JonBenet’s death: “This case is not closed.”

Karr was never formally charged in the slaying. In court papers, Lacy defended the decision to arrest him and bring him back to the United States for further investigation, saying he might have otherwise fled and may have been targeting children in Thailand as well.

A call from ‘Daxis’
Lacy said Karr emerged as a suspect in April after he spent several years exchanging e-mails and later telephone calls with University of Colorado journalism professor Michael Tracey, who has produced documentaries on the Ramsey case.

According to court papers, Karr told the professor he accidentally killed JonBenet. He went into graphic detail during a July 15 telephone call with Tracey that lasted 100 minutes, with Karr claiming he performed sex on the little girl, then hoisted her up with a rope.

Karr, going by the alias Daxis, said he placed a new “necklace around the throat of the child.” The garrote was loosened and tightened, and JonBenet stopped breathing, Karr told the professor during the call.

“Daxis explained again that due to the twitching of JonBenet he was concerned she might be brain dead but her body could continue to survive,” according to a summary of the call in the 98-page arrest affidavit. “He did not want JonBenet to suffer, so he struck her in the head with a flashlight he brought with him.”

The meaning of “Daxis” was not immediately clear.

DNA, other evidence
The Denver crime lab conducted DNA tests Friday on a cheek swab taken from Karr and were unable to connect him to the crime.

“This information is critical because ... if Mr. Karr’s account of his sexual involvement with the victim were accurate, it would have been highly likely that his saliva would have been mixed with the blood in the underwear,” Lacy said in court papers.

She also said authorities found no evidence Karr was in Boulder at the time of the slaying. She said Karr’s family provided “strong circumstantial support” for their belief that he was with them in Georgia, celebrating the Christmas holidays. JonBenet was found beaten and strangled at her Boulder home on Dec. 26, 1996.

Defense attorney Seth Temin expressed outrage that Karr was even arrested.

“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 he did anything wrong,” Temin said.

In an interview Monday with MSNBC, Gary Harris, who had been spokesman for the Karr family, said he knew the DNA would not match.

He’s a dreamer’
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.”

Earlier this month, Ramsey family attorney Lin Wood pronounced Karr’s arrest vindication for JonBenet’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, who had long been suspected in the killing.

On Monday, the attorney said: “From Day One, John Ramsey publicly stated that he did not want the public or the media to jump to judgment. He did not want the public or the media to engage in speculation, that he wanted the justice system to take its course.”

Wood said he still has great confidence in the district attorney. Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in June.

JonBenet Ramsey’s aunt, Pamela Paugh, said she was disappointed there won’t be a prosecution of someone in the case, but added: “I think our justice system worked as it was supposed to.”

‘Years of disappointment’
“We asked the DA to do her thing. She did it,” said Paugh, who is Patsy Ramsey’s sister. “My disappointment came about the end of December 1996 when we didn’t have the killer then. We’ve had 9½ years of disappointment and waiting.”

Nate Karr, John Karr’s brother, said he was elated by the news. “We’re just going to be celebrating with family,” he said.

Scott Robinson, a Denver attorney who has followed the case from the beginning, said prosecutors may now be back at square one in the JonBenet case. He said Karr may be charged with lying about his role in the case.

“Seems to me there should be some criminal consequences,” he said. “He has cost the taxpayers an enormous amount of money.”

Karr was arrested in Petaluma, Calif., in 2001 on charges of possessing child pornography but fled before he could be tried. Colorado authorities said that after the Boulder case against Karr was dropped, California officials asked that he be turned over to them for prosecution.