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Thursday, August 17, 2006 - Page updated at 07:34 AM

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10 years later, arrest is made in slaying of JonBenet

The Washington Post

BOULDER, Colo. — A former schoolteacher was arrested Wednesday in Thailand in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey, 6, a breakthrough in a decade-old mystery that had cast a cloud of suspicion over her parents.

Ramsey family attorney Lin Wood identified the suspect as John Mark Karr, 41. Federal officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the name.

The head of Thailand immigration police said today that Karr admitted the killing after he was arrested at his Bangkok apartment Wednesday night. Karr arrived in Bangkok on June 6 from Malaysia to look for a teaching job, Lt. Gen. Suwat Tumrongsiskul said.

"He told police while under arrest that he did kill the girl but so far he has not pleaded guilty in writing. This is needed as official evidence," Suwat said.

Suwat said U.S. authorities told Thai police Aug. 11 that an arrest warrant had been issued for Karr.

Karr will be taken to Boulder, Colo., within the next week, where he will be charged with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and child sexual assault, Ann Hurst, Department of Homeland Security attaché at the American Embassy in Bangkok, said at a news conference in Bangkok.

Karr also appeared briefly at the news conference but did not speak.

At the conference, Suwat said that Karr insisted after his arrest that his crime was not first-degree murder. "He said it was second-degree murder. He said it was unintentional. He said he was in love with the child. She was a pageant queen," Suwat said.

The Thai officer quoted the suspect as saying he tried to kidnap JonBenet but that his plan went awry and he strangled her to death.

Officials said that John and Patsy Ramsey, who were at one point suspected in their daughter's death, had been consulted during the investigation. Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer June 24 but was told before her death that an arrest might be imminent, her husband said.

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"Patsy was aware that authorities were close to making an arrest in the case," Ramsey said, "and had she lived to see this day, would no doubt have been as pleased as I am with today's development almost 10 years after our daughter's murder."

Karr was a teacher who once lived in Conyers, Ga., Wood said. The attorney said the Ramseys gave police information about Karr before he was identified as a suspect.

Wood would not say how the Ramseys knew Karr. But JonBenet was born in Atlanta in 1990, and the Ramseys lived in the Atlanta suburb of Dunwoody, about 30 miles north of Conyers, for years before moving to Colorado in 1991.

Thai police said that when Karr was arrested, he initially denied involvement in JonBenet's slaying. A law-enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Karr had been communicating with somebody in Boulder who had been following the case.

A University of Colorado spokesman, Barrie Hartman, said journalism professor Michael Tracey communicated with Karr over several months and contacted police. The spokesman said he didn't know what prompted Tracey to become suspicious of Karr.

Tracey produced a documentary in 2004, "Who Killed JonBenet?" He could not be reached for comment.

It was widely reported, but not confirmed by authorities, that Karr taught in California until he was stripped of his teaching credentials after an arrest on child-pornography charges.

Karr's brother, Nate Karr, said his brother's alleged involvement was a misunderstanding. He told Fox News his brother may have been implicated because of research he has done for a book about men who commit crimes against children. He said his brother was married about 13 years ago but wasn't sure if he was still married.

Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy said the arrest came after "several months of a focused and complex investigation," and said more information would be released today.

The case began in an upscale Boulder neighborhood. The girl, a participant in child beauty contests, was found beaten and strangled in the family home the day after Christmas 1996. Male DNA residue was found under her fingernails and in her underwear, but police never reported a match for the sample.

Police found no signs of forced entry into the house. The discovery of a ransom note was another odd element in the case.

Investigators from the Boulder Police Department and the county prosecutor's office argued bitterly about different theories.

Police focused on the girl's family, saying the parents and JonBenet's older brother, Burke, were under an "umbrella of suspicion."

The county prosecutor at the time rejected that idea.

The Ramseys left Boulder, but articles, TV reports and books suggesting their involvement followed them.

Finally, in a 2003 libel case, U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes in Atlanta concluded "the weight of the evidence is more consistent with a theory that an intruder killed JonBenet than it is with a theory that Mrs. Ramsey did so."

Material from The Washington Post is included in this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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