The mother of the suspect in JonBenet Ramsey's murder tried to kill him when he was only a baby, a family friend told ABC News.
John Karr's mother, Patricia Elaine Adcock "made a big round donut [of kindling] and put him in the middle of it," said George McCrary, 76, who said he has known Karr's father, Wexford Karr, for 40 years.
"She just boxed the little baby in and tried to light it," McCrary said. John's older brother Michael "came running in just before she got the flame to the flammable material," McCrary added.
McCrary said that Adcock was later committed to a mental institution and is now deceased. Attempts by ABC News to reach immediate members of the Karr family were unsuccessful.
McCrary told ABC News he was speaking independently. While he has been a close friend and confidante of Wexford Karr for four decades, McCrary said he has not spoken to him since news broke last week of John's apparent confession to killing JonBenet Ramsey in 1996.
"I am doing this because I love John and I love the family and I want people to know that while he certainly has some serious problems, John is a good human being and I love him and I will stand by him," McCrary said.
In a series of exclusive interviews over two days, McCrary painted an enigmatic portrait of a brilliant and amiable but troubled young man whose romantic relationships and fixations were explosive, emotionally charged and disturbing.
"From the time his mother tried to kill him -- he's been out-and-out paranoid that someone's going to try and kill him or take advantage of him," McCrary said. "He needs a psychiatrist worse than anyone I've ever met in my life."
McCrary said he doesn't know whether or not Karr killed Ramsey, as Karr has reportedly confessed, but he believes Karr is a pedophile haunted by a possessive need to "own" the girls and the women he fixates on, McCrary said.
McCrary said he met Wexford Karr in 1965, when both men were beginning careers in the construction industry. The son of a deacon from Hamilton, Ala., the elder Karr moved to Atlanta after World War II and began a construction and real estate business and was very active in his church, McCrary said.
Wexford Karr twice married and divorced women who were many years younger than him. He met Adcock, an 18-year-old traveling evangelist from Lovejoy, Ga., and married her when he was 37, according to McCrary. They had two children together -- Michael, 47 this month, and John, 41.
John was a just a baby when his mother tried to kill him, McCrary said. She was committed to Central State Hospital and Wexford Karr divorced her in 1973, saying the marriage was "irretrievably broken," according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
At the time of the alleged murder attempt, the Karr family was living in an Atlanta apartment complex that Wexford Karr owned, McCrary said. One of the tenants in that building was Susan Simpson.
"She'd watched the marriage go to hell," McCrary said. "And when it ended, she was there for Wex, and helped him through that hard time. He fell in love with her."
Wexford Karr and Simpson married. He was 52. She was 29. They lived together for several years before splitting up. The elder Karr took his sons to live with his parents in Hamilton, Ala., where John attended high school, McCrary said.