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.
Karr reportedly made a yearbook entry in 1982 that has similarities to the ransom note found in JonBenet Ramsey's Boulder, Colo., home after her body was found on Christmas day, 1996.
"Though, deep in the future, maybe I shall be the conquerer [sic] and live in multiple peace," the entry read, according to the Rocky Mountain News.
The ransom note concluded with the single-word exclamation "Victory!" and was signed "S.B.T.C." Investigators are looking into whether those initials may stand for "shall be the conqueror." Other explanations have been proposed for those initials, including that they were a reference to the Subic Bay Training Center, a now-closed naval base where John Ramsey was stationed.
John Karr was an "uncontrollable" and "possessive" child who would throw tantrums until he got what he wanted, McCray said. But, he said, John Karr was "smart as hell, talented and sharp as a tack."
McCrary gave John his first job as a teenager -- loading and unloading furniture at a Georgia warehouse. McCrary said John quit on his first day, saying his arms hurt and that the work was too tough for him.
McCrary said John later talked his father into selling one of the family's rental properties and going into the car business.
"They started buying cars, fixing them up, and selling them," McCrary said. "He found a DeLorean and said 'Daddy, I want that. And his daddy said, 'All right.' They got a good price for it."
Referring to John's diverse and unusual talents, McCrary recounted a story of John once single-handedly dismantling and re-assembling the DeLorean.
"When John wanted something, he was totally focused on getting it," McCrary said. "He had an unbelievable mind."
John was also musically gifted and played 12-string guitar expertly as a teen, according to McCrary. One summer in Georgia, during his brief marriage to Quientana Shotts, he came to a Fourth of July party and sang the "most beautiful harmonies you've ever heard" with local country legend Sam Allen, whose stage name was Billy Autumn, McCrary said. The duet so impressed Allen that he told the young man he wanted to sign him up for a record contract on the spot.
Allen and McCrary got on the phone that day and contacted Baker Knight, an industry legend who wrote Ricky Nelson's hit "Lonesome Town" and whose songs were recorded by Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. A record deal was discussed over the phone. It never materialized.
'Talk of the Town'
John met Shotts in Hamilton, Ala., and he married her when he was 19 and she was 13, Shotts' parents, Larry and Melissa, told ABC News.
"I've never seen two kids more in love in my life," McCrary said.
But Shotts' parents were opposed to the marriage. McCrary said John had a lengthy battle with Shotts' parents over his relationship with their daughter. The more the parents resisted the couple's plans, the more defensive and possessive Karr became.
At some point in the relationship Shotts left him, McCary said, and Karr "put up one of his great efforts to get what he wanted."
"It was the talk of Hamilton,'' McCrary said.
Eventually, Karr won her back, but the marriage ended in nine months.
'Lara Is Now His'
John's second marriage -- to Lara Knutson -- was also marked by heated opposition from her parents.
In 1989, when he was 24 and living back in Atlanta, John married a pregnant, 16-year old Knutson.
"Her parents went wild," McCrary said. "You have this young girl and this older, divorced man." He said her parents "went nuts."
McCrary said the couple moved back to Hamilton, "and her father took after them."
Knutson's father and Wexford Karr were on the phone often during this period, McCrary said.
"I talked to John and he told me to tell you 'don't come down,'" McCrary quotes Wexford Karr as telling Knutson's father, who was in Georgia. "Lara is now his."
McCrary says he spoke to John during this period and that the young man was as scared and despairing as he was possessive and angry.
"My life's over if I lose Lara," McCrary said John Karr told him. "And his life is over if he comes to get her," Karr allegedly said, referring to his bride's father.
Neither Knutson nor her attorney returned calls for comment and her father could not be reached.
McCrary said the beginning of Knutson's marriage to Karr was characteristic of John's romantic relationships.
"When John found a girl he liked, he just fell head over heels," McCrary said. "He couldn't do enough for them. He worshipped them. He kind of treated them like a little girl of his own, dressing them and giving them presents. He would spend money on them that he wouldn't spend on himself. He was so generous, and attentive and friendly."
Lara became pregnant with twins, but they died at birth. The couple moved to California, and eventually had three boys.
"He was really a hell of a nice guy," McCrary said. "And I think he fell into an addiction to pedophilia the way people fall into one addiction or another.
"He wanted the successful marriage that his father never had," McCrary repeated. "This boy suffered his whole life. He lived from one trauma to the next."