Five years ago, few Americans had ever heard of John Mark Karr, the man now under arrest for the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. But Wendy Hutchens says she knew him as few others may have: back in 2001, she says, he told her some of his innermost thoughts.
The conversations with Hutchens depict a man overtaken by his attraction to young girls. "They're so beautiful some of them … just overwhelming, dripping with attractiveness."
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"I can see through the eyes of the person who stopped the life of [JonBenet] … as easily as … if I did it myself," he says. Hutchens ended up with hours of taped conversations with a man she says is Karr. ABC News has exclusively obtained one hour of the tapes, and the hour reveals a man obsessed with young girls and deeply confused about his own life.
Hutchens says she met Karr through their mutual fascination with Richard Allan Davis, the man convicted of the 1993 murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas in California. She says that when they began exchanging letters and telephone calls, Karr quickly opened up to her in ways she found deeply disturbing. Wendy Hutchens says she went to local law enforcement officials with her concerns, and they instructed her to tape the calls, providing her with equipment to do so.
"There were things that he wanted to share that he had never been able to share with anybody," Hutchens tells ABC News. Those things included thoughts about JonBenet Ramsey and graphic descriptions of his desire for young girls. "She was just so, so incredible in life and so unreal in death," the man in the recording says of JonBenet Ramsey.
"I've kissed little girls on the mouth and they've actually most of the time initiated the kiss, but I've kissed little girls on the mouth," the man on the recording says. "I've never French kissed a little girl in my life. But … I've been kissed by them. I've held them. I've caressed them."
Soon after those recordings were made, Karr was arrested and charged in Sonoma County with possession of child pornography.
The former prosecutor on Karr's case confirmed to ABC News that Hutchens was, in fact, a confidential informant in the case. Karr spent nearly six months in jail and was released before trial, one of the conditions for his release being that he stay away from Hutchens.
No Confession, but Eerie References to JonBenet
While he does not confess to murdering or sexually assaulting JonBenet Ramsey on the tape obtained by ABC News, the caller does make eerie remarks about the case and JonBonet's death.
He says of the Ramsey's home in Boulder, Colo., "The house is absolutely just dripping with her sweet little tortured spirit, what a tortured spirit."
He adds, enigmatically, "I may or may not have ever been to her grave. I may or may have not ever been to her house."
"Maybe that person who did that … thinks it's important that someone confesses. … And he's chosen that other person to do that in his place. …"
"How would that person apologize for such an atrocity?" Would that person say, you know, I strangled your daughter and it was so accidental and I was so afraid and I was so absolutely afraid."
If the voice on the recording is that of John Karr, as Wendy Hutchens claims, his comments may shed some light on a discrepancy in last week's confession. Karr reportedly told Thai authorities that he'd had sex with JonBenet before her death — a fact that did not match JonBenet's autopsy report. Those documents showed signs of vaginal molestation but no signs of sexual intercourse.
Hutchens says that in their conversations, Karr had a particular kind of sexual encounter in mind when it came to young girls — one that didn't involve full intercourse.
"The weird thing about being sexually attracted to a little girl," says the voice on the tape, "is that you really aren't going to have penetrated sex with that little girl."
"I have held little girls in just about every way you can imagine. But I've never done any of those things that are textbook considered … you know, a no-no kind of thing."
He also speaks of having a relationship with JonBenet and Polly Klaas that reaches beyond the grave. He believed he could interact with the spirit of the young girls by using psychic powers.
Psychologists: Be Careful of What's Fact and What's Fantasy
Forensic specialists like Jack Trimarco see Karr's obsession with young girls as more than desire-driven arousal.
"He's not necessarily a child molester, but he may be a mind who is obviously tormented," Trimarco tells ABC News.
"He needs attention, and he's even willing to get that attention by saying, 'I've done this awful thing, kinda.' He's saying he loved her, he said it was an accident."
Karr's drive toward young girls may be fueled by a lack of self-esteem — a quality that comes through clearly in the recorded conversations.
"One reason why children become targets is the predator's fear of rejection and need for power. It leads them to people who are powerless to reject them," clinical psychologist Arnett Gaston tells ABC News.
"Children are not in a position to reject and often not in a situation to defend themselves."
All the attention that comes from being a suspect in JonBenet's death may feed into the obsessions that stand out in the taped conversations.
"Just by being the suspect, the fantasy becomes real. Now more people are involved -- the police, the authorities, the media," Gaston says. "All this reinforces Karr's fantasy."
As forensic specialist Trimarco observes, "Now there will always be a bond in history between JonBenet Ramsey and John Mark Karr."
Consequences in Court?
Whether the tapes would be admissible as evidence in this newest case against Karr remains unclear. One clear obstacle would be determining definitively that the man speaking on the tape is John Mark Karr.
Plus, when it comes time for a jury to convict, the strength of physical evidence collected from the crime scene could speak louder than any voice on any recording.
Almost overnight, John Mark Karr went from being a total unknown to the prime suspect in America's most-watched criminal cold case. If he is the man in Hutchens' recording, Karr may have been right to wonder, "I hope this [conversation] doesn't … come back to haunt me."