Karr Crash: True Obsession, False Confession


In less than two weeks, John Mark Karr went from total obscurity to the darkest kind of fame.

With a vaguely worded confession at a news conference in Thailand, he became the first person ever arrested in the unsolved murder of JonBenet Ramsey and the closest authorities had come to putting a face to the little girl's killer.

As the case unraveled Monday, with it came the secrets of the investigation: hours of conversations and stacks of e-mail messages between Karr and University of Colorado professor Michael Tracey.

ABC News read hundreds of e-mail messages to find the passages that had led investigators to arrest Karr, believing he might be the killer.

In those files, summarized below, were graphic descriptions from Karr's account of how JonBenet had died on Christmas night in 1996 — tall tales that were undone by his family members who said he was in Atlanta for Christmas that year and a lack of physical evidence placing him at the crime scene.

There were those who questioned whether Karr was guilty of the crimes he so graphically had described.

The small city of Boulder was rife with skepticism.

Even John Ramsey, JonBenet's father and the man with the most to gain from solving the case, reminded the public that Karr was "innocent until proven guilty."

It turned out that the skeptics were right.

There was no proof of Karr's guilt other than his own heartfelt confessions.

And his words, decided Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy, were not enough to charge him with the death of JonBenet.

Karr on Tape and in Writing

At the heart of the investigation were Karr's conversations with Tracey.

It was a correspondence that lasted four years but that came to the attention of Boulder authorities only when Karr described details of JonBenet's death not known to the general public.

Those details, although untrue, would have explained some of the greatest mysteries surrounding the 6-year-old's death.

Karr described using a large flashlight to hit JonBenet over the head, causing a fracture to her skull that would turn up in an autopsy report.

"It tarnished my princess … the trauma to her head haunts me — so horrible," Karr said in an April e-mail to Tracey.

Karr said that her death by asphyxiation had been an accident, that he unintentionally had suffocated her while the two were engaged in sexual activity.

"Slow pressure was applied to her neck until oxygen was gradually deprived," Karr said in an April e-mail, describing what he depicted as an intentional sexual tactic.

"If done correctly she would be in a dream state … In many, the asphyxia heightens sexual pleasure."

"I don't see myself as a killer," Karr wrote in May. "Her and I were engaged in a romantic and very sexual interaction. It went bad and it was my fault."

Karr said he "used tight leather driving gloves while in the house" and mentioned walking through the house without shoes on, thus explaining the lack of fingerprints and partially explaining the lack of footprints at the crime scene.

As to the location on a spiral staircase where John and Patsy found a cryptic ransom note signed "S.B.T.C.," Karr said he meant to leave it in JonBenet's room but was spooked when he heard noises coming from upstairs.

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