Looking Inside the Mind of John Mark Karr

DNA evidence has cleared John Mark Karr of killing child Colorado beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, but questions remain about what's going on inside the mind of the self-professed killer.

Karr became an international phenomenon more than two months ago when he declared before cameras at a Bangkok airport, "I love JonBenet Ramsey and she died accidentally."

But this week, we saw a very different side of Karr.

Appearing on a number of cable- and network-news shows, a stoic-looking Karr answered questions about his life but adamantly avoided answering anything relating to JonBenet.

Despite his insistence that he's a private person and despises the spotlight, he's conducted interviews with a host of news programs, including "Larry King Live," "The Dr. Keith Ablow Show," and "On the Record With Greta Van Susteren."

While Karr is no longer in custody, his behavior is still a concern for many who fear he may be a sexual deviant.

Using the Media to Vent?

Following an interview with Larry King, Karr reportedly visited Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles with one member of the show's staff.

According to King, Karr spent about an hour visiting the grave of Natalie Wood, the actress who accidentally drowned at age 43 in 1981.

"We really don't know what part Wood's death would play in his delusions and fantasies," said Ellen Rosenzweig, a clinical social worker in private practice. "But there is a similarity between JonBenet and Natalie Wood in that their cases both remain unsolved."

Harry Segal, a clinical psychologist at Cornell University, says Karr may be using the media as his outlet to alleviate tremendous amounts of guilt.

"If he needs the attention, it might be a much more subtle kind of motivation. … Like punishing himself for any real or imagined crimes he's committed," Segal said. "He's remained frighteningly stable and confident throughout this whole process."

Segal says he relates Karr's craving for media attention to issues with power.

"His grandiose wish for power may be one reason he admitted to a crime he didn't commit," he said.

Some observers believe Karr is narcissistic and dangerous, and loves the attention he has received.

"This is a guy that truly enjoys the limelight. He never even appears nervous. … He acts like he's this movie star," said Michael Bachner, a New York defense lawyer.

Saul Kessin, a professor of psychology at John Jay College in New York City, says that when people have delusions, they can actually convince themselves they are involved in events.

"He may actually believe he killed JonBenet," Kessin said.

The other possibility, these experts say, is that Karr could be guilty of another crime altogether, and that he is seeking to punish himself.

Media Feeding Frenzy

The attention the media have given Karr has only fueled his alleged craving for attention.

"The media has jumped all over this case from the beginning, and he's taking full advantage of it," said defense lawyer Mark Geragos.

Geragos has represented several high-profile clients, including Scott Peterson, who is on California's death row for the slaying of his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn child.

Though some don't like to admit it, some members of society are fascinated with media-created celebrities like Karr.

"People are always very interested in this kind of thing," Kessin said.

According to Kessin, we can relate on some levels to Karr because he looks somewhat normal and resembles us in some ways, but then acts on certain impulses that we'd would suppress or never consider.

Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the Sexual Research Center at Johns Hopkins University, says Karr appears to have gender-identity issues.

He noted Karr's appearance on "Larry King," where he said, "If I'm preparing for a sex reassignment surgery, then it would be my decision, after great deliberation, and it would be my choice and it would be something that I'd be proud of."

There are many hypotheses about Karr. But the workings of his mind will likely remain a mystery, much like the death of JonBenet.

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