The Long, Twisted Odyssey of John Mark Karr

ByABC News
October 6, 2006, 4:18 AM

Oct. 6, 2006 — -- Two months ago, you had never heard of a man named John Mark Karr.

Then, for just shy of two weeks, authorities considered Karr the chief suspect in the 1996 slaying of 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey.

Before millions of worldwide viewers, he said on cameras in Thailand, "I was with her when she died."

DNA evidence failed to link Karr to the killing.

After that case fell apart, he was still a curious character, retreating from the spotlight onto a side stage where he faced charges of child pornography possession from 2001.

Americans were no longer interested in his every move, but knew he was locked away somewhere, off the streets.

On Thursday, all that changed.

The pornography charges against Karr were dropped after investigators said they had lost pieces of evidence that were crucial to the case.

Neither his purported open sexual desire for children nor his history of marrying and allegedly abusing underage girls led to any charges that would hold up in court. As far as the justice system could tell, Karr was guilty of nothing more than being creepy.

He walked out of jail and into the world -- a different world than the one he had last seen.

Now, a little more than a month after his initial capture, Karr is a real and strange kind of celebrity.

Since the death of JonBenet on Christmas 1996, no one seemed more eager to see the crime solved than the people of Boulder, Colo.

In a community so small that everyone seemed to know someone who knew the Ramseys, Karr's alleged confession initially appeared to mean the end to a 10-year cold case that made Boulder famous for all the wrong reasons.

"Everyone felt really relieved," said Bill Wise, a former prosecutor in Boulder County who lead the investigation in its early stages. "At first they felt this must be the guy."

Investigators were so excited they largely pardoned the media circus that gathered around the court building and hotel bars of their city.