John Mark Karr



John Mark Karr (born December 11, 1964 in Conyers, Georgia) is an American school teacher who made a false confession regarding the unsolved murder of six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey. Ramsey was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her family's home in Boulder, Colorado, on December 26, 1996. Karr said he was present when Ramsey died and called her death an "accident".

Authorities were made aware of Karr via e-mails he exchanged over the course of four years with Michael Tracey, a journalism professor at the University of Colorado. They eventually located and identified Karr through telephone calls he was lured into making to Tracey.

Karr was arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, on August 16, 2006, by Thai authorities, then released to U.S. agents and flown first to Los Angeles, California, then to Boulder for further investigation. On August 28, prosecutors announced they had decided not to pursue charges in connection with the murder after DNA tests failed to place Karr at the scene, although serious doubts had been expressed about the veracity of his admission even before the tests were conducted. Karr was held in Boulder until September 12, 2006, when he was transported to Sonoma County, California to face unrelated misdemeanor child pornography charges. The charges were dismissed by a California judge on October 5, 2006, and Karr was immediately released.

Karr was born in Conyers, Georgia and spent his early childhood in Atlanta. His father, Wexford Karr, married Patricia Elaine Adcock on August 21, 1958, when he was 37 and she was 18, according to court documents. Wexford filed for divorce in 1973 eleven years after the marriage in Clayton County, Georgia, saying the marriage was "irretrievably broken," and that the boys were in his custody. Soon after, Wexford Karr, then 52, married 29-year-old Susan Simpson, his neighbor in the same apartment complex. His marriage with Simpson ended in divorce six months later.

A family friend, Jonathan McCrary, has said that Karr's mother believed John Karr was possessed by demons. His mother allegedly built a pyre of kindling around him and attempted to burn him alive as an infant. Adcock was committed to the Central State Hospital, a mental institution, in Milledgeville, Georgia, and later lived in a group home, according to her stepmother, Shirley Adcock.

Karr moved to Alabama to live with his grandparents when he was about 12 years old. He grew up in Hamilton and graduated from Hamilton High School in 1983. According to his brother, Nate Karr, John was at the top of his high school class.

Karr also sold used cars and was known in his Alabama town for his car, a red DeLorean with gull-wing doors. Karr returned to live in Atlanta at least twice: once to attend one semester at Riverwood High School in Sandy Springs from January to May in 1981, and again some years after graduating high school.

In 1984, when he was 19 years old, Karr married a 13-year-old girl named Quientana Ray Shotts, according to Shott's mother, Melissa Shotts. Karr evidently told Quientana to lie about her age, and took her out of Alabama, where they both lived, to marry her. Karr and Shotts lived together as a couple in Hamilton after their wedding, and Karr "was abusing her every way there was," according to Melissa Shotts. Court records show that, in 1985, a 14-year-old girl sought an annulment of what the records call a "ceremonial marriage," saying she had feared for her life when she agreed to marry Karr in 1984. Karr admitted to the court that she was a minor, but disputed she had been 13. The marriage was annulled in 1985. Shotts later remarried and is now named Quientana Ray.

Karr married Lara Knutson in Alabama on May 19, 1989, when he was 24 and she 16 and pregnant. She was carrying twin daughters who were delivered via a home birth on September 1, 1989. The girls, named Angel and Innocence, died later that day. The couple went on to have three boys in close succession, the oldest, John born in 1990, Damon in 1992 and Seven Exodus in 1993. The couple divorced in 2001 following Karr's arrest for five misdemeanor counts of possession of child pornography in Petaluma, California. In the divorce petition, his wife wrote that Karr was never physically violent towards her, but that he was "very controlling" of her. A restraining order against Karr was granted. Knutson said he purposely set out to get her pregnant, telling her the pregnancy would allow them to skirt the law and get married, according to statements she made in divorce records.

Karr had been working as a substitute teacher in Petaluma, but Bob Raines, a superintendent and principal at Wilson School in Petaluma said he was an ineffective teacher: "He just seemed like somebody who thought he wanted to be a teacher... After a few days, I could see it just wasn't for him." He worked from December 2000 through March 2001 in as many as 14 schools in the Petaluma, Old Adobe, Liberty and Wilmar elementary districts. His last paycheck for teaching work in Petaluma was issued in April 2001, the same month that he made his first court appearance for the aforementioned pornography charges. When he failed to show up for a readiness conference in December 2001, a judge issued a warrant for his arrest, which was still outstanding as of August 2006.

John Mark Karr also operated a day care center in northwest Alabama. The Marion County Department of Human Resources issued a license for Karr to begin operating a day care out of his home in June 1997. Under the license, Karr was allowed to care for as many as six children at a time, ranging in age up to 14 years old.

On April 13, 2001, Karr was arrested for possession of computerized child pornography. He pleaded not guilty four days later. On October 15, 2001, after a series of court hearings, Karr was released from jail, but was ordered to report to a probation officer. The court records in the case were sealed. In December 2001, Karr failed to appear and a "No Bail" warrant was issued by a Sonoma County Superior Court Judge. Since then Karr had been on the run, living in Asia, Europe and Central America, until his arrest in Thailand.

In June 2006, the Boulder District Attorney's office received copies of the suspect's emails from University of Colorado journalism professor Michael Tracey, who received the emails from a person with the email address "December251996@yahoo.com". December 25, 1996, was the date of JonBenét's murder. At least one of the emails was signed with the signature "Daxis".

Armed with the email address and Internet service provider, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) determined the general location of the suspect in Thung Maha Mek, a neighborhood in Bangkok, Thailand. At the time, the suspect's name and exact location was not known.

Authorities identified and found Karr when he sent an envelope to Tracey by regular mail with a return address bearing the name of a major throughfare in Bangkok, but no number or cross street. Tracey sent Karr another kind of mail – a photograph delivered to a Thai post office box. Agents arranged a controlled delivery and were ready to spot their suspect. The man who arrived to pick up the mail delivery was using a 21-speed bicycle, the purchase of which was mentioned in e-mails sent by the suspect. The agents followed Karr to his residence and learned his name.

On August 11, 2006, they notified ICE officials, and from that point on, Karr was placed under surveillance by Thai immigration officials. A sealed arrest warrant, signed by Boulder County District Judge Roxanne Bailin, was sent by the Boulder District Attorney's office to officials in Thailand on August 15, 2006. The next day, upon receipt of the warrant, Thai immigration authorities revoked Karr's visa.

Karr was detained in Bangkok, Thailand, on August 16, 2006. Karr said he was with JonBenét when she died, and told a press conference that her death was an accident. He said: "I love JonBenét," and "I was with JonBenét when she died; she died accidentally." When asked if he was an innocent man, he said: "No." Thai Immigration Police Lieutenant General Suwat Tumrongsiskul stated that Karr admitted attempting to kidnap JonBenét Ramsey for an $118,000 ransom to be paid by the Ramseys, only to strangle her after his plan went awry. While he was detained in Thailand, officials there had Karr on a 24-hour suicide watch.

Karr returned on a business class flight. He was not handcuffed during the flight, ate from a free choice of menu and even drank champagne on the Thai Airways Airbus 340-500 he took to the United States. Experts, such as Denver attorney Larry Posner, have speculated that Karr was given the food and drink to get him to start talking about his involvement in the murder of JonBenét:

John Mark Karr
What the cops want most is this guy to talk. They say he is not under arrest. Then they do not put him in handcuffs on the plane. And they say he is over the age of 21, free to drink, he is therefore free to talk.

Karr was not handcuffed or under arrest during the flight but was escorted by investigators working for the Boulder district attorney. He had been detained in Thailand because his visa had been revoked by request of Boulder County, Colorado, but he was released to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to ensure he returned to the U.S. Karr was not legally arrested until August 20, 2006, after the airliner touched down at Los Angeles International Airport. He was first admitted into the country, then he was arrested at the airport on a warrant from Boulder County by the waiting officers of the LA County Sheriff's Department, and taken by helicopter to Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles. Citing Sheriff's Department policy regarding inmates who are "accused child molesters", deputies stated that Karr was held in isolation while he was at the facility.

Karr's arrest refocused attention on sex tourism in Thailand, an issue of continuing international concern with the potential to bring political change in that country.

On August 22, 2006, John Mark Karr waived extradition during a three-minute hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court, clearing the way for his transfer to Boulder. According to CNN, on his way back to the correctional facility after the extradition hearing, Karr was quoted as telling an officer, "Everybody says I couldn't know my way around the house, but I got in the house around 5 o'clock ... and I stayed there all night."

On August 24, 2006, Karr was handcuffed and driven by Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies onto the tarmac at the airport in Long Beach, California, where he boarded a State of Colorado Beech King Air twin turboprop airplane. Karr arrived more than 3 hours later at Jefferson County Municipal Airport in Broomfield, Colorado, and then was driven to the Boulder County Jail.

Although Karr had been represented by public defenders in Los Angeles and Boulder, two California-based attorneys, Patience van Zandt (who worked with Karr on his 2001 child pornography case) and Jamie Harmon served him in an advisory capacity. In Boulder, Karr was assisted by Boulder County Public Defender Seth Temin, despite the fact that three dozen lawyers had offered to represent John Mark Karr (for free in many cases) against the charges.

On August 28, 2006, the Boulder County District Attorney's Office announced "the case of the People vs. John Mark Karr has been vacated". According to Denver's NBC affiliate, KUSA, the DNA taken from Karr's hair and saliva after his arrest and tested by the Denver Police Department's crime lab did not match the DNA found on JonBenét Ramsey's body; as a result, the District Attorney's Office would not file charges against Karr for the murder. Boulder County DA Mary Lacy estimated the total public cost of the investigation at about $13,000; other estimates, however, have pegged the cost as high as $30,000. Prior to August 28, George McCrary, a longtime friend of the Karr family insisted that John Karr is innocent. "He's a pedophile, not a murderer," said McCarty, who also called John Karr a "genius" whose "confession" was a deliberate tactic to avoid jail in Thailand, and be taken to the United States where he knew he would be found innocent.

Following Karr's release on August 28, he was quickly rearrested after prosecutors in California indicated that he was to face charges of possessing child pornography.

On August 28, 2006, the Sonoma County DA's Office announced their intent to have Karr extradited from Boulder to face the five misdemeanor counts of possessing child pornography that had been filed five years earlier. On September 12, 2006, Karr arrived in Santa Rosa, where he stood by his original plea of not guilty. If convicted, Karr could be sentenced to a maximum of one year in prison and $2,500 fine for each count. On September 19, 2006, prosecutors offered Karr a plea bargain in which he would plead guilty to two of the five counts, in exchange for dismissal of the remaining three counts and a sentence of time served in jail and three years probation. Karr would also be required to register in California as a sex offender. San Francisco based criminal defense attorneys Robert Amparan, Gayle Gutekunst, and Benjamin Prince are representing Karr in Sonoma County. Karr turned down the plea bargain offer in the case. On September 25, 2006, however, Judge Cerena Wong agreed to consider a defense motion to dismiss all charges against Karr, in light of the Sonoma County sheriff's department's alleged 2002 junking of a computer believed to contain the pornographic images that are the basis of the prosecution's case. The prosecution maintained that it printed the photos from Karr's computer before it went missing; it is these printed copies that the prosecution planned to introduce as evidence if the case went to trial.

On October 5, 2006, all of the child pornography charges against Karr were dropped.

On October 6, 2006 Karr already found himself being questioned again by police when he decided to stop by a school that he used to teach at. A limousine carrying Karr and two producers from ABC's Good Morning America was stopped and questioned by police but they determined that no crime was commited. Karr was apparently giving the producers a tour of the neighborhood where he used to live and work when he suddenly exited the limo and approached the school. According to Jeffrey Schneider, senior vice president of ABC News, "his behavior gave us serious pause, and ABC decided not to proceed with the interview".Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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