DA says no concrete evidence against John Karr in JonBenet killing beyond bizarre confession

Tuesday, August 29th 2006, 5:58 am
By: News On 6

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) _ Prosecutors acknowledged Tuesday that they had no concrete evidence beyond the rambling confessions of John Mark Karr before they arrested him two weeks ago in the unsolved slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey.

A day after the case against Karr was dropped, District Attorney Mary Lacy and her team defended their decision to bring him to Colorado from halfway around the world on a jumbo jet, with champagne and pate for dinner.

Lacy said it is difficult to be sure about any suspect's claims because every bit of physical evidence in the case has been disclosed to the public over the past 10 years.

``This guy confessed numerous occasions in great deal,'' said Peter Maguire, a deputy district attorney. ``He confessed in e-mails, he confessed in telephone conversations ... he admitted it to a police officer. This was a bizarre crime and the person who committed this crime acted in a bizarre way.''

JonBenet's father found the little girl's body in the basement of their Boulder home on the day after Christmas 1996. For years, suspicion has focused on either an intruder or the girl's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey.

Karr, who in e-mails and telephone conversations expressed a fascination with JonBenet and Polly Klaas, a murdered California girl, said after his arrest in Thailand this month that he was with JonBenet at the time of her slaying, which he called an accident.

But DNA tests did not match Karr to material found on the girl's body. Prosecutors suggested in court papers that Karr was just a man with a twisted obsession who confessed to a crime he didn't commit.

Lacy has been sharply criticized from the governor and others for detaining and arresting Karr. She acknowledged that and told reporters she has received citizen calls calling for her to be ``tarred and feathered'' and ``run out of town.'' Republican Gov. Bill Owens said Lacy, a Democrat, ``should be held accountable for the most extravagant and expensive DNA test in Colorado history.''

``The decisions were mine,'' Lacy said Tuesday. ``The responsibility is mine and I should be held accountable for all decisions in this case.''

Lacy, whose statement was briefly interrupted by a fire alarm at the courthouse, also said investigators surreptitiously took DNA samples from Karr from multiple locations before he was detained.

``We couldn't get his consent because he didn't know he was under investigation and we couldn't alert him at that time,'' she said.

Karr made some ``pretty bizarre'' claims in hundreds of pages of e-mail conversations with a Colorado professor, who alerted authorities to Karr's claims, Lacy said.

But she conceded that authorities were not able to confirm that Karr was in Boulder at the time of the slaying. Investigators said they felt sure of his whereabouts until Dec. 23, 1996, three days before the girl's body was found.

Karr was being held at the Boulder jail until he can be sent to Sonoma County, Calif., to face misdemeanor child pornography charges dating to 2001. An extradition hearing was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

JonBenet's aunt, Pamela Paugh, said Tuesday that she wasn't terribly shocked to learn that Karr's public confession to being with JonBenet when she died didn't hold up.

``I think one of two things is going on: Either he is quite disturbed, and in that respect needs a lot of help and care, or he has perpetrated quite the fraud on the American public and the victims' families, and he needs help and a lot of care,'' Paugh told CBS' ``The Early Show.''

``For us, this isn't a story that ebbs and flows _ this is real life. So we have to maintain a certain amount of calmness through anything that happens. Otherwise you can be on a rollercoaster every week of your life.''

Karr had made graphic claims in a series of e-mails about JonBenet's killing, describing sexual acts with her, her death and writing at one point that he envisioned Johnny Depp playing him in a movie about how he killed JonBenet. He wrote that the movie would make $1 billion.

Lacy said Karr emerged as a suspect in April after he spent several years exchanging e-mails and 11 telephone calls with a University of Colorado journalism professor who had produced documentaries on the case.

The District Attorney's office released explicit details of statements Karr had made in those exchanges with professor Michael Tracey, who had alerted authorities. Karr told the professor he accidentally killed JonBenet during sex and tasted her blood after he injured her, prosecutors said.

``Are you asking me why I killed JonBenet? I don't see it that way,'' Karr wrote in a May 22 e-mail. ``Her and I were engaging in a romantic and very sexual interaction. It went bad and it was my fault.''

But the claims were lies, prosecutors said. The Denver crime lab conducted DNA tests Friday on a cheek swab taken from Karr and were unable to connect him to the crime.

``This information is critical because ... if Mr. Karr's account of his sexual involvement with the victim were accurate, it would have been highly likely that his saliva would have been mixed with the blood in the underwear,'' Lacy said in court papers.

When Karr was arrested in Thailand, Ramsey family attorney Lin Wood pronounced it a vindication for JonBenet's parents. Patsy Ramsey died of cancer in June.

On Monday, the attorney said: ``From day one, John Ramsey publicly stated that he did not want the public or the media to jump to judgment. He did not want the public or the media to engage in speculation, that he wanted the justice system to take its course.''

Nate Karr, John Karr's brother, said he was elated his brother would not be charged. ``We're just going to be celebrating with family,'' he said.

But Scott Robinson, a Denver attorney who has followed the case from the beginning, said Karr may be charged with lying about his role.

``Seems to me there should be some criminal consequences,'' he said. ``He has cost the taxpayers an enormous amount of money.''