Man arrested in '96 Ramsey slaying
An American, 41, is held in Thailand
BOULDER, Colo. -- A former schoolteacher was arrested yesterday in Thailand in the slaying of 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey -- a surprise breakthrough in a lurid, decade-old mystery that had cast a cloud of suspicion over her parents.
The Ramsey family's lawyer, Lin Wood, identified the suspect as John Mark Karr, 41. Federal officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the name, and one law enforcement official said Boulder police had tracked him down online.
Wood said the arrest vindicated JonBenet's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey. Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer June 24.
``John and Patsy lived their lives knowing they were innocent, trying to raise a son despite the furor around them," Wood said. The attorney said the Ramseys learned about the suspect at least a month before Patsy Ramsey's death.
Karr was a teacher who once lived in Conyers, Ga., according to Wood. The lawyer said the Ramseys gave police information about Karr before he was identified as a suspect.
Wood would not say how the Ramseys knew Karr. But JonBenet was born in Atlanta in 1990, and the Ramseys lived in the Atlanta suburb of Dunwoody for several years before moving to Colorado in 1991.
Thai police said that when Karr was arrested, he denied any involvement in Ramsey's slaying. But a source close to the investigation in the United States said Karr confessed to certain elements of the crime. Also, a law enforcement source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Karr had been communicating periodically with somebody in Boulder who had been following the case and cooperating with law enforcement officials.
US authorities said Karr was initially taken into custody in Bangkok on unrelated sex charges. But Thai police Lieutenant General Suwat Tumrongsiskul said he was unaware of any criminal charges the suspect faced in Thailand.
Thai police said Karr was arrested at his apartment in downtown Bangkok at the request of US officials and was being held until they arrived. Suwat said he expected US officials to take Karr back to the United States in the next few days.
Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy said the arrest followed several months of work, but she said no details would be released until today .
JonBenet was found beaten and strangled in the basement of the family's home in Boulder on Dec. 26, 1996. Patsy Ramsey reported finding a ransom note in the house demanding $118,000 for her daughter.
The images of blonde-haired JonBenet in a cowgirl costume and other beauty pageant outfits have haunted TV talk shows ever since, helping feed myriad theories about her killer, and the case became one of the most sensational unsolved homicide cases in the nation.
Over the years, some specialists suggested that investigators had botched the case so thoroughly that it might never be solved.
Investigators at one point said JonBenet's parents were under an ``umbrella of suspicion" in the slaying. And some news accounts cast suspicion on JonBenet's older brother. But the Ramseys insisted an intruder killed their daughter, and no one in the family was charged.
In the months after the slaying, Patsy Ramsey went before the cameras and vigorously defending herself and her husband, chastising the media and blasting local law enforcement as incompetent.
In a statement yesterday, John Ramsey said, ``Patsy was aware that authorities were close to making an arrest in the case, and had she lived to see this day, would no doubt have been as pleased as I am with today's development almost 10 years after our daughter's murder."
The Ramseys moved back to Atlanta after their daughter's slaying.
Patsy Ramsey's sister, Pam Paug, of Roswell, Ga., said the family was celebrating the news of the arrest. `` We are elated. If this is, in fact, the killer, then we have a very heinous killer off the streets to never harm another child," Paugh said.
Lib Waters of Marietta, Ga., visited the gravesites of Patsy and JonBenet Ramsey in the Atlanta suburb immediately after hearing news reports about the arrest.
Waters, who described herself as a longtime friend of the Ramsey family, taped a piece of notebook paper to JonBenet Ramsey's headstone that read: ``Dearest Patsy, Justice has come for you and Jon. Rest in peace."
In 2003, a federal judge in Atlanta concluded that the evidence she reviewed suggested an intruder killed JonBenet. The Boulder district attorney at the time said she agreed with the judge.
Wood said he and the Ramseys ``have been totally amazed and impressed with the professionalism of law enforcement" under Lacy's direction. Lacy became district attorney in 2001.
Lawrence Schiller, author of the 1999 book ``Perfect Murder, Perfect Town" about the case, said yesterday that ``There are a lot of facts about her actual death that the public does not know."
``If he did confess to some facts of the murder, to reveal those facts of the case, that would finish the puzzle," Schiller said.
Among the facts he said were not generally known was the weapon used.
DNA was found beneath JonBenet's fingernails and inside her underwear, but Wood said two years ago that detectives were unable to match it to anyone in an FBI database. It was not immediately known yesterday whether investigators had any DNA evidence against Karr.
Bob Grant, a former Adams County district attorney who worked on the case, said there was never enough evidence to convince him that any suspect could be successfully prosecuted.
``I wasn't convinced it was an inside job, nor was I convinced it was an outside job," he said. ``All the outside suspects were cleared after exhaustive investigation, and there were a whole lot of outside suspects."