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Karr Dropped as JonBenet Ramsey Murder Suspect

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Karr Dropped as JonBenet Ramsey Murder Suspect


Karr Dropped as JonBenet Ramsey Murder Suspect

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Prosecutors in the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation have dropped their case against John Mark Karr. They say DNA tests failed to put him at the crime scene.

He had insisted he sexually assaulted and accidentally strangled the six-year-old girl ten years ago at her home in Boulder, Colorado. Last week John Mark Karr was brought back from Thailand, where he was about to start a teaching job, and jailed in Colorado.

NPR's Jeff Brady joins us now from Denver. Good morning.

JEFF BRADY reporting:

Good morning.

MONTAGNE: And doubts emerged about John Mark Karr's story, really, quite soon after the news broke that he was a suspect. What convinced the D.A. that he wasn't worth even charging?

BRADY: It was Karr's own DNA. Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy says it didn't match DNA that was found on JonBenet Ramsey's undergarments. And Lacy says that Karr's own family claims that he wasn't anywhere near Colorado when the crime took place. They say he was in Atlanta, celebrating Christmas with them.

In court documents Lacy says that she cannot establish that Karr committed the crime, despite his repeated insistence that he did.

MONTAGNE: Well, that question about the family and him being back in the east coast all came out also quite early on. You kind of wonder why the D.A. flew Karr back under - with all the media hoopla from Thailand if she didn't have enough evidence to charge him. Didn't they talk to family members and that sort of thing?

BRADY: Well, Lacy is certainly come under fire for that. Colorado Governor Bill Owens called this the most extravagant and expensive DNA test in Colorado history. But Lacy said in court documents that prosecutors needed a cheek swab from Karr for the DNA test, and they couldn't really do that without letting him know that he was under investigation. And she was worried that if he did know, he might flee.

And he had a history of that. He fled California after he was charged in 2001 with possessing child pornography. And Lacy says Karr refused several requests for a cheek swab in Thailand, so they had to bring him back to the states where they could get a search warrant to perform the swab.

MONTAGNE: And John Karr, I gather, wasn't a suspect early in the investigation. What changed that, how did he come to the attention of the D.A.?

BRADY: Well, a University of Colorado professor named Michael Tracey had been corresponding with Karr for several years. Tracey produced several documentaries on the case, and Karr had contacted him. The two also talked on the telephone 11 times, and those conversations were recorded.

A few months ago, Tracey alerted authorities after Karr began making claims that he accidentally killed JonBenet Ramsey. They were able to trace those calls back to Karr in Thailand.

MONTAGNE: So has Karr given any indication why he might have confessed to a murder that he apparently didn't do?

BRADY: There's nothing from Karr on that right now. A lot of people have put forward some pretty interesting theories, but they're really just that.

In court documents, the D.A., Mary Lacy, suggests Karr may have some psychological problems. But she doesn't offer anything that really points to why he would have made this claim.

MONTAGNE: So what now?

BRADY: Well, Karr is still in jail. Apparently he was released for a short time on Monday afternoon, but he was never out walking on the streets. But a short time after he was released, the Boulder County Sheriff said authorities in California contacted them and said they wanted to extradite Karr for those child pornography charges and he was rearrested. It sounds like he'll be headed to California pretty soon.

MONTAGNE: Jeff, thanks very much.

BRADY: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Jeff Brady speaking from Denver, Colorado.

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