August 17, 2006

Man arrested in JonBenet murder

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police said on Thursday they had
arrested an American suspected of the grisly Christmas 1996
murder of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, which
triggered a U.S. media frenzy.

They identified him as John Mark Karr and handed out
photocopied pictures of the bespectacled man with a receding
hairline taken in an interrogation room.

He was arrested on an American warrant, which sought his
arrest for murder, kidnapping and sexual assault of a child,
along with FBI officers after being followed for three weeks as
he sought a job teaching English in Bangkok.

"We arrested him yesterday at an apartment not far from my
office after having followed him for 21 days," immigration
police chief Lieutenant General Suwat Tumroungsiskul told

"During the arrest, we were accompanied by American
officers. He has been in and out of Thailand a couple of times
and the arrest warrant was issued just a couple of days ago."

U.S. media said Karr was a 41-year-old primary
schoolteacher who had lived in JonBenet's hometown of Boulder,
Colorado at the time of murder. The child was found beaten and
strangled in the basement of her home on December 26 1996.

Suwat said he had revoked Karr's visa, issued in the United
States and allowing him to work in Thailand, and a police
officer said the American had just been hired by one of
Bangkok's dozens of international schools.

The revocation gave him the status of a "person who could
pose a threat to the society" under Thai law.

"People like him are dangerous. We have criminals from all
over the world running away from their home countries to look
for teaching jobs in Thailand," Suwat said.


Karr was expected to be extradited to the United States, a
process which can take weeks in Thailand and Bangkok police
said the American was on his third visit to the country.

The arrest was a surprise breakthrough in a case that has
grabbed headlines for years. Boulder County District Attorney
Mary Lacy said the man "was arrested following several months
of a focused and complex investigation."

KUSA-TV in Denver said Karr had confessed to elements of
the crime unknown to the general public.

There was no comment from Thai or U.S. officials in Bangkok
on what he had told interrogators.

At the time of JonBenet's murder, a note was left on a
staircase of the family home saying she had been kidnapped by a
"small foreign faction" who wanted $118,000 in ransom.

JonBenet's parents, John and Patsy, came under suspicion
during the initial investigation and in 2002 they reached an
out-of-court cash settlement with a former detective who wrote
a book accusing them of murdering their own daughter.

Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer in June. The couple had
been informed of the progress of the investigation that led to
Karr's arrest.

"So 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," John Ramsey said.

Ramsey told KUSA that to the best of his knowledge he was
not acquainted with the suspect.

No charges were ever filed in the 10 years since JonBenet
was killed, but the murder generated intense media coverage
drawn by JonBenet's success in youth beauty pageants, the
family's wealth and mysterious elements of the case, including
the note.

(Additional reporting by Keith Coffman in Boulder, Dan
Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Deborah Charles in Washington)