August 17, 2006
Schoolteacher Arrested in JonBenet Ramsey Case
By JAMES BARRON
An American identified as a schoolteacher was arrested in Bangkok yesterday
in the death of JonBenet Ramsey, the 6-year-old beauty pageant princess who
was found strangled in her home on Dec. 26, 1996.
The district attorney in Boulder, Colo., where the Ramseys lived when
JonBenet’s body was found, said the arrest yesterday came after “several
months of a focused and complex investigation.”
The district attorney, Mary Lacy, added in a three-paragraph statement on
the Boulder County Web site that JonBenet’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey,
had been consulted during the investigation and that the family had been
told of the arrest.
Mrs. Ramsey died of ovarian cancer in June. Mr. Ramsey said in a statement
that they had been notified before Mrs. Ramsey’s death that an arrest was
close. “Had she lived to see this day,” he said, she “would no doubt have
been as pleased as I am.”
Ms. Lacy’s statement provided no details about what had led investigators to
the suspect or why, if they had been on his trail for some time, they
swooped down on him yesterday. Nor did she spell out what charges he would
face, and it was not clear how soon he would be returned to this country.
Ms. Lacy’s statement said she would not comment further until a news
conference this morning, and calls to her office were not returned.
The suspect was identified by a law enforcement official, speaking on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case
publicly, as John M. Karr. The Associated Press quoted a lawyer who
represented the Ramseys in the 1990’s as saying Mr. Karr had lived in
Conyers, Ga. The Ramseys lived in an Atlanta suburb, Dunwoody, about 30
miles away, before they moved to Colorado.
The Associated Press initially reported that Mr. Karr, 42, was already in
custody in Bangkok on an unrelated sex charge when he was arrested in the
Ramsey case. Later The A.P. quoted Lt. Gen. Suwat Tumrongsiskul, the head of
Thailand’s immigration police, as saying he was unaware of any criminal
charges against Mr. Karr in Thailand. The A.P. quoted another Thai official
as saying Mr. Karr had denied committing a crime at home.
The arrest put a fresh spotlight on a case that once dominated newspaper
headlines, television newscasts and supermarket tabloids. For years, as
investigators followed hundreds of leads but seemingly made little headway,
John and Patsy Ramsey lived under what Ms. Lacy’s predecessor once called
“the umbrella of suspicion.”
The Ramseys repeatedly denied any involvement in their daughter’s death, on
Christmas night in 1996, even as one detective who had worked on the case
speculated that Mrs. Ramsey had struck JonBenet by accident and then wrote a
ransom note to deflect attention.
The Ramseys’ lawyer, L. Lin Wood, would not say whether the Ramseys had
known Mr. Karr, The A.P. reported. It was not immediately clear when
investigators began focusing on Mr. Karr as a potential suspect in a widely
talked about case that some commentators had compared to the kidnapping and
killing of the Lindbergh baby in 1932.
Dan Boyd, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the
Department of Homeland Security in Washington, said his agency’s attaché in
Bangkok had assisted officers from the Boulder district attorney’s office
and the Royal Thai Police in identifying and arresting Mr. Karr.
A federal official involved in the investigation said that a hearing in
Bangkok today could give the authorities access to Mr. Karr’s computer. The
official said the authorities had been looking at him in connection with a
child pornography investigation. The official also said he expected that Mr.
Karr would be returned to this country quickly, though it was not clear how
JonBenet was garroted with a paintbrush and a nylon cord. The police found a
ransom note, 370 words written with a pen and paper from the Ramseys’ house.
In the note demanding $118,000 for JonBenet’s return were details that only
someone close to the Ramseys could have known — the amount of Mr. Ramsey’s
annual bonus, for example.
The note, addressed to Mr. Ramsey, added, “You are not the only fat cat
around so don’t think that killing will be difficult.”
Both of JonBenet’s parents submitted handwriting samples for police
scrutiny, and Mr. Ramsey was quickly eliminated as a suspect. Articles in
Denver newspapers and Vanity Fair magazine said that the Colorado Bureau of
Investigation believed that Mrs. Ramsey had written the note. But the
investigators also believed that the evidence fell short of being
The Ramseys maintained their innocence, though they refused to talk to the
police for months after JonBenet’s body was found, instead hiring lawyers,
private investigators, handwriting analysts and publicists.
“I did not kill my daughter, JonBenet,” John Ramsey declared in 1997. His
wife, sitting next to him as television cameras zoomed in on them, said: “I
did not have anything to do with it. I loved that child with the whole of my
heart and soul.”
The police in Boulder faced criticism for appearing to bungle the early
stages of the investigation. The Ramseys first called the police to say
JonBenet had been kidnapped. Hours later, a detective let Mr. Ramsey go
inside without accompanying him. He soon checked a windowless room in the
basement where Christmas gifts had been stored, and emerged carrying
The detective also allowed 10 other people into the house, fueling
complaints that the crime scene had been contaminated.
The case dragged on, with rank-and-file officers taking a no-confidence vote
on the police chief at the time. He and a detective assigned to the case
later resigned. The district attorney at the time, Alexander M. Hunter, did
not seek re-election in 2000. That was two years after the mayor of Boulder,
Bob Greenlee, demanded an investigation into charges by another detective
that the district attorney’s office had “effectively crippled” the
That was also two years after the case had gone to a grand jury. But Mr.
Hunter dismissed the panel 13 months later. It did not hand up indictments,
and he was unapologetic.
The Ramseys eventually released the results of polygraph tests. The expert
who administered the tests said the polygraph did not register deception.
The Ramseys maintained in a book, “Death of Innocence,” that the slaying had
been the work of an intruder. In 2003, a federal judge in Atlanta reached
the same conclusion in dismissing a lawsuit against the Ramseys. Ms. Lacy
later released a statement saying she concurred with the ruling.
Scott Shane contributed reporting from Washington for this article.