- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

1:54 p.m.

PETALUMA, Calif. (AP) — John Mark Karr displayed a deep fascination with JonBenet Ramsey long before he was arrested in her death.

Mr. Karr, who told reporters today that he was “with JonBenet when she died” but that “her death was an accident,” began teaching children in Georgia and Alabama before he became a substitute teacher in Petaluma, a bucolic wine-country town where he lived until 2001 with his wife and three sons.

The Denver Post reported that Mr. Karr, 41, disappeared that year after being released from jail, where he had been held on child pornography charges. His father, Wexford Karr of Atlanta, told the newspaper that his son had told him he was behind bars in connection with the Ramsey case.

Sonoma County Chief Deputy District Attorney Joan Risse confirmed the pornography charges and an outstanding arrest warrant against a John M. Karr, although she said she did not know if he was the same person held in JonBenet’s 1996 death in the child’s Colorado home.

Lara Karr of Petaluma, who divorced Mr. Karr in 2001, told KGO-TV in San Francisco that he often spent time reading up on the cases of Ramsey and Petaluma resident Polly Klaas, who was abducted and slain in 1993.

His father told the Denver Post that while his son was in college, a professor encouraged him to write a book about the Ramsey case after being impressed with a school paper.

“He researched everything he could about her,” Wexford Karr said.

John Karr spoke with JonBenet’s grandparents, but the Ramseys refused an interview, Wexford Karr said.

He said that before hearing about the arrest in Thailand yesterday, he had feared his son may have been dead because he had not heard from him in several years.

John Karr’s interest in the case continued during his foreign travels.

Ramsey family attorney Lin Wood said today that Mr. Karr sent numerous e-mails over the past several months to a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, making statements in the messages about JonBenet’s death. The e-mails were key in linking Mr. Karr to the crime, he said.

“There is information about the murder that has never been publicly disclosed,” Mr. Wood said.

A spokesman for the University of Colorado, Barrie Hartman, confirmed that journalism professor Michael Tracey had communicated with Mr. Karr over several months and had contacted police.

John Karr today declined to say what his connection was to the Ramsey family.

An attorney for the Ramseys said that Mr. Karr once lived near the family in Conyers, Ga., but that the Ramseys moved to Colorado when JonBenet was a baby. The head of Thailand’s immigration police, Lt. Gen. Suwat Tumrongsiskul, quoted Mr. Karr as saying that he had tried to kidnap JonBenet for $118,000 ransom but that the plan went awry and he strangled her. “He said he was in love with the child; she was a pageant queen,” the officer said.

Two resumes posted online with Mr. Karr’s name and picture offered possible clues to his whereabouts after he left California.

Starting in 2001, one resume said, Mr. Karr was a private teacher and caregiver in Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Costa Rica and Honduras, almost always working with young children. The other resume was less detailed.

The longer resume said that in Germany he cared for two girls, ages 5 and 8, and a boy, 10, getting them ready for school and helping with homework.

“At days end, I made sure the children had their evening bath, then put them to bed and read to them before they went to sleep,” the resume said.

From 2004-05, the resume said, Mr. Karr worked as a second-grade teacher in Honduras.

The authenticity of the resumes could not be confirmed. An English institute removed the shorter resume from its Web site today in response to a reporter’s query, citing concerns about bad publicity. A call to the administrator of the site with the longer resume was not immediately returned.

Mr. Karr, a short, thin blond with a Southern accent, had a valid California teaching credential and passed the background check that included submitting his fingerprints to the Department of Justice to make sure he had no criminal record, Sonoma County school officials said.

His desire to teach didn’t translate into ability, according to one administrator.

Bob Raines, superintendent and principal at Wilson Elementary School outside Petaluma, twice hired Mr. Karr as a substitute in second- and fourth-grade classes in 2001. After observing him, Mr. Raines said he concluded Mr. Karr hadn’t been trained, had poor skills keeping classes focused and was ineffective.

“He just seemed like somebody who thought he wanted to be a teacher,” Mr. Raines said. “After a few days, I could see it just wasn’t for him.”

He instructed his secretary not to call Mr. Karr again unless they were desperate.

A couple months later, Sonoma sheriff’s officials sent a letter to school officials saying Mr. Karr had been arrested, said Carl Wong, the Sonoma County superintendent of schools.

John and Lara Karr’s former Petaluma neighbor, Sylvia Ross, said she occasionally asked him to her house to fix her computer.

“Personalitywise, I think there was a little kink that I saw,” said the retired schoolteacher and real estate agent. He was “too friendly, too talkative, too inquisitive.”

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