- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2006

BANGKOK — Murder suspect John Mark Karr discussed classical music composer Frederick Chopin and was serenaded by his Thai jailer before embarking on a champagne flight back to the United States, where he is likely to face charges in the 1996 death of JonBenet Ramsey.

The Associated Press also reported that Karr — whose flight was scheduled to land in Los Angeles at midnight yesterday — had consulted a doctor in Thailand about a sex-change operation.

Because he was not charged with a crime in Thailand, Mr. Carr was not handcuffed for the trip home, on which he was accompanied by a Boulder, Colo., prosecutor and a U.S. Embassy official.

The journey began when Karr, pale and silent, walked self-consciously out of a Thai Immigration Department detention center in the afternoon, escorted for several yards by a phalanx of unarmed Thai police.

Dressed in a maroon short-sleeve shirt, dark tie and dark pants, he was led down a driveway to allow a swarm of waiting journalists to photograph him and shout questions before he was placed in an air-conditioned van.

At Bangkok International Airport, he boarded an evening flight to Los Angeles in a business-class section along with his U.S. escorts and several reporters, who filed from midair on his every move.

The suspect, whose confession to killing 6-year-old JonBenet has been greeted with skepticism, was “peaceful, normal, simple. I just sang a song to him,” said police Lt. Gen. Suwat Tumrongsiskul, who heads Thailand’s powerful Immigration Department, after escorting him from detention to the police van.

“I asked him what he liked. He said he liked classic songs, like ordinary people. He used to play guitar. So I said, ‘Yes, I love music. I played guitar before, too.’ So I sang for him,” Gen. Suwat said, adding that he had sung a 1968 Bee Gees song, “Words.”

Asked to sing the song again, Gen. Suwat spontaneously warbled: “It’s only words. And words are all I have to take your heart away.”

“You know, we talked like friends. He smiled. I asked him, ‘What is your favorite song?’ He said he liked Chopin. Classical. He said he misses his children in the U.S.,” Gen. Suwat said of Karr, a twice-divorced father of three.

Aboard the plane, Karr was accompanied by Mark Spray, an investigator with the Boulder District Attorney’s Office, a U.S. Embassy official and an agent with “Homeland Security” on his T-shirt.

Reporters on board the flight said Karr took a glass of champagne from a flight attendant and clinked glasses with Mr. Spray, who sipped orange juice.

After takeoff, the suspect dined on pate, green salad with walnut dressing and fried king prawns, all served on a starched white tablecloth. Karr drank a beer, crushing the can with his hands when it was empty, and then drank French chardonnay with his main course, the Associated Press reported.

The agency said earlier from Bangkok that Karr had talked to a doctor in the city about having a sex-change operation.

Karr was “one of my patients,” Dr. Thep Vechavisit said without offering further details. But another staffer at the dingy downtown Pratunam Polyclinic said Karr had talked with the doctor about sex-change surgery.

The clinic, which co-sponsors a popular transsexual beauty contest, specializes in sex-change operations and advertises many plastic-surgery procedures in the English-language Bangkok Post.

Knowing he would be seen worldwide via international press, Karr upgraded his appearance yesterday, wearing an outfit he used while applying to teach children in Bangkok.

Saying on his job applications that he was a Catholic, Karr secured temporary positions at Bangkok Christian College and St. Joseph’s Convent, but was dismissed within days from both schools for disciplining the students more strictly than Thai teachers did.

Tracking and capturing Karr was “not difficult” for Thai police because “we have a good team,” Gen. Suwat said.

Asked whether Thai police would investigate what Karr did while in Bangkok during the past two months, Gen. Suwat replied: “No, no, no, no, no.”

U.S. Embassy and Justice Department officials did not ask Thai police to look into Karr’s actions while in Thailand, he said.

“If they ask,” then Bangkok will start an investigation, he said.

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