Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder of JonBenet Ramsey

Hasty Investigation

JonBenet Ramsey
JonBenet Ramsey

In 1996, the Boulder Police Department and their entire criminal justice organization botched the investigation of the bizarre murder of JonBenet Ramsey, starting with the destruction of the crime scene, the tunnel vision focused entirely on the family, the unprofessional leaks to the media, and the disregard for evidence that did not fit their preconceived notions of who killed the child. Only much later, after a grand jury looked at the case and after some changes in personnel, did the blame for this brutal crime shift from John and Patsy Ramsey. Of course by then, the trail of the real killer was very cold.

Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy
Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy

Now once again the case is in the spotlight as John Mark Karr, an American citizen in his early forties, has been arrested in Thailand after allegedly confessing to the killing of JonBenet. Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy, according to the Denver Post, was contacted by Michael Tracey, a University of Colorado journalism professor who had been communicating via email with Karr for at least two years. Several weeks ago, Tracey became very concerned about the content of Karr's messages and brought them to the attention of Boulder law enforcement.

John Mark Karr
John Mark Karr

Colorado Bureau of Investigation determined that Karr had a conviction in California for possession of child pornography and had been fired from his teaching position in that state.

To validate John Mark Karr as a legitimate suspect in the murder of JonBenet, a few very critical questions need to be answered: First, can it be proven that Karr was in Boulder, Colorado, around Christmas of 1996 when JonBenet was murdered? Karr's ex-wife reportedly told the media he was in Alabama with their children for the entire holiday season.

Second, since there was DNA found in JonBenet's panties and under her fingernails that did not match any individuals known to be connected to the case, does Karr's DNA match that sample? Results of Karr's DNA test in Thailand have not yet been made available.

Third, the amount of John Ramsey's bonus was the same as the money demanded in the ransom note. How did Karr learn that information? Has Karr's handwriting been compared with the handwriting on the ransom note?

Fourth, how did John Mark Karr learn about JonBenet and how to get access to the house and her bedroom?

There is reason to believe that none of these critical questions had been answered in advance of detaining Karr in Thailand.

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