JonBenet Suspect's Lurid E-Mail Trail

The day before Christmas Eve 2005, John Mark Karr sent an e-mail to University of Colorado professor Michael Tracey. It was one of a disturbing series of e-mails between Tracey and a person investigators believe to be Karr.

A source close to the investigation told CBS News the reason investigators moved in on Karr was because of details in these emails about the Ramsey house that had not been made public, reports CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

According to the source, Karr wrote about a check stub on John Ramsey's desk in the amount of $118,000, specifics about a staircase in the Ramsey's home and details about the basement where JonBenet was killed.

The e-mails were suspicious for other reasons as well. Correspondence obtained by the Rocky Mountain News included one message in which the professor was asked to visit JonBenet's home in Boulder to read aloud an ode called "JonBenet, My Love."

"JonBenet, my love, my life. I love you and shall forever love you. I pray that you can hear my voice calling out to you from my darkness, this darkness that now separates us," read one of the e-mails, which the newspaper said Friday it obtained from a source close to the investigation.

In other e-mails, Karr said he was under federal investigation for "child murder and child molestation" in four states.

"I don't know that he's guilty," said Tracey. "Obviously, I went to the district attorney for a reason, but let him have his day in court and let JonBenet have her day in court and let's see how it plays out."

In another e-mail, the Rocky Mountain News reported, Karr said he sympathized with Michael Jackson, who was accused but later acquitted of molesting young boys.

"I will tell you that I can understand people like Michael Jackson and feel sympathy when he suffers as he has," Karr wrote.

"I can relate very well to children and the way they think and feel," one Karr e-mail said. "I think you are asking if I am much a 'Peter Pan.' In many ways, the answer is yes. In other ways, I suppose it is no, because I am trapped in a world that does not understand."

In another correspondence, Tracey asked whether Karr's "fascination with little girls, which clearly has a strong erotic component, is a way of going back."

"Maybe I am not going back but have simply stayed consistent," Karr responded. "My peer group has not changed since I was a little boy, and girls were the people I was with always. Referring to them as a peer group is somewhat incorrect, but might also be the very definition of what they continue to be in my life."

Meanwhile, in California, prison guards searched the death row cell of a child killer after learning he may have corresponded with Karr, authorities said Friday.

Guards at San Quentin State Prison searched Richard Allen Davis' cell Thursday, but no letters were found from Karr, said Lt. Eric Messick.

In Washington, federal law enforcement officials said Karr's comments since his arrest have piqued their interest and they want to question him. Regarding Kerr's purported claims in e-mails that he was under federal investigation for child murder and molestation, one law enforcement official said "there is no four-state federal case" in which Karr is wanted or even suspected.

Meanwhile, investigators continue to unravel an elaborate and hazy narrative woven in part by Karr himself, much of it constructed around a clear and chilling theme — a yearning to be close to children.

That desire, in retrospect, appears as heartfelt as it does disturbing.

In an interview for an English-teaching job at one of Bangkok's elite Thai schools, Karr left a good first impression. He was clean-cut, articulate and had a resume detailing experience in schools in the United States, Japan and elsewhere.

But after just two weeks on the job, Karr was asked to leave.

"John Karr came to us with a good resume and with credentials, but then we allowed him a trial (period) with students, we found he was too strict," Banchong Chompowong, assistant director of Bangkok Christian College's English immersion program, told The Associated Press on Friday.

Karr is a man who, while wanted as a fugitive on child pornography charges, sought to impress prospective employers with a long record of accomplishment preparing young lives "for a successful future."

Karr went through his teen years mostly unnoticed, one of his classmates told CBS News 48 Hours correspondent Erin Moriarty, keeping mostly to himself.

He is a man who twice married teenagers — one just 13 at the time. Both would later claim they had been coerced.

And he is the man who years ago confided to family members that he was deeply troubled by the murder of the Colorado 6-year-old, who told U.S. investigators that he picked JonBenet up at school, drugged and had sex with her before accidentally killing her in Colorado in 1996, Thai police Lt. Gen. Suwat Tumrongsiskul told The Associated Press.

But questions have been raised about some of his claims, including whether he drugged the 6-year-old, sexually assaulted her or was even in Colorado at the time of the slaying.

Hours after Karr told reporters in Thailand he was with JonBenet when she died, questions arose about his claims.

Suwat changed some details Friday of the account he had given of what Karr told investigators. In a telephone interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Suwat quoted Karr as saying he had sexually assaulted the girl and given her drugs. He also told reporters before a news conference Thursday that Karr had claimed to have picked up JonBenet at her school.

On Friday, Suwat confirmed to the AP his account of the sexual assault. But asked Friday if Karr gave the girl drugs, Suwat said the suspect described the encounter with JonBenet Ramsey as "a blur."

"It may have been drugs, or it may have been something else because (Karr said) it was a blur, blur," Suwat said.

Suwat also said Friday his statement about the girl being picked up from school was based on a documentary he had seen and not the interrogation.

Among the possible discrepancies between his confession and earlier established facts were these: An autopsy was inconclusive about sexual assault, and few experts believe that a girl who was slowly strangled with a garrote was killed by accident. There are even questions whether Karr was in Colorado at the time of the slaying.

In Franklin County, Ala., school officials told the New York Times that records showed Karr had been at work there until the end of the term on Dec. 19, 1996, a week before the murder.

Lara Karr said she was with her former husband in Alabama at the time of JonBenet's killing and she does not believe he was involved in the homicide. Attorney Michael Raines said he has instructed Karr's ex-wife to go through photographs of the family back in 1996 at Christmas time, when she claims they spent the holiday together.

"I do feel that, based on the fact that warrants have been issued, that (the district attorney) obviously has a sufficient amount of evidence," Ollie Gray, a private investigator, told CBS News' The Early Show.

Moriarty reported that investigators may have arrested Karr this week not because they had definitive evidence linking him to the Ramsey murder, but because they feared he might hurt a child in Thailand.

Trip DeMuth, a former Boulder district attorney who investigated the Ramsey case, told Moriarty he has serious doubts about any confession because of the amount of public information surrounding the case. "I am very concerned about the viability of this case today. It does not sound to me like they've done their homework sufficiently to have arrested him at this time," DeMuth says.

It's difficult to know how much to believe of the life Karr says he has led since JonBenet was found strangled and beaten a decade ago in the basement of her family's home.

But in his own words, it all seems quite real.

"I awoke the children in the morning and gave them breakfast," Karr wrote in one online resume, recounting life as a private teacher and caregiver of three girls in Germany, aged 7, 11 and 12. "At day's end, I made sure the children had their evening bath, then put them to bed and read to them before they went to sleep."

Karr claims to have spent years skipping from job to job, country to country, nearly all the time working with children. Karr taught for two months in early 2002 at I&S Language School in Seoul, South Korea, said Kim Sun-tae, an official at the Seoul Dongbu District Office of Education. The National Police Administration in Taiwan said Friday that Karr entered the country in August 2005 and left two months later.

School officials in Alabama and California have confirmed that he worked in both states as a substitute teacher in the latter half of the 1990s and in 2001.

"He just seemed like somebody who thought he wanted to be a teacher," said Bob Raines, superintendent and principal at Wilson Elementary School, in one of the four districts near Petaluma, Calif. where Karr worked. "After a few days, I could tell it just wasn't for him."

Lara Karr told KGO-TV in California that her ex-husband spent a lot of time studying the cases of Ramsey and Polly Klaas, who was abducted from her Petaluma home and slain in 1993.

As an adult, Karr wrote in one online resume that he worked for years in real estate and restored old homes. His work in schools appears to have begun in 1996 — the year of the Ramsey murder. According to the resume, that was the start of a five-year stint teaching in "some of the most prestigious schools in the United States, working with children from high profile families."


But that is not the way people and court paperwork in Marion County recall it.

In 1984, when Karr was 19, he married a local girl, Quientana Shotts, who was 13 at the time, county court records show. Shotts filed for an annulment the following year, complaining that she was "fearful for her life and safety." In a response filed with the court, Karr contested Shotts' age, saying she was in fact 14.

In 1989, Karr remarried, this time to Lara Knutson, who was 16 at the time.

Karr's sole Alabama experience was being hired as a substitute teacher in 1996. But his time there ended after school officials received complaints about Karr saying things "that didn't need to be said in an elementary class," Jackson said. Karr was "bragging on the students, their dress," said Jackson, declining to elaborate further.

Marion County Probate Judge Annette Bozeman said Karr was in her office frequently, working on car titles, sometimes accompanied by Lara. "He was a very polite fellow, but he was a little unusual," she said.

Bozeman recalls a young man with hair down to his shoulders who told her Lara had not gone to the hospital to deliver their three children. "It seems he delivered his children at home," she said.

In 2000, Karr, who had taken classes at a college in Alabama, received a bachelor of science degree in liberal arts from Regents College, now Excelsior College, a distance-learning school based in Albany, N.Y.

He moved his family to California about the same time and in 2001, Karr found work as substitute teacher. But that came to an abrupt end when Karr, then 36, was arrested on five misdemeanor counts of possession of child pornography, according to the Sonoma County sheriff's office.

In an interview Wednesday with The Denver Post from his home in Atlanta, Karr's father, Wexford Karr, said his son told him he was being held in California as part of the investigation of the Ramsey case. He said his son's intrigue with the Ramsey murder was the start of his troubles. That fascination began with voracious research for a college paper that so impressed a professor that the man suggested he write a book, Wexford Karr said.

Two days after Karr was arrested on the pornography charges, his wife filed for divorce.

In the affidavit filed with her divorce petition, Lara Karr said her husband "was told by one school in or about '97 or '98 that he would not be asked to continue to serve as a substitute teacher because he had a tendency to be too affectionate with children."

Karr pleaded not guilty to the California charges and after a series of court hearings, he was released from jail that October, ordered to report to a probation officer and avoid child pornography, children and places where children congregate, such as schools, beaches and parks.

In November of that year, a judge issued a restraining order for Karr to stay at least 100 yards away from his ex-wife and children — ages 8, 9 and 10 at the time — for three years.

In December 2001, a warrant was issued for his arrest after he violated the terms of his supervised release.

By that time, however, according to Karr's online resumes, he was again working with children, this time overseas.

After working in Europe, Karr told employers, he had made his way first to Costa Rica, teaching English to businesspeople. But Mark Henker, the owner of the school at which Karr says he worked, said Thursday the only person named John he's had working with him over the last few years went by a different name. Costa Rica immigration officials say a John Karr left Costa Rica on Aug. 3, 2004, crossing the border into Nicaragua by land.

Karr's resume, though, said his next stop was Honduras, where he claims to have returned to teaching students at an English school until 2005.

Then Karr arrived in Bangkok earlier this year and found work teaching second grade, a job he started just Tuesday.

Now investigators will rely on the e-mails, DNA gathered at the scene of the murder, and Karr's own statements to determine the truth. CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports that law enforcement officials said Karr was given a mouth-swab DNA test in Bangkok, but the results are not yet ready.