BOULDER, Colo. – After a flight on a state police plane, John Mark Karr arrived Thursday in the city where 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was slain to face charges in a homicide case prosecutors acknowledged is still in its “very early stages.”
The three-hour flight from Los Angeles landed shortly after 5 p.m. at the Jefferson County airport, a few miles from the upscale Boulder home where JonBenet’s father discovered her body on the day after Christmas 1996. Karr, in handcuffs both as he entered and exited the plane, was put into a black sport utility vehicle and driven in a convoy to the Boulder jail, with news helicopters trailing overhead.
The plane ride offered none of the prawns, wine and champagne that accompanied Karr’s Thailand-to-California flight, but the former schoolteacher was allowed to wear dark slacks and a red shirt instead of a prison jumpsuit.
Karr’s first few hours at the jail will include physical and mental evaluations, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said. He will be locked alone in an 8-by-10-foot cell, away from the other 480 inmates.
The county public defenders’ office has asked to meet with Karr, who has not been formally charged. His first court appearance in Boulder will probably be announced today, according to the district attorney’s office.
Questions about Karr’s involvement in the case have arisen since he told reporters following his arrest in Thailand last week that he was with the 6-year-old beauty queen at the time of her 1996 death but that it was an accident.
Boulder County prosecutors have refused to describe any evidence they might have, but a court filing this week said investigators didn’t learn of Karr’s name until Aug. 11, five days before his arrest in Thailand. They said he was arrested in part because they feared he might get tipped off and vanish.
“It is like this guy fell out of the sky for them and they’re trying to figure out what they have going,” said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School and a former federal prosecutor. “They can’t really let him go or proceed to convict him until they have the evidence. It’s in a bit of a limbo now.”
The court filing conflicts with the Sonoma County, Calif., sheriff, who said his office alerted Boulder authorities about Karr in 2001 after he was arrested on child pornography charges. The sheriff and Boulder prosecutors both declined to comment on the apparent discrepancy.
Karr, 41, has professed love for JonBenet in e-mails with a Colorado professor, and told a California woman, Wendy Hutchens, he believes the little girl was tortured before she was strangled.
Sonoma County sheriff’s Lt. Dave Edmonds said Karr expressed an “apparent fascination” with the 1993 murder victim Polly Klaas and JonBenet, and “presented ideas about what the murderers of Polly Klaas and JonBenet Ramsey must have thought and felt.” But there was no confession, Edmonds said, or anything else to suggest Karr played a role in JonBenet’s slaying.