Made for Each Other

The Karr fiasco is over, but Michael Tracey's quest for unlikely suspects in the Ramsey case goes on and on.

Tracey had trouble with this at first. But Daxis had lengthy, if somewhat shifting, explanations for the discrepancies. If the marks on her face didn't come from a stun gun, maybe they were made by a cross Daxis wore. The more Tracey thought about it, the more he became persuaded that the ways the story deviated from his preconceived notions made it more believable. He became even more enamored of the story after Daxis began telling it to him in detail over the phone -- an elaborate and emotion-charged confession that stretched over several calls. Much of it was nervously recited from the book Daxis was writing.

"It's precisely the details, the way you describe it, the way you describe what you said to her, that makes it believable," Tracey reassured him.

Occasionally, after Daxis would make some particularly outrageous claim, Tracey would wonder if his pen pal wasn't simply a "wannabe nutcase," as he put it to Smit. But as the relationship deepened, he became convinced that Daxis was unreal enough to be real. No stun gun? Okay, there was no stun gun -- or maybe, he wrote Smit, Daxis was "doing his Alice in Wonderland thing and saying the opposite of what he knows to be the truth." Or maybe he was "setting up a defense," or had simply blocked it out of his memory.

Collaborators: Professor Michael Tracey, with John Mark Karr inset
image: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images. Photo illustration
Collaborators: Professor Michael Tracey, with John Mark Karr inset


See also:
Special John Mark Karr/Michael Tracey archive
With creepy documents and weird phone calls
Hear the former JonBenet Ramsey suspect for yourself
All at Denver Westword

By that logic, almost anything could be credible. The possibility that Daxis was a fraud no longer seemed to be on the table.

As Daxis heaped on the details of his tragic encounter with JonBenét, he made several blunders that should have been obvious to anyone as well-steeped in the evidence as Tracey. But Tracey wasn't inclined to probe the many cracks in his story. Perhaps, having been warned, he feared that the game would end if he expressed the slightest doubt. But that doesn't explain why he ignored so many contradictions in the sordid tale Daxis told -- and, at times, even seemed to be helping Daxis get his story straight.

The e-mails and phone calls are riddled with red flags. Daxis claims to be suffering from post-traumatic stress and warns that he's blacked out most of what happened ten years ago from his memory. Yet with Tracey's encouragement, he soon comes up with an amazingly detailed account of his every movement and gesture that night, as well as "pages and pages of dialogue" between himself and JonBenet.

"I've come a long way since I talked to you two weeks ago," he tells Tracey at one point, boasting of his miraculously recovered memories. But he still can't recall where he got the blanket that was found with the body; in fact, Tracey has to tell him that there was a blanket. "Thank God," Daxis gratefully responds. "I couldn't quite remember that."

For all its detail, the confession is also suspiciously vague on some basic points. For example, he talks about removing "what was covering her feet" as if he isn't sure whether JonBenet was wearing socks, slippers, Doctor Dentons or combat boots. He also shies away from details that would tend to be killer-specific, such as what the more cryptic passages in the ransom note might mean. In fact, he tells Tracey that he hasn't seen all of the movies referenced in the note, raising the question of how the references got there.

The knots in the cord around JonBenet's neck are another taboo subject. He calls them "interesting knots" but refuses to describe them. He frets that if he ever gets to speak to John Ramsey, he may have to.

"He's probably going to ask me some silly test question," he fumes, "and when he does that, I'm not going to respond. He's going to ask me how I tied some kind of knot. It's been ten years, and I wouldn't have remembered the next day how to tie that knot."

At times he peppers Tracey with questions, clearly fishing for help: "How do you think blood was drawn? Where did the blanket come from? What was the role of the broken paintbrush handle? Why didn't I run out the side door as my escape?"

Tracey deflects many of these. But when Daxis claims that the noose was placed around JonBenet's neck after her death, Tracey can't resist pointing out that the marks on her skin indicate she was alive when it was applied. Daxis then changes his story; he used one garrote on her during sex play, then used another that killed her. Unexplained, and unasked, is how he was able to position the second noose so as to eliminate any trace markings from the first.

The professor helps out in other ways. When Daxis boasts of removing JonBenet's panties and keeping them as a souvenir, Tracey feeds him little-known details about one of the more peculiar aspects of the case: JonBenet was found wearing oversized panties, size twelve rather than her usual six. "There were larger-size panties in her drawer that had originally been intended for an older cousin," Professor Blabbermouth prompts. "Can you clarify. It's one of those little details that's a real stone in the shoe."

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