By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
The Boulder district attorney shared in that wishfulness. Sharply questioned by reporters about whether there was any real evidence to justify Karr's arrest other than his confessions to Tracey, Mary Lacy insisted that Karr's story appeared to be highly credible. He'd told Tracey all sorts of wild tales, true, but some of them, like his mother trying to set him ablaze when he was a child, turned out to be true. "I'm not embarrassed," she said. "I feel bad for a community that questions what we did."
Tom Bennett and other investigators backed Lacy up. Karr's story matched the physical evidence in the case (except when it didn't). His story was consistent (except when he changed it). He'd confessed in such detail, with such emotion, how could you not take him seriously? The investigators had a fallback argument, too: Shortly before his arrest, Karr had been observed putting a young female student on his lap in his classroom in Bangkok. It was one of the girls he'd been fantasizing about in his e-mails to Tracey.
Most men wouldn't be arrested for putting a child on their lap, but Karr is an exception. His escalating interest in young girls has attracted numerous investigations over the years. Yet he's never been charged with molesting anyone. Last week, a California judge dismissed the misdemeanor child-porn case, a case for which Karr had already served seven months in jail, including time served during his seven-week odyssey from Bangkok to Boulder to Sonoma County to freedom. His own unhinged desire to be linked to JonBenet's murder -- when arrested, he offered to plead guilty but refused a DNA test -- has made him appear far more dangerous than any number of actual convicted felons.
"John Karr has never molested a child in his life," declares Gary Harris, a Georgia attorney who's served as a spokesman for the Karr family. "Up until the time he was 37, there was none of this in the guy's history."
Tricia Griffith, the Internet critic who first unmasked Gigax as Tracey's "prime suspect" two years ago, believes that both Tracey and Lacy had a predisposition to believe Karr. "Lacy has pigeonholed herself into the intruder theory, and she will do anything to make it fit," says Griffith, who hosts the website Forums for Justice. "It didn't take much for her to want to believe this."
Last week, Boulder officials put a price tag on the Karr investigation: $23,656 for Lacy's office, another $11,000 for the Boulder Sheriff's Office. (CU also plans to bill the county for the calls Tracey made to Thailand from his office.) The fiasco demonstrates why the Ramsey case will never be solved by a confession alone. Virtually every detail about the case is available online, in bookstores or on television. The media-obsessed can study the raw material and make up any story they like. In Karr's case, the images of a prancing, pint-sized beauty contestant became a monstrous fantasy about a vamping princess who consents to her own violation. Completely lost in that story, murdered all over again, is the six-year-old child who still wet her bed.
The story of what really happened to JonBenet reached an impasse long ago. But there are other stories to tell. Karr isn't the killer, but he is grist for Mills Productions. Tracey and Mills are now hard at work on their fourth Ramsey documentary, and Mills says it will answer lots of pressing questions.
"The whole Karr episode needs to be properly and adequately explained," he says. "Michael Tracey has been attacked. Mary Lacy has been attacked. The reality, as far as we have been able to establish it, is that there was no alternative but to take that individual seriously. To bring him in at a cost of only $24,000 was an incredible value. When you really look at the evidence, this is exactly the sort of lead that needed to be followed up."
Call it the John Karr Story: The story of a troubled man who played an unreal role in JonBenet's death -- and the professor of presumption who brought that story to life.