With DNA test results shattering the case against John Mark Karr in the 1996 killing of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, a public outcry has arisen regarding the handling of the case by Boulder, Colo., officials.
The biggest question seems to be how Boulder district attorney Mary Lacy could have believed Karr’s confession – that he’d been with JonBenet when she died – to begin with.
In Lacy’s motion asking a judge to quash Karr’s arrest warrant on Monday, she wrote that the former suspect’s obsession with the case and its details, combined with his own statement of guilt, had compelled her to act first and test later.
However, once the testing was done, “No evidence has developed, other than his own repeated admissions, to place Mr. Karr at the scene of the crime,” Lacy wrote. “Mr. Karr was not the source of the DNA found in the underwear of JonBenet Ramsey.”
On Monday, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens denounced Lacy, saying, “I find it incredible that Boulder authorities wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars to bring Karr to Colorado given such a lack of evidence.”
He continued, “Mary Lacy should be held accountable for the most extravagant and expensive DNA test in Colorado history.”
After the case against him was dropped Monday, Karr was released from custody in Boulder and quickly re-arrested.
Karr was taken back to his original jail cell because officials in Sonoma County, Calif., had faxed over paperwork telling Boulder city officials that they would seek to extradite Karr to California to face child pornography charges, Boulder County sheriff Joe Pelle said Monday.
The former schoolteacher, 41, was charged with five counts of possessing child pornography in Sonoma County in 2001, but skipped bail and never stood trial, instead becoming a fugitive.
He still has the right to fight extradition by petitioning a Colorado court. It was not announced when Sonoma County officials hope to transport Karr to California.
Also on Monday, D.A. Lacy released the hundreds of e-mails that Karr exchanged with journalism professor Michael Tracey, who produced three documentaries about the Ramsey case. (The e-mails, along with audio clips of phone conversations, are available on the Boulder County D.A.’s Web site.)
Karr’s lawyer announced Monday that Karr will not face charges in the 1996 JonBenet slaying.
“The warrant on Mr. Karr has been dropped by the district attorney,” public defender Seth Temin said in a statement he read to reporters outside the Boulder jail. “They’re not proceeding with this case.”
Temin continued, “We are deeply distressed that they took this man and dragged him here from Bangkok, Thailand, with no forensic evidence confirming the allegations against him and no independent factors leading to a presumption that he did anything wrong.”
Earlier Monday, Denver TV station KUSA and CNN confirmed that Karr’s DNA did not match samples taken from the December 1996 crime scene. KUSA reported that samples of Karr’s saliva and hair were taken after he arrived in Boulder Friday and tested over the weekend in Denver.
Colorado prosecutors did not disclose their evidence against Karr, and from the time of Karr’s arrest, his family had insisted he was at home with them when JonBenet was killed at her family’s home in Boulder.
Karr – who is said to have long been fascinated by the JonBenet case – told reporters in Thailand before he flew to the U.S. that he had been with the 6-year-old at the time of her death, which he termed “an accident.”
In a statement released Monday, Boulder D.A. Lacy said, “My office has spent the past week conducting follow-up interviews and forensic testing to establish whether John Mark Karr was present in Boulder on December 25-26, 1996.
“The DNA associated with the victim in this case does not match John Mark Karr. The family of Mr. Karr cooperated by providing circumstantial evidence that Mr. Karr spent Christmas with his family in Atlanta, Georgia.”
Concluding the statement, Lacy said, “Our role in the investigation of JonBenet Ramsey’s murder has been to follow up on all legitimate leads that we have received from law enforcement and concerned citizens. This case is not closed, and we will continue to investigate leads and pursue justice.
“Regarding the status of John Mark Karr, a safety plan has been established. We cannot comment further on this issue.”