For a decade our sleepy little town of Boulder has been buffeted by the fickle, on-again off-again attention of the world media over the murder of a little girl named JonBenet Ramsey. As with all major news stories that linger in the public consciousness, this had its share of odd facts associated with it, a successful family, a beautiful, tragic little girl, some incompetent police work, and various overtones of sexuality and mystery.
Finally, ten years later, an arrest has been made and the man in custody, John Mark Karr, has actually confessed to the crime, explaining that it was a kidnapping gone wrong.
But there’s much more to this case and in many ways, the resolution of the case demonstrates how the Internet really does change everything. Indeed, it’s because of an email message sent four years ago that Karr was targeted and we now have resolution.
The latest update just demonstrates how sick Karr is and how tragic and terrible this whole situation is becoming, even within the first 24 hours since his arrest: Karr drugged, had sex with Ramsey. The article details that: “Karr claimed he had sex with Ramsey, who was still alive, [interrogator] Suwat said. Karr said he then realized he had “accidentally” killed her.”
Can this situation get any more horrifying? The angels surely weep for this poor child.
For those of you unfamiliar with this tragic case, JonBenet was a cute 6yo girl caught up in the whirlwind of child beauty pageants, and her pictures featured in news stories were invariably her dressed up, wearing carefully applied makeup and a very adult hairstyle. She was found by her father, strangled and beaten, in the basement of her Boulder home.
After initial investigation the shadow of guilt was cast by the public and media on the parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, with various books, documentary films and TV shows exploring their “suspicious” behavior and reaction to the murder.
The critical email was sent by Karr to University of Colorado documentary filmmaker Michael Tracey, who produced a series of three documentaries on the JonBenet Ramsey case. Apparently, Karr saw the first documentary and was “intrigued”.
Quoting from the Daily Camera article:
“Karr was intrigued by what he saw and wanted to talk things over with Tracey, a man whose rigorous documentaries have challenged conventional police theories about the case and criticized what he saw as a rush to convict John and Patsy Ramsey in the court of public opinion.
“Since then, Karr and Tracey swapped hundreds of e-mails in an exchange that led the Boulder district attorney’s office Wednesday to name Karr as the prime suspect in the murder of 6-year-old JonBenet almost 10 years ago.”
Karr is currently in Thailand, where he was arrested and now awaits formal extradition to the United States. They’ll bring him here to Boulder, I’m sure, and the city is preparing for the onslaught of national and world media to descend again. But this time, city officials promise that they’ve learned from the past and be better prepared.
One change: the District Attorney now has an official Web site for news and information about the case at www.courts.state.co.us, but if you go there you’ll find that, distressingly, it’s titled “People v. Bryant Media Information” and that it appears not to have been updated since September of 2005 when the Kobe Bryant case was getting its fifteen minutes
of inanity in the public spotlight.
Remember, though, Boulder is a pretty sleepy town and this level of national attention (which I predict will be huge as it’s a lurid ending to a tragic case, a good distraction from the chaotic events elsewhere in the world) is going to be tough for us. Indeed: “Today’s Ramsey news conference will be held in the parking lot next to the courthouse because there isn’t a room big enough in the building…”
I spent a bit of time last night digging around on some of the popular social media sites and with a bit of help from Google’s cache system, identified the MySpace profile of one of John Mark Karr’s two children, John Mark Karr II. I won’t link to it because I’m sure he’s in complete shock and is surely uninvolved, but I will point out the irony that his favorite quote was “Here’s a knife, now go do something stupid.”
From the beginning, the strange assault and death of little JonBenet has been a tragedy. From the harsh judgment on the family from the Court of Public Opinion (it got so bad that they had to petition the city of Boulder to change the street number on their house to stop tourist and reporter drive-bys) to the incompetent way in which the local authorities proceeded with the investigation to the lurid way in which the details of the murder will inflame public curiosity, it’s just a sad, sad slice of our modern times.
As a parent and moral absolutist, I won’t commit in words how I feel towards a man like Karr, who admits to drugging and having sex with a six year old child, but suffice to say I hope that justice is slow, painful and drawn out…
At least there’s one good thing out of this circus, however. JonBenet can now, finally, rest in peace.
Update, 28 August, 4.00pm MST: “John Mark Karr is no longer a suspect in the death of JonBenet Ramsey and has been released from custody. Boulder County District Chief Judge Roxanne Bailin this afternoon granted a motion by District Attorney Mary Lacy dismissing the case.” [ref]