Karr visited sex change clinic

The suspect in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey headed to Bangkok’s international airport Sunday for a flight to the United States where he will face charges in the killing of the 6-year-old beauty queen.

Escorted by a dozen Thai police officers, John Mark Karr was put aboard a white van for the drive to Don Muang International Airport. Looking solemn, the 41-year-old school teacher wore a red shirt and tie and said nothing to reporters who shouted questions at him.

Karr, escorted by at least two U.S. officials, was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles aboard a Thai Airways International flight departing at 7:10 p.m. He is being expelled from Thailand and does not have to go through an extradition proceeding.

Karr was to end his journey in Boulder, Colo., where he faces charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and child sexual assault in connection with the 1996 killing.

Police said Karr appeared nervous ahead of his deportation.

“Generally he is fine, but a little bit nervous as the time of his departure approaches,” immigration police chief Lt. Gen. Suwat Tumrongsiskul told The Associated Press.

“We treat him well since he is a high-profile suspect. Yesterday he said that he wanted to eat American food so we ordered from Kentucky Fried Chicken for him, but this morning he had the standard breakfast” of Thai food, Suwat said.

Also Sunday, a doctor a Bangkok clinic specializing in sex-change operations said Karr had sought treatment there. “He was one of my patients,” said Dr. Thep Vechwijit at Pratunam Polyclinic, but declined to provide details.

A staffer at the clinic, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to make statements to the media, said Karr had consulted the doctor about a sex-change operation.

Bangkok is regarded as a global center for sex change operations, which cost a fraction of the price charged in Western countries.

The JonBenet case, which people in Thailand were generally unaware of before Karr’s arrest, has been drawing increasing attention. The local focus has been on the qualifications of expatriate teachers, and whether there are checks in place to weed out criminals and deviants.

A divorced father of three children once detained on charges of possessing child pornography, Karr in recent years apparently traveled to Europe, Central America and Asia to search for teaching jobs.

He was arrested a day after he began teaching second grade in Bangkok, Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy told reporters in Colorado. Thai authorities said he had also worked at two schools in Thailand.

An official at one of the Thai schools, the prestigious elementary school at Bangkok Christian College, said Karr was fired in mid-June after only two weeks on the job because he was too strict with students.

Thai Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang said Saturday he had ordered his ministry to look into the screening of foreigners seeking teaching jobs.

It has been too easy for unqualified foreigners to be hired, in part because those with the proper qualifications are too expensive for many schools, Chaturon was quoted as saying by the state Thai News Agency.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press