The email address that helped track down John Mark Karr in Thailand was December251996(at)yahoo.com — the date of her murder.
Those e-mails to Boulder, Colo., journalism professor Michael Tracy included a now-infamous request that Tracy stand at JonBenet’s house on the anniversary of her death and say aloud a poem to “JonBenet, my love.” They came from that address and were signed “Daxis,” according to information given to Thai authorities by U.S. officials seeking their help in finding and arresting him.
Gen. Suwat Tumrongsiskul of the Thai Immigration Police said Karr told him Daxis was simply a word he invented.
The search for the man now accused of JonBenet’s murder began when Tracy sent e-mails from Daxis to independent investigators in Colorado Springs, Colo. When the e-mails reached the Boulder District Attorney’s office, prosecutors found enough in them to warrant a serious look at Karr as JonBenet’s killer.
What happened next indicates there may have been enough detail in the e-mails to make Boulder officials believe they had their man.
The tracking of John Mark Karr began a couple of months ago, Tumrongsiskul said.
“We were informed by ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) that the suspect of this case has come to Thailand,” said Tumrongsiskul. He added that ICE didn’t know the man’s name at that point, and had just an e-mail address, his Internet Provider, and therefore the neighborhood of Bangkok where he’d been e-mailing.
The neighborhood was Thung Maha Mek, barely a kilometer from the general’s office.
News reports in Bangkok say U.S. investigators got a break when Karr sent an envelope to Tracy by regular mail, and wrote a return address on the envelope of Bangkok, Thailand. The address had the name of a major thoroughfare, but no number or cross street.
Then ICE came up with the name: John Mark Karr. And Thai immigration police began searching for him.
Although Thai hotels report foreigners, the records are not automated, and the search took some time, the general said.
“And on the 11th of August, we found him.” That was a Friday, and the general’s office immediately informed ICE.
Not wanting to lose Karr, “we sent two or three officers to stay in that apartment building” to keep an eye on his whereabouts, Tumrongsiskul said. That was a major commitment of his officers’ time, but “for the Americans, our good friends, we do it,” he said.
The officers watched the suspect leave in the morning on his bicycle, but did not follow to see where he went. “He came back in the evening. Most of the time, he stayed in his room.”
Thai officials do not believe he violated any local laws, the general said.
Within four days of the Thais’ finding Karr, the Boulder District Attorney’s office had a warrant for Karr’s arrest on murder charges signed by Judge Roxanne Bailin on Aug. 15. Prosecutors sent it off to Thailand. On Aug. 16, the general received it and immediately revoked Karr’s visa.
Karr is now back in the United States facing five charges, including first degree murder after deliberation. That implies prosecutors think they have enough evidence to prove the killing was planned. Another charge is first-degree murder-felony murder, which brings the full weight of a murder charge on anyone involved in a felony that leads to a murder.
Karr is also charged with first- and second-degree kidnapping and sexual assault on a child.
In the course of the investigation, Thai officials found that Karr had been in their country for much of the last year. He arrived for the first time on Oct 27, 2005, and over the next months departed three times on what appear to be “visa runs” _ brief trips out of the country to comply with the expiration of a tourist visa and then re-enter Thailand on a new visa.
He flew out on Nov. 24 as his 30-day visa expired. He arrived again on Dec. 16 through the airport. He left for a few hours through the Malaysian land border on April 11 and returned the same day; and left again on June 5 and returned on June 6 from neighboring Malaysia.
News reports in Thailand say he failed a tryout for a teaching job in Bangkok in winter and again in June.
But on the June trip, Karr returned to Thailand with a special visa that allowed him to finally apply for a work permit, the general said. In August, he received his coveted Thai teacher’s license.
With a license and the possibility of a work permit, a college degree in teaching and experience, Karr should have breezed into a job at a Bangkok school.
It’s not known if he tried, until two weeks later. On Aug. 15, he applied at another Bangkok Christian school _ rather late, since it was the first day of the term.
The next day, he was arrested.
The general said he did not believe the Americans even knew about Karr’s potential new job with children, and it had nothing to do with the timing of the arrest warrant.
(Contact Ann Imse of the Rocky Mountain News at http://www.rockymountainnews.com.)