JonBenet's Father Breaks His Silence Since His
Wife's Passing, The Karr Arrest
(CBS) The Christmas 1996 murder of JonBenet
Ramsey has riveted America for nearly a decade.
This past summer, the arrest of John Mark Karr
briefly made it appear as though the mystery had
been solved. But that was not the case.
Correspondent Erin Moriarty takes a new look at
this true crime mystery and talks to JonBenet's
father John, who breaks his silence for the
first time since his wife Patsy died in June and
Karr was arrested several weeks later.
Last summer, as John Mark Karr was paraded in front of
the press, it seemed the decade-old mystery finally had
an ending. "I was with Jon Benet when she died," Karr
said. "I loved JonBenet and she died accidentally."
But there’s more to the story than anyone expected:
JonBenet's father, John Ramsey, helped investigators
catch the man he believed killed his daughter.
"I said, 'If you want me to go somewhere and meet him,
I’ll do it,' you know. 'Just tell me what you need me to
do,'" he tells Moriarty.
But the latest development in the case would never have
happened without journalism professor Michael Tracey. It
was Tracey who endured receiving four years worth of
e-mails and chilling phone calls, leading detectives
around the globe to John Mark Karr.
"I wasn’t doing this as a journalist, as a scholar, I
was doing this as someone who is extremely concerned
about what I was reading and extremely concerned about
what might happen to some other kids," Tracey says.
Until his interview with 48 Hours, Tracey has never
talked about his unexpected role in the hunt for the
killer of JonBenet.
Asked what it was like to get those e-mails, Tracey
says, "This is the worst experience of my life by far.
It was horrible."
"You are reading and hearing a truly dark side of the
human psyche. And having to pretend it’s okay, that I
wasn’t going to sit in judgment, because otherwise the
communication would have stopped," he says.
Tracey is not only a professor, he’s a crusader, who has
spent the last eight years trying to solve Boulder’s
most notorious crime. It's a killing so infamous that
the victim is known simply by her first name: JonBenet.
Infamous too are her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey,
tainted by public perception that they were somehow
"Was there ever a moment from the very beginning that
you ever questioned her, or that she questioned you?"
Moriarty asks John Ramsey.
"Oh, no, no. Absolutely not," he replies.
"But you didn’t know what had happened to your
daughter," Moriarty remarks.
"But I knew Patsy. And she loved our children dearly.
She loved my children dearly. She couldn’t have been a
better mother. I would have believed the pope murdered
JonBenet before I’d have believed Patsy did it," he
It’s hard to believe that nearly ten years have passed
since six-year-old JonBenet was murdered just after
Christmas. She was initially reported missing on the
morning of Dec. 26th, 1996. That same day, her body was
found in the basement by her father; JonBenet had been
strangled and bludgeoned to death.
"Even I was convinced in the beginning that the Ramseys,
that one of the Ramseys, was most probably the person
who committed this crime," says assistant district
attorney Trip Demuth, who was on the case the day it
"The evidence that points to the Ramseys I think, you
know, is the fact that they were in the house at the
time of the murder," he says.
And that fueled speculation that one of them wrote the
bizarre three-page note found at the scene. It was
written on a pad that came from the house and demanded a
ransom that was close to the bonus John Ramsey had
received that year: $118,000.
"We should have just stood right up there in the
beginning and said, 'Okay, charge me.You think i’m
guilty? Charge me, or clear me,'" Ramsey says.
No charges were filed and investigators never even
publicly called them "suspects." Instead, the Ramseys
were labeled with a phrase that was both vague and
damning: "They do remain under an umbrella of suspicion
but we are not ready to name any suspects," an official
said at the time.
John Ramsey wonders what that meant. "Do you have a lot
of evidence? Do you have no evidence? Do you not like
the way we part our hair? What exactly does umbrella of
suspicion mean? It means nothing," he says.
"People would scream at me, say 'Of course they’re
involved, she looks guilty.' And I’m thinking, 'What
does guilt look like? What do you mean she looks
guilty?' I’ve had people literally frothing at the
mouth, and that intrigued me. 'Cause what I could not
understand was, how come everyone knows the Ramseys are
guilty? On the basis of what?" Michael Tracey recalls.
And that's how his crusade began. If the Ramseys had
been convicted by the press, he thought the media could
also prove them innocent. In 1998, Tracey collaborated
with a British documentary team and began producing
films, with unprecedented access to the couple.
Asked by Tracey whether they had anything to do with
their daughter's death, Patsy Ramsey said, "How do you
say no any more clearly than no?"
Tracey’s cameras also captured a side of the Ramseys the
public never saw, private moments, like when Patsy
played the last song JonBenet learned before she was
For the past eight years, Michael Tracey has been a
consultant to 48 Hours, giving the program access to his
In his interviews, Tracey gave the Ramseys a chance to
explain the most controversial aspect of the case: how
JonBenet ended up in beauty pageants.
"We had friends over with their kids, and the kids would
disappear. And the next thing you know, they’d be coming
downstairs. They’d have on costumes," John Ramsey told
"We had a big costume trunk that was my trunk when I was
growing up. And it was full of you know, it was full of
hats and old dresses and scares and feather boas and old
high heeled shoes and you know, just dress up things.
All little girls have those little dress up trunks. And
they would put on plays," Patsy Ramsey recalled.
Patsy Ramsey had once been crowned Miss West Virginia,
and JonBenet wanted to be on stage, just like her
mother. "She would say 'Mommy, when can I do that? I
wanna do something like that,' and I said, 'No, no, no.
You’re too young,'" Patsy Ramsey recalled.
But the Ramseys knew that Patsy had been diagnosed with
ovarian cancer, so they re-considered.
No matter what the Ramseys did to explain themselves,
they were still suspects in the eyes of the public and
the police, who continued to focus almost exclusively on
them, particularly Patsy.
The umbrella of suspicion remained for years.
"They totally focused on our family to the exclusion of
other leads, real facts and real evidence," John Ramsey
Then in 2002, Michael Tracey got a lead that he believed
might solve the case. It began with an anonymous message
on his computer screen.
"The e-mail was basically 'I'd like to talk to professor
Tracey.' And so I replied and I said, 'I hear you want
to talk, so lets talk,'" he recalls.
The international manhunt to catch a killer began with
that e-mail trail. The sender refused to identify
himself, signing the e-mail, "December 25th, 1996." But
it was clear he was obsessed with the murder of JonBenet
"There was a very interesting – and I’m using that quite
carefully – imagination behind the person sending these
e-mails. And the reason why that was important was, it
kind of jived with my own sense of the kind of person
who killed JonBenet," Tracey says.
Something about the wording of the e-mails struck a
chord with Tracey: “listen carefully” the sender wrote –
the very same words the kidnapper used to begin the
ransom note for JonBenet.
John Ramsey tells Moriarty he knew nothing about the
sender of the e-mails, other than "just very bizarre,
abnormal comments about the case and JonBenet and just
Tracey shared some of the e-mails with John Ramsey. "But
you now, whoever did this is a very strange person, and
so we never discounted something just because it was
strange," Ramsey says.
Then, as the sixth anniversary of the murder passed, a
particularly eerie e-mail was sent, mentioning the
nickname of Patsy’s mother.
"He referred to Patsy’s mother’s nickname: Neddie. And
that was unusual that someone would know that. I went to
a book that we’d written about it. To see if we ever
mentioned that in the book. And we had not," Ramsey
recalls. "That added fuel to the fire in my mind."
Tracey called the mysterious e-mailer "December Man."
"He clearly knew that I was trying to find out who are
you. 'Did you do it? Do you know who did it? What do you
know about what happened that night.' And the more I
pushed, the more he began to kind of resist," he says.
Then with no explanation, the e-mails stopped.
As December Man appeared to move on, so did Michael
Tracey. He was determined to explore other leads and
other potential suspects. Then, after 18 months of
silence, he unexpectedly got an e-mail from December
"He’s back. And that is when it really started to
unfold," Tracey remembers.
This time, there were details – dark details of what
happened to JonBenet – and the writer was saying he was
there. Alarmed at what he was reading, Tracey turned to
Lou Smit, a former detective and expert on the Ramsey
Smit has solved over 200 homicides in his career. "I
encouraged Michael to try to find out as much as he
could about this individual because it may lead us to
the killer of JonBenet," he remembers.
But December Man, or "Daxis" as he later called himself,
did not want to tell his story just to Michael Tracey:
he pleaded to talk to JonBenet’s mother.
"He was in love with JonBenet. And that is what he
wanted to tell Patsy and ask her forgiveness. Because he
wanted to say was it didn’t, it wasn’t meant to happen
in the way in which it happened," Tracey says.
"This is one step even above a person confessing. Here’s
a person that wants to confess to the parents. To the
mother and to the father. And being very insistent on
it," Smit says.
By this time, John and Patsy Ramsey had retreated to
northern Michigan, to the small town of Charlevoix. This
quiet, remote place was where the couple once enjoyed
vacations with all their children and Charlevoix was
also the place where Patsy was fighting the return of
"This last time that it recurred, it just was a tougher
fight, you could tell that right from the beginning. And
it was the first time, I guess, I started to realize
that we might lose this one," John Ramsey says.
As Patsy’s health declined in the spring of 2006, Daxis
kept pressuring Tracey to give him the Ramsey’s phone
number and e-mail address.
"I’d been stalling. And in one e-mail he said, and this
is May, he said, 'I’ll be sitting in the living room in
Charlevoix before you give me those details.' And I
looked at that and I thought, 'This as a threat
basically. I’m gonna go there if they won’t talk to
me,'" Tracey remembers.
He was so concerned, he got the e-mails to the Boulder
district attorney, Mary Lacey, who launched a formal
The question now became how to find Daxis.
"They didn’t know where he was. He did not want to get
caught," Ramsey says.
But Daxis did want to be heard: he gave Tracey a phone
number and investigators, who were now working with
Tracey, a way to track him down.
Tracey made phone calls to Daxis, taping them. Slowly,
he began to draw Daxis out.
But just as a killer seemed to emerge from the shadows,
Patsy was losing that other fight. On June 24th, Patsy
Ramsey died, at the age of 49.
Tracey called Daxis to break the news, even before the
press or anyone knew Patsy Ramsey had died. Asked why,
Tracey says he was asked to do that by the investigators
to "give a kind of credibility."
"This is - this is so horrible! You don't understand how
horrible this is! You just don't understand that I can't
connect with that mom ever. I can never hear her say
that she forgives me," Daxis told Tracey.
Asked if Patsy died thinking that authorities got
JonBenet's killer, Jon Ramsey says, "Probably.
By July, authorities had traced the calls to southeast
Asia, but Daxis was using a disposable cell phone. They
were unable to pinpoint his exact location but just as
it seemed like the investigation is going nowhere,
Tracey got Daxis to make a full confession.
"She of course was asleep from the time that she was,
that I took her from her bed and took her into the
basement," he told Tracey. "Her first reaction was,
'Where am I?' And I said, 'You're in your basement.'"
His account of the crime is too graphic to describe but
Daxis told Tracey he regrets leaving the body where it
was found. "She wasn’t in that little room to be
disgraced. I would never disgrace her or dishonor her.
She was there temporarily. And what really hurts me is
that she stayed there. And that’s where her father found
her, and it’s just a horrible thing," Daxis said.
By this time, the Boulder district attorney had
recruited law enforcement agencies in three countries.
They devised a secret plan for the mystery man to reveal
himself. The bait was a photograph: the last one taken
of JonBenet Ramsey.
Daxis had no idea he was about to fall into a trap.
By mid-July, Daxis’ communication with Michael Tracey
took a chilling new turn. He told Tracey, "Certain
little girls are just so beautiful.”
He was no longer just talking about JonBenet but was
telling Tracey about his sexual interest in another
girl, a five-year-old.
And he told Tracey something else: that he was a teacher
and that the little girl attended his school. There was
now tremendous pressure to track him down, quickly.
Authorities knew he was in southeast Asia and recruited
British intelligence, who were able to narrow down his
location to a single, highly congested neighborhood of
"We reached out to the Royal Thai authorities to assist
us in tracking that cell phone,” explains federal agent
“We couldn’t get the exact location because the phone
wasn’t turned on all the time,” adds fellow agent Gary
Hurst and Phillips work for the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security in Thailand. They spoke about their
role in the investigation for the first time during
their interview with 48 Hours.
Authorities didn’t know what Daxis looked like but they
knew he had a weakness: he e-mailed Michael Tracey in
April, begging for that last picture of JonBenet, taken
on the day she died.
Investigators suggested Tracey send the photo; Daxis
supplied an address in Bangkok, a UPS mail drop
The plan was to put the photo into this oversized
package, a package large enough so it would stand out
and couldn’t be stuffed into a pocket or backpack.
The picture was sent and the mail drop was put under 24
“We were actually able to video the person known as
Daxis picking up that package,” says agent Hurst.
They had him! Daxis was photographed making his pick-up.
He was a Caucasian man of slight build in a red shirt.
He was unrecognizable to John Ramsey. "The fact that
they had located him was a huge accomplishment. I mean,
it was James Bond kinda stuff that they found this guy,"
Royal Thai Police and American investigators followed
Daxis to a Bangkok hotel. They asked Thai police to do
passport checks on the hotel guests. Finally they
discovered a face with a real name attached to it. "Daxis"
was a man named John Mark Karr, a 41-year-old teacher
and a fugitive, on the run from child pornography
charges in California.
But, at this point it wasn't just about the crime
against JonBenet Ramsey: authorities worried about other
young victims, school children in Bangkok, whom Karr may
have already harmed. But authorities didn’t know who
they are or where they are, so they decided to hold off
on an arrest and follow him, with any luck, to the
school where he teaches.
“He talked about several children that he had been
teaching, and his desire to have sex with those
children. In fact, he was quite explicit about one
little girl that reminded him of JonBenet Ramsey," Hurst
says. “We knew we were working against the clock.”
Agents were able to locate the school where Karr taught
and what they saw, as they observed him in his
classroom, confirmed their worst fear. "The agents see
him with this young girl on his lap,” Tracey explains.
That’s all authorities needed. He was arrested and taken
out of the hotel.
Most Americans saw John Mark Karr after his arrest on
television but agents Hurst and Phillips say he was a
very different person in the interrogation room,
especially when asked about the massive injury to
"He said that he hit her with a flashlight. And we said,
'Well, show us, show us what you did.' 'Well, I hit her
in the head like that!'" Phillips recalls, using a water
bottle as a prop. "And his demeanor completely changed
when he did that."
Karr refused to provide a sample of his DNA, but he
agreed to leave Thailand and head back to the United
States, where he was forced to provide a sample and
where some media concluded that he was guilty of
The intensity of the feeding frenzy even got to John
Ramsey, who knows exactly what it feels like.
"He was so abused and vilified and convicted in the
media that I started to feel sorry for the guy, which is
a bizarre feeling," Ramsey says. "Having been through
what we went through, I was gonna be the last guy that
leaped out there and said, 'Aha! This is the guy!'”
As most Americans now know, Karr’s DNA – tested back in
the U.S. – was not a match with the DNA at the Ramsey
crime scene. It was a devastating setback for Boulder
District Attorney Mary Lacey.
So after months of intense undercover investigation, in
four countries involving some of the world’s most elite
intelligence agencies, would this end with John Mark
Karr walking free?
"This was the biggest effort to find a suspect since
really your daughter was killed," Moriarty remarked to
"Oh yeah," he agrees. And he acknowledges that he had
his hopes up. "I mean I was grateful that the effort was
going on and I was hopeful that this, in fact would be
The James Bond chase around the globe did not have the
Hollywood ending that John Ramsey had prayed for. "I was
hopeful that this in fact was the right guy. But on the
other hand, it had to be the right guy, you know. We
were not just out looking for somebody to hang," Ramsey
Ramsey and John Mark Karr share a curious link: both
have been branded as suspects in the killing of
The public believes that Karr walked free because of a
DNA test and that begs the question: why weren’t the
Ramseys exonerated for the very same reason?
"The decision was made that day, the 26th of December
1996, that I was the killer. And then it became 'Okay
well, then now let’s look at the evidence and let’s
prove it.' And then of course, then it shifted to Patsy
for some unknown reason," Ramsey says.
It turns out that the couple who spent a decade under
the umbrella of suspicion, could have been cleared years
Documents prepared by former assistant D.A. Trip Demuth
years ago show what he called, the other side of the
story. He believed that there were serious flaws in the
case against the Ramseys.
Demuth was very surprised that 48 Hours had obtained the
documents. "I’m actually, I’m shocked. I’m just
shocked," he told Moriarty.
It was a lot of evidence that the public was never aware
"I really would appreciate it if you would mention that
you came into this information from some other source
than myself," Demuth said.
That’s true: 48 Hours obtained the documents from
another source. They include crime scene evidence,
police reports, and laboratory analysis of DNA.
"That report in essence says as of January 15th, 1997,
there was a strong suggestion by the DNA results that
the Ramseys were not responsible for this murder,"
"You’re saying that less than a month after this murder
was committed that there is DNA evidence that indicates
that the Ramseys weren’t involved?" Moriarty asks.
"I’m saying that there is DNA evidence that creates a
strong suggestion that they may not have done it, yes,"
A Colorado Bureau of Investigation report shows that
tiny amounts of DNA were found under JonBenet's
fingernails and in her underwear, and that this DNA did
not match John, Patsy, or anyone in the Ramsey family.
Police at the time were not convinced that the DNA found
at the scene belonged to the killer.
Trip Demuth interpreted the evidence differently. "How
likely is it that it would be anybody but the killer? I
think it’s highly unlikely that it would be anybody else
but the killer," he says.
"I believe that when the case first started that it did
look like the Ramseys did this. I even thought that
initially when I was hired on board," says former
detective Lou Smit.
He says at first, he wasn’t convinced the Ramseys were
innocent and went along with the police theory, which
was that Patsy killed her daughter accidentally out of
frustration; that the garrote was placed around
JonBenet’s neck to make it look like someone else had
"The theory was that JonBenet was killed by Patsy over
bed wetting and that all of this was staged. And that as
a result of the staging that a ransom note, a very
detailed ransom note was made. That the garrote was
constructed for some reason to make it look like it was
a kidnap killing gone bad, that was all part of the
staging," Smit says.
But a closer examination of the evidence doesn’t support
that theory. JonBenet was still alive during the
strangulation, and probably fought her attacker.
"When she was strangled, she was struggling," Demuth
Asked if that is more consistent with a child abduction,
he says, "If my conclusions are correct, yeah. That’s
child abduction. She’s struggling, she’s breathing, and
you’re strangling her. That’s no longer an act of
"It’s murder," Moriarty remarks.
"It’s murder," Demuth agrees. "The conclusion of my
summary of the physical evidence is, is a clear
conclusion that an intruder committed this crime."
Demuth says the path of an intruder is evident in crime
scene photographs: a grate that appeared to be lifted,
an open basement window, scuff marks on the wall. During
his investigation of the crime, Demuth also put the
Ramseys character under the microscope.
"I have never seen two individuals that were more
thoroughly investigated than John Ramsey and Patsy
Ramsey. I don’t remember one report of the type of
pathology that I would expect to see for them to have
committed this crime," he says.
In May of 1998, Trip Demuth presented his findings to
the Boulder authorities. Four months after his
presentation, Demuth says he and his entire team were
removed from the case.
But his boss at the time, former Boulder District
Attorney Alex Hunter, says Demuth was removed because he
was so focused looking outside the Ramsey family that he
lost his objectivity.
Demuth regrets leaving the investigation, especially
since subsequent DNA tests continued to point away from
the Ramseys. But he is most sorry that he never got to
treat Patsy Ramsey as a victim.
"Since I believe that the evidence shows an intruder
committed this crime, as the prosecutor assigned to that
case, she normally would have been my victim who I would
have reached out to and held her hand through this
process. But I was not given that opportunity," Demuth
He says he feels disappointed about that. "But that
disappointment is tremendously overshadowed by the
disappointment that the killer of this girl has not been
brought to justice."
So ten years later, who are investigators looking at
"JonBenet’s death needs to be solved. It needs closure,
and whoever did it needs to be put away," says Michael
Tracey, who spent four years tracking the man he
believed was the killer, only to see him walk free.
DNA left at the Ramsey crime scene did not match Karr
and child pornography charges pending against him in
Sonoma County, Calif., were unexpectedly thrown out of
"The charges were dropped because the evidence was lost.
That disturbs me," says John Ramsey.
So Karr, who talked about having sex with children, is
now back on the streets.
"John be honest. He’s obsessed with your daughter and
your family. Are you at all concerned that he could show
up here?" Moriarty asks John Ramsey.
"The thought has gone through my mind, absolutely and
you know that you can’t live your life in fear. But you
know, we tend to be careful," he replies.
But John Ramsey may be relieved to hear this: agent Gary
Phillips says the investigation is not over. "John Mark
Karr is not off the hook by any stretch of the
imagination," he says.
48 Hours has learned that the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security is still investigating Karr.
"He’s said all along that he didn’t act alone. So even
though he may not have been physically there, he may
have orchestrated something with another person,"
The idea that more than one person could have been
involved in JonBenet’s death has been raised before.
Remember that ransom note? It says “We have your
daughter." And a careful examination of the basement
reveals something eerie: two sets of unidentified
footprints, where JonBenet’s body was found.
Also, there could yet be additional clues: there is
evidence remaining from the crime scene that has never
"In the bedroom close to JonBenet’s, there was a rope
left in that room that does not belong to the Ramseys,"
says Smit. "I know that for a fact. And that this rope
has never been tested."
"The case will remain open until evidence shows that he
is not part of the conspiracy or the murder of JonBenet
Ramsey. We’re going to keep an eye on him," says
When 48 Hours visited John Ramsey in Michigan last
month, we found him the way we’ve always found him:
reflective in the face of incredible loss. JonBenet is
not the only child the Ramseys lost: Beth, John’s
22-year-old daughter from an earlier marriage, was
killed in a car accident in 1992.
"John, a lot of couples after losing a child can’t stay
together. They split up," Moriarty says. "Did you ever
come close to that with Patsy?"
"No, not in the least. But I think a lot of what we had
going on you know, was kind of Patsy and I against the
world for a number of years," he says. "And you know we
were kind of back to back fighting off the rest of the
And while the family was "under an umbrella of
suspicion," John Ramsey says they were trying to protect
their family. "We didn’t have time to wallow in our
grief," he says.
Not publicly maybe, but we know that behind closed
doors, there was grief, so apparent in the video of
Patsy playing the piece on the piano her daughter had
Asked how he wants Patsy to be remembered, John Ramsey
says, "She was a wonderful mother. She was an incredibly
wonderful mother. She was a very kind person, very
caring. Never heard her say anything negative about
anybody. Even through this whole chaotic mess that was
in our lives. And she used to say, 'This isn’t what I
imagined our life was going to be.'"
Patsy’s own words from an interview in 1998 describe how
they coped during the decade of scrutiny, mystery, and
"You have no choice you have to get up and try to
continue through this life for whatever purpose or the
remaining portion of your life will entail, until it’s
over," she said. "And then, God willing, we will all be
together again. And it will be wonderful. And we may
know why we had to go through these horrible times of