It was the day before Christmas Eve 2005 when John Mark Karr sent an e-mail to University of Colorado professor Michael Tracey, seeking a strange favor.
He asked Tracey to visit JonBenet Ramsey’s old house in Boulder and read aloud an ode he called JonBenet, My Love.
“JonBenet, my love, my life. I love you and shall forever love you. I pray that you can hear my voice calling out to you from my darkness — this darkness that now separates us,” it read, in part.
The e-mail was part of a small sample of the often lurid and disturbing correspondence between a person that investigators believe to be Karr and Tracey. The e-mails were obtained Thursday by the Rocky Mountain News from a source close to the investigation.
None includes any statements from Karr about his possible role in JonBenet’s death. They do, however, include several interesting — and sometimes bizarre — exchanges between the two, including one in which Karr expresses concern that Tracey has obtained a photograph of him; another in which Karr said he was under federal investigation for “child murder and child molestation” in four states; and one in which the two traded views on the Peter Pan-related film Finding Neverland.
Karr was arrested in Thailand early Wednesday on a warrant naming him as the suspect in the unsolved murder of 6-year-old JonBenet in 1996. He is expected to be extradited to the United States next week.
In one of the e-mails obtained by the News, Karr brought up the legal travails of pop singer Michael Jackson, long under scrutiny for what seemed by his critics to be unusually close relationships with young boys.
“I will tell you that I can understand people like Michael Jackson and feel sympathy when he suffers as he has,” Karr wrote. He added that he, himself, “is trapped in a world that does not understand.”
The News reported exclusively Wednesday that Tracey and Karr have swapped hundreds of e-mails during a four-year span, and that it was the content of those e-mails that gave rise to Tracey’s suspicions about Karr’s potential involvement in JonBenet’s killing.
Tracey, in turn, passed his concerns on to investigators working the case privately. They, in turn, would later take it to prosecutors at the Boulder District Attorney’s Office.
Tracey declined to comment on the e-mails obtained by the News Thursday, and a statement provided by a University of Colorado spokesman said Tracey would continue to decline interview requests “until he feels the time is right.”
“Tracey said it is important now that people respect the judicial process and make no judgments about the guilt or innocence of the suspect until more information is available,” the statement said.
It also said that Tracey wants to resume writing a book about the 10-year-old investigation and is planning to produce additional documentaries on the case, beyond the three he has already completed.
In a related development Thursday, the Boulder Daily Camera reported that Tracey shared details of his research into the Ramsey case with students months before he alerted authorities.
The paper reported former students as saying that someone sent Tracey a childhood picture of himself holding a white Santa Claus teddy bear and purportedly taken on a Christmas morning. The stuffed animal was apparently just like the one that mysteriously showed up in JonBenet’s bedroom and stumped the family and investigators.
One of e-mails obtained by the News began with Karr chiding Tracey for failing to respond to an earlier message entitled, “Pretty Little Boy.”
That e-mail included what appears to be a back-and-forth exchange _ a passage from Tracey and an answer from Karr. However, it appears that Karr took a Tracey e-mail and then inserted his answers after each paragraph.
At one point, Tracey wrote to Karr, “I’m also curious as to why you feel that talking to me is dangerous and that you have shared too much.”
Karr wrote back: “I was the subject of at lease (sic) a four-state federal investigation for child murder and child molestation. These people were not finished with me when I left the U.S. I cannot return. Since you have never been through something like this in your own life, you cannot know the paranoia it causes. You mentioned you have access to my photograph after talking to you for at least two years. I have reason to be concerned. Consider, if you will, post-traumatic stress.”
A later e-mail included “Resend of Pretty Little Boy” in its subject line.
Again, it appeared to include a back-and-forth exchange.
“This is a letter that was sent on October 10th,” Karr wrote. “I have found that you are easily overwhelmed and, when so, you seem to stop responding altogether. That being said, I am also responding to your last mail and will prepare a short message for JonBenet for Christmas night. Please check your mail each day prior to Christmas. Don’t stop responding now.”
Karr then wrote about his anger that a third person had provided Tracey with a photograph of him. “You NEVER said he HAD a photo of me,” Karr wrote. “This changes everything. You have everything but my name and fingerprints. This comes as a major blow. Why did you not tell me this in the past?”
At another point, Karr responded to Tracey’s challenge to follow through on his pledge to be “intense and thorough.”
“Oh, Michael,” Karr wrote, “I was referring to you — not me. I AM intense and thorough. I wanted you to be more intense and thorough in your responses to me. Your desire from me is that I cut to the chase and be specific about locations, names and all the other elements that journalist (sic) look for in a story. I am sorry that this is not the way I express myself about this matter.”
Karr wrote later that his father was a “strong influence but rarely around,” and then responded to Tracey’s question about whether his “fascination with little girls — which clearly has a strong erotic component — is a way of going back.”
“Maybe I am not going back but have simply stayed consistent,” Karr wrote. “My peer group has not changed since I was a little boy, and girls were the people I was with always. Referring to them as a peer group is somewhat incorrect, but might also be the very definition of what they continue to be in my life.”
At another point, Tracey wrote, “You told me once that your mother tended to raise you as a girl. This must have had a powerful effect on your developing sexuality — confusion maybe?”
Karr responded: “Michael, I will not discuss my sexuality as if it is a psychological disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In my case, I disagree with that totally, and if this is to be the way we progress in discussing it, I might as well stop while I am ahead.
“On the other hand, if you would like to learn something about my sexuality on an intellectual, nonjudgmental, nontraditional and nonpsychological way, I would love to share. It would help you understand a lot about my connection with JonBenet and possibly about the case. Shall we?”
Tracey also wrote to Karr about the movie Finding Neverland, which was about the author of Peter Pan.
“I can only say,” Karr wrote, “that I can relate very well to children and the way they think and feel. I think you are asking if I am much a ‘Peter Pan.’ In many ways, the answer is yes. In other ways, I suppose it is no because I am trapped in a world that does not understand.”
(Contact Todd Hartman and Kevin Vaughan of the Rocky Mountain News at https://www.rockymountainnews.com.)