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California police knew of Karr in ’01

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John Mark Karr

John Mark Karr

LOS ANGELES — California detectives learned of John Mark Karr's apparent fascination with the JonBenet Ramsey murder while investigating him in 2001 but said Wednesday he did not appear to have any special knowledge of the case.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department said in a statement that it notified Colorado officials five years ago about Karr. It is the earliest known time that Karr was brought to the attention of authorities investigating the 1996 slaying of the girl in her Boulder County, Colo., home.

"We never uncovered any 'confession' statements, overt murder evidence, or other indications that John Karr possessed secret knowledge that only the murderer of Jon Benet Ramsey would know," the statement said.

Karr remained jailed in Los Angeles on Wednesday awaiting transport to Colorado, which has issued a murder warrant for his arrest. He told reporters in Thailand last week that he was with JonBenet when she died and that it was an accident. His family contends he was with them in Georgia at the time of the Colorado killing.

Sonoma investigators learned about Karr's apparent interest in the Ramsey case and also that of Polly Klaas, who was murdered in 1993, when Karr was investigated in the 1997 murder of a 12-year-old girl in Petaluma. Karr does not appear to be a suspect in the 12-year-old's death, the statement said.

During the investigation, authorities gathered information from a woman in northern California, Wendy Hutchens, that included tape recordings and e-mails with Karr. The investigation also included search warrants, forensic examination of digital media and surveillance.

In some writings, Karr spoke of JonBonet's murderer as someone who was unknown, but also someone he was "very interested in and curious about," the statement said. It did not specify where the writings were found.

"In a few instances while he seemed to be wondering about the JonBenet Ramsey murder, he made uncertain allusions to placing himself in the killer's role," it said.

The Sonoma department also noted Karr made references to two other crimes in two different states, including a child killing and a child molestation. Information about Karr was provided in 2001 to the investigating agencies in all three states, including Colorado, the department said.

On Wednesday, lawyers Patience Van Zandt and Jamie Harmon, whose office is in San Jose, said they had been retained by Karr. Van Zandt, who represented Karr in his 2001 child pornography case, said Karr was under stress when he made incriminating comments in Thailand.

"He's exhausted, he's terrified, he's overwhelmed, he's just about as stressed out as a human being can be," she said.