08/17/2006

JonBenet suspect lived in sex-tourist area of Bangkok

By JOCELYN GECKER
Associated Press Writer

BANGKOK, Thailand- The suspect in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey said he loved the 6-year-old beauty queen "very much" and is "very sorry for what happened."

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, John Mark Karr said that he contacted JonBenet's mother, Patsy, before she died of cancer in June to express his remorse for the killing.

"I conveyed to her many things, among them that I am so very sorry for what happened to JonBenet," Karr said as U.S. and Thai authorities escorted him from his Bangkok hotel, where he spent over an hour packing his belongings.

Karr said it was his understanding that Patsy Ramsey read letters that he sent to her. He said JonBenet's death was "an accident."

"It's very important for me that everyone knows that I love her very much and that her death was unintentional," said Karr, who sweated and stuttered occasionally as he spoke in a quiet voice.

Karr, 41, was arrested Wednesday, halfway around the world from Boulder, Colo., where JonBenet's body was found beaten and strangled in her parent's basement on Dec. 26, 1996.

He declined to disclose the nature of his supposed relationship to the Ramsey family, or how he may have known JonBenet.

Asked for details of how she died, Karr replied: "It would take several hours to describe _ to describe that."

"There's no way I could be brief about it. It's a very involved series of events," said Karr, who speaks with a thick Southern accent. "It's very painful for me to talk about."

Earlier in the day, Karr spoke briefly to reporters after a news conference by American and Thai authorities.

"I was with JonBenet when she died," he told reporters. Asked if he was innocent, he said: "No."

Karr will be taken within the week to Colorado, where he will face charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and child sexual assault, said Ann Hurst of the Department of Homeland Security, one of several officials who accompanied the suspect back to his hotel.

In the run-up to Karr's arrest, U.S. authorities had rented rooms at The Blooms, the budget hotel where Karr was staying in a central Bangkok neighborhood of massage parlors and travel agencies catering to expatriates and sex tourists.

The hotel offers rooms for as little as three hours - for $8 - and monthly stays starting at $170.

Karr was staying on the top floor of the nine-story hotel in a small single room.

U.S. and Thai authorities wearing plastic gloves sorted through his possessions, which were wheeled away on a luggage rack, and included a laptop computer and two suitcases.

Dressed in a baggy turquoise polo shirt and khaki pants, Karr said that JonBenet's death was "not what it seems to be," though he declined to elaborate.

"In every way," he added, as authorities bundled him into a waiting vehicle. "It's not at all what it seems to be."

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