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8/30/2006

Police to search Karr’s PC, Boulder judge OKs extradition to Calif.

By Marcus Wohlsen
The Associated Press

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Sonoma County authorities said Tuesday they’re investigating John Mark Karr and will re-examine his computer for images of child pornography, according to a court hearing.

A prosecutor and a lawyer for the sheriff’s department called the Karr investigation “ongoing,” and said deputies have asked for a new warrant to search Karr’s hard drive because technology has advanced in the five years since the original probe.

It was unclear whether investigators still had Karr’s computer or whether the warrant had been granted or executed.

Lawyers refused to answer questions after the hearing in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Judge Cerena Wong also refused Tuesday to unseal documents connected to Karr’s arrest in Petaluma in 2001.

“He still is the defendant, armed with his constitutional right to a presumption of innocence and his right to a fair trial,” she said. “These important rights could be prejudiced if these records were unsealed.”

A day earlier, prosecutors in Colorado abruptly dropped their case against Karr in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey, saying DNA tests failed to put him at the crime scene despite his insistence he sexually assaulted and strangled the 6-year-old beauty queen.

Karr is being held in the Boulder County Jail until he can be sent back to Santa Rosa to face five misdemeanor child pornography charges.

Michael Cardoza, a former prosecutor and legal analyst, said the intense media scrutiny leaves Sonoma County no choice but to pursue its case against Karr.

“It may be the most famous misdemeanor case in history,” he said.

On Tuesday, District Judge Roxanne Bailin in Boulder ordered Karr sent to California by Sept. 13, saying he had violated terms of his bond in that state by failing to show up for a hearing on the pornography charges. If convicted, Karr could get a year in prison on each count.

New information also became known Tuesday about the sharing of information about Karr between California and Colorado.

Sonoma County sheriff’s officials have said they forwarded information about Karr to Boulder authorities back in 2001 because of his apparent fascination with the 1996 murder of JonBenet. While he stopped short of confessing, they said he made “uncertain allusions to placing himself in the killer’s role,” arousing their suspicions.

However, Tom Bennett, chief investigator for the Boulder County district attorney’s office disputed that Tuesday, saying he didn’t learn of Karr’s possible connection to JonBenet until earlier this month.