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Ehrlich: John Mark Karr's Last Night In Bangkok

John Mark Karr's Last Night In Bangkok

by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Accused murderer John Mark Karr's last hours in Bangkok on Sunday (August 20) were spent dressing up and discussing Chopin and classical music, while listening to his Thai jailer serenade him with a personal, impromptu version of a 1960s Bee Gees song.

Self-conscious, sullen, pale and silent, Karr walked out of the Immigration Department's detention center in the afternoon, escorted for several yards (meters) by a phalanx of unarmed Thai police.

He was intentionally led down a driveway to allow a swarm of waiting media to photograph him and shout questions -- which Karr did not answer -- before being placed in a white, air-conditioned van.

At Bangkok International Airport, he boarded an evening flight to Los Angeles in business-class, which U.S. officials reserved for him, and began a trans-Pacific journey alongside security officials, media, and public passengers.

Karr was "peaceful, normal, simple. I just sang a song to him," Police Lt. Gen. Suwat Tumrongsiskul, who heads Thailand's powerful Immigration Department, said after escorting the American from detention to the police van.

"I asked him what he liked. He said he liked classic songs, like ordinary people. He used to play guitar. So I said, 'Yes, I love music. I played guitar before too.' So I sang for him," Suwat said, describing his experience with Karr during their final hours together.

Asked to sing again the song he performed for Karr while they were in the Immigration Department's cell together, Suwat spontaneously warbled: "It's only words / and words are all I have / to take your heart away..."
"You like Bee Gees?" Suwat asked.

The plaintive song portrays a man who only has "words" to express his plight -- ironically echoing Karr's questionable claim on Thursday (August 17) that he was with six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey in December 1996 when she was "accidentally" killed, despite an autopsy which said she was beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted.

Karr listened politely when Suwat sang the Bee Gees song, but did not sing along with his Thai jailer.

"You know, we talked like friends. He smiled. I asked him, 'What is your favorite song?' He said he liked Chopin. Classical. He said he misses his children in the U.S.," Suwat said of Karr, a twice-divorced father of three.

"He dressed sharp," Suwat noted.

Knowing he would be seen worldwide via international media, Karr upgraded his appearance for Sunday's (August 20) perp-walk, and wore a maroon, short-sleeve shirt, dark tie, and dark pants -- clothes he used while applying to teach children in Bangkok.

On those job applications, Karr said he was Catholic and secured temporary positions teaching children at Bangkok Christian College, and St. Joseph's Convent, but was dismissed within days from both schools for disciplining the students stricter than Thai teachers.

Tracking and capturing Karr was "not difficult" for Thai police because "we have a good team," Suwat said.

Asked if Thai police will investigate what Karr did while in Bangkok during the past two months, Suwat replied: "No, no, no, no, no."

American Embassy and Justice Department officials did not request Thai police to follow-up investigations into Karr's behavior while in Thailand, he said.

"If they ask," then Bangkok will launch an investigation, he said.

"Maybe a cold beer," was the only reward Suwat said he expected to receive from America for helping U.S. Homeland Security and other officials capture Karr.

"They thanked us for this."

Thailand was "relieved" to see Karr deported.

But if he is found innocent of all charges in America, Karr would be welcome to return as a tourist to Thailand, Suwat said.

Karr, 41, may have been seeking a sex change or cosmetic surgery on his face while in Bangkok, according to medical clinics in the Thai capital.

The Pratunam Polyclinic, one of Thailand's foremost transgender facilities, told journalists that Karr was a patient and may have planned to undergo sexual reassignment surgery or facial changes.

"Yes, he had treatment here," a Pratunam Polyclinic staffer told reporters.

"He was our patient. He came a number of times. But we cannot give out details on his treatment as we are ethically bound to keep these things private."


Copyright by Richard S. Ehrlich, who has reported news from Asia for the past 28 years, and is co-author of the non-fiction book of investigative journalism, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is

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