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Ramsey Case Suspect Is Back on U.S. Soil

Times Staff Writers

John Mark Karr, the suspect in the slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday night aboard a Thai Airways International flight from Bangkok.

Federal immigration officials processed Karr shortly after he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport. He was taken into police custody on a Colorado warrant, informed of the charges against him and taken by helicopter to the Twin Towers Jail in downtown Los Angeles, officials said.

Karr will be held in isolation at the jail to protect him from other inmates, according to sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Rick Pena. “Accused child molesters are targets for some of the other criminals in there,” he said.

Colorado authorities said Karr had to be arrested in California and go through an extradition process, rather than simply being put on a connecting flight to Boulder, because of rules that regulate the transfer of accused criminals from one state to another. Los Angeles court officials said Sunday night that an extradition hearing had not yet been scheduled.

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Carolyn French, a spokeswoman for the Boulder County district attorney’s office, said that if Karr agreed to the extradition, he could be flown to Colorado as soon as a day after the hearing. But if he contests it, she said, he could remain in Los Angeles up to 30 days.

Karr is expected to face charges in Colorado of firstdegree murder, kidnapping and child sexual assault in connection with the 1996 killing of JonBenet.

A passenger who sat near Karr during the long flight said the suspect seemed to enjoy a friendly rapport with law enforcement agents.

“They always had smiles on their faces -- except when they were protecting him in the bathroom,” said Dan Shiff of Montreal.

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Karr shied away from the throngs of cameras that crowded around him in Bangkok, but spent about 30 minutes “primping” before the plane landed in Los Angeles, Shiff said.

Despite the overwhelming media coverage of Karr’s moves over the last few days, some aboard the flight were unaware of his presence.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” said University of Southern California student Lalida Mangkornkanok, 21.

“We weren’t informed that he was on the flight.... I’m glad nothing happened.”

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Five days after he was taken into custody by authorities in Bangkok, Karr, 41, was led out of the Thai city’s downtown immigration detention center at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Surrounded closely by a cadre of about a dozen uniformed police officials, Karr was not handcuffed but was ushered quickly to a white van.

Karr, wearing black pants, a maroon, short-sleeved shirt and a black tie, remained expressionless as he walked through a media throng.

A frantic motorcade of several taxis and cars chased the van through Bangkok’s traffic-choked streets and onto its express toll road for the 20-minute drive to Don Muang International Airport. As the van pulled up to the curb at Terminal 1 beneath a Thai Airways sign, a crush of television cameramen and photographers descended.

A melee ensued as a phalanx of immigration police officers formed a tight ring to secure Karr. With the escorts pushing violently against the aggressive horde of journalists, travelers looked on as the spectacle snaked its way through the terminal.

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Again, Karr stayed silent, looking ahead blankly.

Meanwhile on Sunday, Dr. Thep Vechavisit, a prominent Thai plastic surgeon who specializes in sex-change operations, breast enhancement procedures and other cosmetic plastic surgeries, acknowledged that Karr “was one of my patients,” the Associated Press reported.

Vechavisit declined to elaborate, but a staffer at the clinic, who asked for anonymity because she was not authorized to talk to the media, said Karr had consulted the doctor about a sex-change operation.

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Silverstein reported from Los Angeles and Rubin from Bangkok. Times staff writer Evelyn Larrubia in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


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