A globe-hopping US schoolteacher yesterday admitted to the killing of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, climaxing a decade-long hunt that had mesmerized the US public and left a cloud of suspicion over her family.
The suspect, John Mark Karr, 41, was arrested on Wednesday in Bangkok by US and Thai officials halfway around the world from Boulder, Colorado, where the lifeless body of JonBenet was found beaten and strangled in her parent's basement in 1996.
An investigation that seemed to go nowhere, lurid details and striking videos of the girl coquettishly performing in child pageants propelled the case into one of the highest-profile mysteries in the US, where it raised questions about putting children in beauty contests.
Some feared the case would never be solved, and as investigators failed to produce suspects, some suspicion fell on the girl's parents, John Ramsey and his wife, Patsy, who died of cancer in June.
"I was with JonBenet when she died," Karr told reporters in Bangkok, visibly nervous and stuttering as he spoke.
But he said her death was "an accident."
Later, as he was escorted to his lodgings by US and Thai authorities to pick up his belongings, he said: "I am so very sorry for what happened to JonBenet. It's very important for me that everyone knows that I love her very much -- that her death was unintentional. That it was an accident."
Asked what had happened in the basement, he said, "It would take several hours to describe that. It's a very involved series of events that would involve a lot of time. It's very painful for me to talk about it."
Thai police official Lieutenant General Suwat Tumrongsiskul said Karr admitted to the killing after he was arrested, but that he said it was a kidnapping attempt gone awry and that he had not intended to kill her.