The US suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case was to be flown home today to face charges of killing the six-year-old beauty queen, an official said, as questions swirled over whether he was truly involved in the high-profile crime.
"The tickets for John Mark Karr's departure are ready," Thailand's immigration police chief, Lieutenant General Suwat Tumrongsiskul, said.
"He is leaving for the United States on Sunday evening," he said.
Karr, a 41-year-old former schoolteacher, was to be flown to Boulder, Colorado, where he is to face charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and child sexual assault, officials said.
A US embassy official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, could not confirm Karr's departure date and said authorities were working through legal paperwork to expedite his deportation.
Karr remained under detention in Bangkok yesterday, three days after his stunning claim that he was with the six-year-old beauty pageant princess when she was killed in her family's home in Boulder, Colorado.
He told reporters he was alone with JonBenet when she died in the basement of her home on Dec. 26, 1996, but that her death was an accident.
"I am so very sorry for what happened to JonBenet," Karr said on Thursday as police brought him to his hotel to collect belongings following his arrest.
"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," he said.
US officials, the only ones to have actually interrogated Karr, have been silent about what he told them, citing his right to privacy and legal procedures.
But Thai officials have been characteristically casual about giving out information about the case, rarely qualifying its reliability.
Police statements, however, have raised questions about whether Karr is the killer or merely someone obsessed with the murder, which is one of the most notorious unsolved killings of the past decade in the US.
On Friday, Suwat backed off of certain details he had given of Karr's story -- details that had cast suspicion on his confession.
Suwat had initially quoted Karr as saying he had sexually assaulted the girl and given her drugs, even though an autopsy showed no drugs in the girl's body.
He also told reporters before a news conference that Karr had claimed to have picked up JonBenet at her school, though her death came during the holiday break.
On Friday, Suwat confirmed his account of the sexual assault.
But when asked if Karr gave the girl drugs, Suwat said the suspect had described the encounter with JonBenet Ramsey as "a blur."
Questions have also arisen over whether Karr was in Colorado at the time of the murder.
Denver attorney Larry Pozner, a past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said that there still remain "serious questions about the case."
"I hope we have found the murderer of JonBenet, but I have not heard the evidence that compels that conclusion," he said.