Thursday, August 24, 2006
It’s a small world – no doubt.
The top news news story on all the major TV networks since Wednesday evening of last week has been the confession of John Mark Karr, saying he “accidentally” killed 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey 10 years ago in Boulder, Colo.
I saw the story initially and thought, “Wow, I can’t believe they finally made an arrest. That’s great.”
Thursday morning, I called one of my best friends, Les Walters, editor of The Journal-Record, the bi-weekly newspaper in my hometown, Hamilton, Ala., about a totally different topic.
He told me things were “crazy” at his place because the guy nabbed over in Bangkok, Thailand, in connection with the murder of JonBenet was from Hamilton. He was having to rework his planned front page for the weekend edition.
I didn’t think I heard him correctly.
“What did you say?”
“John Karr, he went to Hamilton High School,” Les said. “Do you remember him?”
Stunned, I thought a few seconds, then said “no.”
Les said he was about four years behind me in school.
Suddenly, one of the focal points of this international news story was the small town in Alabama where I grew up. It was a creepy feeling.
Later that day, I talked to both my sisters, who still live in Hamilton. They said the town had rapidly turned into a media circus – television crews and reporters parked outside the schools.
That night, on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox News, local Channel 9 out of Tupelo, I saw things like the “Welcome to Hamilton” sign, the elementary school (which wasn’t built when when I graduated back in 1979), the high school (which is the same building where I attended) and interviews with Bravell Jackson, superintendent of education, who was a teacher in my school days.
I still didn’t recognize John Mark Karr.
Then I dug out the old high school yearbooks. There he was. When I was a senior, he was in the eighth grade. I remembered the face, but I didn’t know the guy.
It was a medium-sized school, classes of just over 100.
Karr also attended the University of North Alabama, sometime after 1996 when the murder took place. That, too, is my alma mater. I graduated from UNA in 1984. On TV last week, I saw footage of familiar buildings on the UNA campus.
Friday, on various websites, I read quotes from former students and teachers at Hamilton High School about John Mark Karr. One said he never graduated from HHS, leaving the school about six weeks into his senior year. He would have graduated in 1983.
According to reports, he served as an elementary substitute teacher briefly in familiar places (to me) like Hamilton, Vina and Winfield. He was a student teacher for a short period at Kilby, an elementary school on the UNA campus. At all places, it seems he left due to suspicious activity. As one superintendent put it, he was too friendly with some of the young female students.
The big question after the arrest quickly became whether or not John Mark Karr was telling the truth or lying.
Then I saw those words he signed in a friend’s HHS yearbook – “Though, deep in the future, maybe I shall be the conqueror and live in multiple peace.”
The bottom of the ransom note found in the Ramsey home was signed – “S.B.T.C.” Does that stand for, “Shall be the conqueror?”
I normally don’t follow cases like this very closely. They upset me. They make me mad.
I will continue to watch this one unfold because it directly involves my hometown, my high school and my college. Karr was back in the states Monday, awaiting transfer to Boulder.
Evidence, particularly DNA, will tell the true story.
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