Police are again investigating John Mark Karr, who falsely confessed to killing JonBenet Ramsey. Diane Dimond on a trail of death threats, gender switches—and a cult called “The Immaculates.”
The photograph on the Washington State’s driver’s license features a woman with short dark hair, stylishly feathered around her face. Her makeup appears professionally applied over smooth, soft skin. Her bangs tickle the tops of her thin horned-rimmed prescription glasses, her earlobes sparkle with a small pair of sparkly studs.
“If you cost me my little girls I will hunt you down and kill you.”
The license is issued to Delia Alexis Reich, the female identity of a man, I have learned, known to the world as John Mark Karr, infamous for confessing—falsely—to killing little beauty-pageant contestant JonBenet Ramsey. Karr/Reich dropped out of sight in 2006, after briefly dominating national headlines, but the former elementary-school teacher’s dark, dangerous behavior has apparently continued, even as police and federal agents overlooked ominous, predatory warning signs.
The Daily Beast has spent several weeks tracking Karr/Reich—it’s unclear whether he had a sex change operation, but a Seattle court officially switched the gender identity in December 2008—scouring through emails he recently sent to a host of people, including this reporter, as well as court and police records and disturbing audiotapes and Skype conversations. Among the revelations:
• One former “fiancée” says that as recently as two months ago, Karr/Reich enlisted her to recruit girls 6 years old or under, preferably brunette, for a sex cult she called “The Immaculates.”
• A police probe of Karr/Reich was more expansive than originally thought—a 2001 child-porn case against him was dropped after Karr’s computer was thrown out by authorities—involving molestation suspicions, four states and the FBI.
• Karr/Reich’s first wife told police that she married him when she was 13, and was forced into a series of dangerous, degrading sex acts.
• Karr/Reich maintained a correspondence with the killer of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, Richard Allen Davis.
• Karr/Reich continues to maintain that she killed JonBenet Ramsey.
• At least two police departments—in San Francisco and Seattle—are investigating Karr/Reich.
The Daily Beast made repeated attempts to communicate with Karr/Reich.
On May 17, he was informed, via his private email address, that his ex-fiancée has accused her of encouraging others to recruit a cult of young girls for sex, and threatening her life, sharing emails to back up her story.
At 4:53 p.m., Karr/Reich responded, “Do you make a difference in the lives of children with your research or do you only blast pedophiles and talk the rhetoric of the severe punishment they deserve? Aren’t the children the matter at hand and not the pedophiles? Do you consider me a pedophile?
“You’d have to prove that with more than rumor. If you do accuse me of such, I deny the accusation emphatically.”
A short while later, he wrote again, “In 2006, I confessed to the whole world who I was…. Do good for little boys and little girls, Ms. Dimond. I know you will. We’re on the same team.”
And then the communication stopped.
The latest accusations involve Samantha Spiegel, Karr’s former elementary-school student, who until two months ago, was corresponding regularly with Karr/Reich, who implored Spiegel to be on the lookout for suitable candidates for “the Immaculates,” writing of his desire to “taste young sex again,” according to her email records.
“Ideally [Karr/Reich wanted] people with children or children themselves, like me,” Spiegel, now 19, tells The Daily Beast. “I was a recruit, not only a recruiter. There was no talk of kidnapping. I was only supposed to be a means to give him access to children…. And, yes, he wanted to have sex with them.”
Dismissed in 2006 as a kook—following a media circus that involved his JonBenet confession, his extradition from Thailand and then the declaration by Boulder, Colorado, police that his bizarre claims were phony—Karr/Reich has had an active four years.
Karr/Reich’s first stop in 2006, after leaving Boulder, was Sonoma County, California, where he faced outstanding charges from a 2001 child-porn case, which had led him to go on the run to Thailand in the first place. Those charges were ultimately dropped after local prosecutors admitted that Karr’s confiscated computer had been destroyed.
A Sonoma County Sheriff’s report obtained by The Daily Beast, however, reveals that in 2001 detectives weren’t simply investigating Karr/Reich for possession of child porn. An informant supplied emails and ultimately, police-sanctioned tape recordings, of Karr/Reich waxing poetic about his lust for his young female students. “It is too bad you never got to enjoy a bath time with a little girl,” he wrote in one. “It really is a wonderful experience.”
In addition, the police report reveals detectives played a tape for Karr/Reich’s second wife, Lara, in which he “described passionately kissing the young girl all over her body.” This investigation probed Karr/Reich’s actions in three other states: Georgia, Alabama, and Colorado.
On April 16, 2001, a statement was taken from Karr/Reich’s first wife, identified only as Q.S. She claims she married Karr/Reich in Alabama when she was 13, a marriage marked by “fear and intimidation,” after Karr/Reich forged her age on their marriage certificate. She said her husband used to dress up in her clothing (dresses, nylons, and bras) and wear his own makeup. He forced her to wear pigtails and be pushed on playground swings against her will. He ordered her to smile a certain way, with her mouth open, “because it made her look like when she was younger.” She reported Karr/Reich insisted on having sex mornings, afternoons, and evenings, “no matter what.”
In one passage in the police report, Q.S. told of her husband hauling her down to the basement of the family home in Georgia and telling her that “he had killed some young children” and buried them there. Karr wanted her to urinate and defecate on the floor so they could have sex in the excrement. Q.S. says she refused. Their marriage was annulled less than a year after their June 1984 wedding.
Also in 2001, FBI San Francisco Sex Crimes Bureau Special Agent Elizabeth Castanedo launched her own computer investigation into Karr/Reich’s activities. Two profilers labeled Karr/Reich as a man with a “definite proclivity toward pedophilia.”
The 2001 police report also details Karr/Reich’s fascination with the contemporary child kidnapping and murder case of 12-year-old Polly Klaas. Karr was consumed with getting to know her killer, Richard Allen Davis. He wrote to the informant: “When you talked about the way you thought Richard killed Polly at the end of a perfect love-making session as part of a ritual, well, I thought about how many times I wished that had happened to me.” When police went into Karr/Reich’s home with a search warrant on April 3, 2001, they found letters from Davis to Karr/Reich, photographs of Karr/Reich wearing makeup, hundreds of photos of small children and a .38 semiautomatic pistol.
But once the district attorney dropped the porn case in 2006, because of the mishandled evidence, the wider investigation, stale for five years, effectively shut down.
Now free from legal scrutiny, Karr/Reich surfaced in rural Georgia at the home of his father. He became engaged to a cocktail waitress named Brooke Simmons, a 23 year old with a 4-year-old daughter, and announced to the television program Inside Edition that he was putting aside his sex-change hormone treatments because Brooke wanted him to.
After that relationship ended, Karr/Reich’s primary interest once again focused exclusively on “his little girls, his little Princesses,” as he wrote in an email to an acquaintance during this time. In one taped telephone conversation obtained by The Daily Beast, he frequently refers “to the little girl in Europe I had sex with,” but in the same breath says the girl’s mother sanctioned the sex.
In the phone call, made in October 2007, Karr/Reich begs to be allowed to talk about JonBenet, how he killed her and to read from what he calls “my manuscript.” He assumes his alter-character, “Daxis,” and his voice turns husky and sexually charged as he reads.
“Oh, God, I am back in her bedroom but this time, she is here. The bed I once draped myself across is now sweetly occupied by my little Princess…. I must linger over your peaceful slumber for just a few moments before I take you…. her nose is so darling, soon to smell her lover.”
While Karr/Reich and his family have recently told people she is “living in Europe” or “has just moved to China,” multiple sources familiar with her online habits say that she is living in Seattle.
Those Internet habits have included recruiting followers to try to procure young girls, according to Spiegel, her former fourth-grade student at San Francisco’s Convent of the Sacred Heart School who became part of a group Karr/Reich dubbed the “Private Protectors,” who could deal with the outside world while Karr/Reich remained cloaked in his new female persona.
“All the kids were in love with Mr. Karr,” Spiegel tells The Daily Beast. He was the teacher every child, “could hardly wait to see every day, [because] he’s just so good with children.”
Karr didn’t last long in that job—he was mysteriously fired after just 20 days—but when Spiegel, who had developed a drug addiction, recognized him on television, as he was extradited from Thailand in the Ramsey case, she reached out. He immediately glommed onto her, despite still being engaged to Simmons at the time.
“I had to listen to him all the time talk about how heartbroken and bitter he was about Brooke,” Spiegel says.
It didn’t take long for Karr/Reich to start calling Spiegel his fiancée. He sent her hundreds of emails each week. “It’s scary looking back now,” Spiegel says. “I would have sheltered him, or killed for him to be completely honest…” and her voice trails off in a sheepish tone.
Spiegel’s parents saw her dangerous behavior, as well as a simultaneous drug addiction, and placed her in a treatment center for 16 months, away from Karr/Reich’s influence.
But upon her return home this past December, the email flow continued. Reich was writing under numerous noms du plume, including Daxis the Conqueror, Drk Prnz (Dark Prince), and Alexis. She would talk about becoming a woman—but still insisted on recruits for “The Immaculates,” writing two months ago, at 12:51 p.m. on March 29th, that “I still want that little (girl) cult!”
On April 10, at 2:53 p.m., she wrote: “I can help you, [with drugs] Samantha. But if I find you have been deceiving me I will kill you and laugh as you die. Do you understand me?”
When Spiegel didn’t respond quickly, another email followed 17 minutes later:
“Give me your house phone number. If you cost me my little girls I will hunt you down and kill you.”
Emails like these caused Spiegel to report the death threats to the San Francisco Police Department. She then filed papers for a civil harassment restraining order, claiming the threats were “continued ongoing death threats; threats of sexual exploitation of children; and death threats toward other known associates.” She specifically listed her parents and Brooke Simmons as potential targets.
Spiegel’s attorney, former Los Angeles sex-crimes prosecutor Robin Sax, terms Karr/Reich “crazy dangerous,” and believes Karr/Reich has other “personal protectors” under her influence. (Note: Sax and Spiegel will be appearing on the Today show on Wednesday morning to discuss John Mark Karr.)
After taking Spiegel’s police report, San Francisco authorities alerted the Seattle Sherriff’s Department, tasked with serving a restraining order. While Karr/Reich’s last known location was a women’s homeless shelter in the Pioneer Square area of downtown Seattle, they have been since unable to locate him. But The Daily Beast has independently confirmed that he remains inexorably tied to her computer keyboard, communicating with others via the Internet.
Investigative journalist and syndicated columnist Diane Dimond has covered the Michael Jackson story since 1993 when she first broke the news that the King of Pop was under investigation for child molestation. She is author of the book, Be Careful Who You Love—Inside the Michael Jackson Case. She lives in New York with her husband, broadcast journalist Michael Schoen. She will be appearing on Wednesday morning on the Today show, with Samantha Spiegel, to discuss the dangerous new life of John Mark Karr/Delia Reich.