There's a good story lurking between the lines in the bizarre case of JonBenet murder suspect John Mark Karr.
And when it comes to side-stepping it, the New York Times (its National section is where we’ve always gone for legitimate tabloid news reporting) seems to be as good a place as any to start:
A series of leaked e-mail exchanges between a University of Colorado professor and a man believed to be John M. Karr, the suspect in the 1996 killing of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, were spread on the public record Friday, portraying Mr. Karr as obsessed with the youngster...
Michael Tracey, the University of Colorado journalism professor who conducted a four-year e-mail correspondence with someone who used a pseudonym-- someone the authorities have identified as Mr. Karr, Professor Tracey said-- went into seclusion Friday after The Rocky Mountain News published a sample of the e-mail that Mr. Tracey said had been crucial to the arrest…
Okay, we’ve heard a lot about JMK. But who is Michael Tracey? It’s common practice among journalists to repeat “factoids” (often inaccurate statements) when identifying a player in a story— it’s usually the first thing that was written about the person, copied and repeated in story after story.
In this case, from the beginning, Michael Tracey has been identified as a) a journalism professor (giving him credibility) and b) a documentary filmmaker (making him one of the journo pack—and an expert). But there’s apparently more to Professor Tracey, and oddly, it’s taken a self-described mercenary journo in Palm Beach, Florida to bring it to the surface.
On Thursday, while journos were scrambling and talking heads were putting on makeup and we were questioning Karr’s story, Tony Ortega of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times had already gone deeper. Like a truly great tabloid journalist, he pulled out the story between the lines, and ran with it while everyone else was fawning over Karr.
Legendary Florida investigative reporter Bob Norman had the link on his essential Daily Pulp site yesterday. We’ve sat back to see who else followed the lead. As far as we can tell, no one has, so head to the article:
This isn't the first time Colorado University Professor Michael Tracey has caused a stir by fingering a “prime suspect” in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case — only to be proved wrong.
In 2004, Tracey, a British expatriate journalism professor and documentarian, produced a film about the Ramsey murder that aired on British television but not in the United States. By then, however, Tracey was already considered a notorious developer of false leads by a large group of Internet sleuths who congregated at Forums for Justice, a website started by a radio disc jockey named Tricia Griffith.
"If you know the case and you watch Tracey's documentaries, they're filled with blatant lies. It's so easily proven," Griffith says… In Tracey's 2004 documentary, Who Killed the Pageant Queen?, the professor claimed to have stunning new evidence that was leading police to a previously unidentified "prime suspect." The documentary claimed that police were trying unsuccessfully to track down the man because he had gone "underground."
…Tracey's "prime suspect" turned out to be John Steven Gigax… However, contrary to Tracey's claim that Gigax was underground and untraceable, Griffith found him in ten minutes with a simple Google search… Griffith says Gigax immediately contacted Boulder police to see if they were really looking for him. They weren't…
After debunking Tracey's documentary, Griffith put out a news release but she says she got no media interest from it.
But what do we know? Maybe the DA has the goods, after all. Maybe there’s DNA evidence that will prove Karr is the killer of JonBenet. Maybe Karr slipped away from his loving family on Christmas and flew from Alabama to Boulder without anyone noticing. Maybe that Santa Claus bear isn‘t a red herring after all. And did you read that his mother raised him as a girl?
Meanwhile, we get the creeps every time we see that once-familiar video of the little girl all painted up and preening like a little hussy, her lipstick, mascara and perfect teeth shining even in the Christmas photos. We wonder what kind of parents would do that to their little girl. And then we wonder if this will help or hurt the box office for Little Miss Sunshine.
It’s always the story between the lines.
A tip of the Tabloid Baby hat to Tony Ortega for writing this story first… and to hard-boiled Bob Norman for taking it to the world.