BOULDER, Colo. – Patsy Ramsey knew before she died of cancer in June that police were looking into a potential suspect in the gruesome death of 6-year-old daughter JonBenet nearly 10 years ago.
She didn't live to see what her husband and attorney call complete vindication: The arrest of a suspect in the little girl's slaying, and his confession to reporters Thursday that he was "with JonBenet when she died."
Former schoolteacher John Mark Karr, 41, was arrested Wednesday at an apartment in Bangkok, Thailand, where he said the death was "an accident."
But even before the confession, the Ramsey family was heralding news they hoped would finally end the suspicion that has hung over the parents of the 6-year-old beauty pageant contestant.
Timeline: The JonBenet Ramsey Murder Investigation
"Patsy was aware that authorities were close to making an arrest in the case and had she lived to see this day, would no doubt have been as pleased as I am," said John Ramsey, the girl's father, in a statement.
Ramsey family attorney Lin Wood said Karr had tried to correspond with Patsy Ramsey in the months before her death. Ramsey did not reply, but handed the information over to investigators, helping to link Karr to the case, Wood said. He said he did not know the contents of the correspondence.
Wood also would not say how the Ramseys knew Karr, though JonBenet was born in Atlanta in 1990, and the Ramseys lived in the Atlanta suburb of Dunwoody for several years before moving to Colorado in 1991. Karr was a teacher who once lived in Conyers, Ga., another Atlanta suburb, according to Wood.
"John and Patsy lived their lives knowing they were innocent, trying to raise a son despite the furor around them," Wood said. "It's been a very long 10 years, and I'm just sorry Patsy isn't here for me to hug her neck."
Pamela Paugh, Patsy Ramsey's sister, told CBS' "The Early Show" on Thursday that the couple was "kept very well informed in private and closed meetings" about the investigation.
"To that end, Patsy would have known very in-depth information about this gentleman that they were looking at as a possible suspect," Paugh said. "Did she know that they were going to actually make an arrest? She probably had a hint but I'm sure where she is right now she knows. So we're pleased about that."
Karr's father, Wexford Karr of Atlanta, told The Denver Post that he feared his son may have been dead before Wednesday's arrest because he hadn't heard from him in several years.
The Post reported that Karr disappeared after being released from jail in 2001 in California where he had been held on child pornography charges. Wexford Karr told the newspaper that his son had told him he was behind bars in connection with the Ramsey case.
Sonoma County Chief Deputy District Attorney Joan Risse confirmed the pornography charges and an outstanding arrest warrant against a John M. Karr, though she cautioned she didn't know if he was the same person held in the Ramsey case.
District Attorney Mary Lacy said the arrest followed several months of work, but she said no details would be released until a news conference on Thursday.
Wood told The Associated Press on Thursday that Karr sent numerous e-mails over the last several months to a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, making statements in them about JonBenet's death. The e-mails also helped link Karr to the crime, he said.
"There is information about the murder that has never been publicly disclosed," Wood said.
A spokesman for the University of Colorado, Barrie Hartman, confirmed that journalism professor Michael Tracey communicated with Karr over several months and contacted police.
Tracey, who produced a documentary in 2004 called "Who Killed JonBenet?," could not be located for comment. A woman who answered the phone at a number under his name said he didn't live there anymore; his office phone mailbox was full.
JonBenet was found beaten and strangled in the basement of the family's home in Boulder on Dec. 26, 1996. Patsy Ramsey reported finding a ransom note in the house demanding $118,000 for her daughter.
The image of little blonde-haired JonBenet in a cowgirl costume and other beauty pageant outfits has haunted TV talk shows ever since, helping feed myriad theories about her killer, and the case became one of the most sensational unsolved murder cases in the nation.
Over the years, some experts suggested that investigators had botched the case so thoroughly that it might never be solved.
Investigators at one point said JonBenet's parents were under an "umbrella of suspicion" in the slaying. And some news accounts cast suspicion on JonBenet's older brother, Burke. But the Ramseys insisted an intruder killed their daughter, and no one was ever charged.
In the months after the slaying, Patsy Ramsey went before the cameras, vigorously defending herself and her husband, chastising the media and blasting local law enforcement as incompetent.
The Ramseys moved back to Atlanta after their daughter's slaying.
Patsy Ramsey's sister, Pam Paugh of Roswell, Ga., said the family was celebrating the news of the arrest. "We are elated. We are elated. If this is, in fact, the killer, then we have a very heinous killer off the streets to never harm another child," Paugh said.
A Petaluma woman who said she was Karr's ex-wife told KGO-TV in San Francisco that they got divorced after his arrest. Lara Karr said her ex-husband spent a lot of time reading up on the cases of Ramsey and Polly Klaas, who was abducted from her Petaluma home and slain in 1993. She said she does not believe her former husband was involved in JonBenet's killing and said she was with him in Alabama at the time of the homicide.
DNA was found beneath JonBenet's fingernails and inside her underwear, but Wood said two years ago that detectives were unable to match it to anyone in an FBI database. It was not known Wednesday whether investigators had any DNA evidence against Karr.
Lib Waters of Marietta, Ga., visited the graves of Patsy and JonBenet Ramsey in the Atlanta suburb after hearing news reports about the arrest.
Waters, who described herself as a longtime friend of the Ramsey family, taped a piece of notebook paper to JonBenet Ramsey's headstone that read: "Dearest Patsy, Justice has come for you and Jon. Rest in peace."