But Thailand's headmasters, it seems, sweat not such details. In fact, at least one Thai school administrator thought Karr's variegated experience an asset.
That currently embarrassed administrator is Banchong Chompowong, assistant director of the English immersion program at Bangkok Christian College, where 100 expatriate teachers see to the education of more than 5,000 boys. Karr worked at the school for two weeks in June as a first-grade English teacher. He seemed both polite and articulate, says Chompowong, but was fired at the end of his two-week trial for being a tad too strict.
This wasn't Karr's first shot at teaching Thai kids. Saint Joseph's Convent, an elite elementary and high school a short drive from the Christian college where parents who drive late-model BMWs shell out $7,400 a semester to get their daughters educated had hired Karr for a two- or three- week trial period earlier this year as a grade-school English teacher. "We were just seeing if he passed our standards," a senior school official who declined to be identified told TIME. "He didn't, so I fired him." She recalled that officials at Bangkok Christian College had called earlier this year to follow up on a reference Karr had given them. She said she told them that Karr hadn't passed muster.
Nobody has suggested yet that Karr behaved inappropriately with his students in Thailand. The same cannot be said for his stints as a teacher in the U.S. Gary Williams, assistant superintendent of Alabama's Franklin County School System, confirmed to TIME that John Mark Karr worked as a substitute teacher there on December 17, 18 and 19, of 1996, just days before JonBenet Ramsey was murdered. He continued as a substitute teacher until May of 1997. While there, the elementary-school principal reprimanded Karr for behaving inappropriately with students. "She suspected some things and confronted him," said Williams. "He made corrections."
That piece of work experience is tellingly missing from Karr's resume. So is his experience at the Southwest School in La Esperanza, Honduras (though his tenure at another La Esperanza school gets prominent mention). Southwest's director, Caridad Pineda Ponce, recalled that John Karr lasted at her school barely a week before he was fired in 2004. He was canned, she said, for not working within the rules and guidelines of the school.
It wasn't long after his stint in Honduras that he made his way to Thailand, entering and re-entering that country mainly on tourist visas. These visas prohibit paid work, but many foreigners flout the rule, and school administrators, eager for the cachet that comes with expatriate instructors, tend to turn a blind eye. Thailand is, however, a favored playground of globetrotting drifters. "You never really know who you're talking to in Bangkok," says an Australian teacher in St. Joseph's English immersion program who met Karr during his brief tenure there. "We've all got a past."
It's Karr's past that now has become the object of obsessive scrutiny. He will be officially deported from Thailand this weekend, and accompanied home by the U.S. officials who raided his shabby quarters in Bangkok on Wednesday. Doubts about the veracity of his confession have only multiplied since he volunteered it to the world on Thursday. But it's probably safe to assume that Karr's fruitless quest to become a grade-school teacher has finally come to an end.
with reporting by Verna Gates/Hamilton and Melanie Wetzel/Honduras