Off Limits

The right to arm bears: No, the world doesn't need any more Beanie-esque lions, tigers or bears, but don't tell Virginia Davis. She has sold 2,500 Columbine Remembrance Bears from her two stores, Celebrations in Aurora and Dee's Neat Little Store in Littleton. The adorable teddies retail for $23.98 a pair, and Davis has used the profits to raise about $5,000 for some of the victims of the massacre (her largest donation so far was a $1,000 gift to the family of one of the injured students). Davis has also mailed a set of the ribbon-wearing bears--one blue, one silver--to each of the hospitalized victims and to the families of those who died.

Davis also owns New Hope Creations, the little company that designs and sells the bears--though she's reluctant to admit it. "If anyone is going to throw rocks, I don't want them to throw them at me, and if they are going to throw compliments, I don't want them to throw them at me, either," she says. Although Davis granted her own stores the exclusive right to sell the bears for the first few months after Columbine, she is now marketing them to other gift stores around the country.

The endeavor hasn't been all smiles, however. "People ask me why I'm trying to make money off dead people," Davis says. "This wasn't set up to make somebody rich but to make somebody feel better. I had one person call up who was very mean. They said, 'What are you going to do next--make a Holocaust bear or a Ted Bundy bear?'"

Last month, Davis realized--to her horror--that a couple of the big Chinese corporations that make and export plush toys also make and export AK-47s and other guns. One of them, North China Industries Corporation, advertises both products on its Web site. Although Davis says she doesn't know the name of the Chinese company that sells her the bears, a representative assured her that her factory makes only toys.

Then there was the family of one of the victims--Davis refuses to name names--who called to say, "We want our money. We need it worse. Why haven't we received a check from you?"

"But it's my money," Davis says. "So I feel like I can choose who it goes to. It's hard to decide, because you hear about a lot of families that need it worse."

Davis says it costs about $5.40 to buy the bears from China and pay her taxes and other expenses. She then sells them to her stores for $6.75 wholesale and donates the difference, along with 25 cents from the retail sale of each bear. "I do make a profit from Celebrations," she admits. "You can't stay in business forever if you do everything for free." And Davis doesn't plan to: Next up are bears to help raise money for everything from breast cancer to pediatric AIDS.

Her biggest challenge may be yet to come. Davis has reserved a set of bears each for the families of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, though she hasn't sent them. "To tell the truth, I would love to do something for those families," she says. "They are hurting as much as anyone, but I don't want what I do to cause any more trouble, and I haven't figured out if they would even accept them."

Moldering in Boulder: Unlike the Columbine bears now in circulation, the elusive Santa Bear sought by investigators in the JonBenet Ramsey case apparently still hasn't surfaced. And it'll take a lot more than money--Boulder DA Alex Hunter wants an additional $57,000 to fund the grand jury through October--to solve that case. Whatever one makes of Denver author Stephen Singular's new book Presumed Guilty: An Investigation into the JonBenet Ramsey Case, the Media, and the Culture of Pornography, it does provide some insight into the evidentiary and political stalemate police and prosecutors have been facing almost from the start.

Singular's offbeat book focuses on possible links between JonBenet's murder and the murky underworld of child porn. While pleading with the reader to keep an open mind, he cruises the Internet, visits an astrologer and tracks down Boulder kiddie-porn pushers. He also swaps theories with gung-ho Globe reporter Jeff Shapiro ("I'm gonna get Patsy Ramsey locked up rich and famous and on every talk show in America," Shapiro boasts) and stolid cops and private eyes.

But the most intriguing aspect involves several conversations (loaded with pregnant pauses) with Hunter, who comes off as a rather lonely fellow, at war with the cops and eager to leak privileged info to favored journalists who he hopes will bring him some tidbit overlooked by his crack police team. As late as February of this year, Singular writes, he called Hunter and asked him if he was still keeping an open mind. "It's absolutely not too late to investigate new things," Hunter replied. Apparently, it never will be.

Off Limits is compiled by Jonathan Shikes. If you have a tip, call him at 303-293-3555 or e-mail [email protected].

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes

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