Original post, 5:50 a.m.: Aurora theater shooting survivor Carli Richards was hit with 22 birdshot pellets on July 20, 2012 as she fled from a black-clad gunman who entered the theater and opened fire. Now, Richards is selling one of the pellets recovered from her body for $1,650.
The pellet is for sale on SerialKillersInk.net, a website that sells so-called "murderabilia." Among the items for sale: signed photographs of Charles Manson, paintings by John Wayne Gacy and a Christmas card sent by Ted Bundy.
Richards had seen site owner Eric Holler on an episode of the National Geographic television show Taboo (see the clip below). The episode also featured murderabilia critics who say Holler and his ilk are profiting from the suffering of victims.
But Richards had a different proposition for Holler: She asked if he could help her sell one of the pellets because she has bills to pay and has struggled financially since the shooting. Post-traumatic stress disorder has made it hard for her to keep a job; she lost one position delivering pizzas when she had a flashback in which she opened a bottle of water in her car and started smelling tear gas. After she told her employer that she had to go home, she was let go. Though she's since found a new job, Richards says she's fallen behind on her car payments and insurance bills. And she says she's had to fight to get the victims' compensation fund to assist with her medication and therapy co-pays.
"I can't afford to pay rent, so I'm staying with friends," Richards says. "If it wasn't for kindness of others, I would be homeless and living out of my car."Holler agreed to help -- and he went a step further, offering to give Richards all the profits from the sale and help set up an IndieGoGo fundraising webpage for her. Holler, who lives in Florida and has been selling murderabilia for twenty years, says Richards is the first victim to ever contact him looking to sell something.
That she felt she had to makes him angry.
"It's a sad social commentary that this woman has to come to me, a memorabilia true-crime dealer, because I have the network where I can sell her items and sell them for a high price," he says. "It's a shame that the government isn't doing more to help her. It's a shame that victim advocacy groups that speak out against me and what I'm doing haven't helped her.... I'm doing this for one reason, and that's to help her."
Richards feels the same way. "I just think it's ironic that I had to reach out to the murderabilia guy," she says, adding that she understands some people might criticize her decision. "People are going to frown upon it, but I don't understand. Why don't they frown upon the systems that they say are in place to help people that don't help people?"The pellet for sale is one of two that remained in Richards's body for more than two years until it began causing her pain and was removed by a surgeon in September 2014. Holler is selling it along with a letter of authenticity from Richards and a signed photograph taken shortly after the shooting. He expects it will sell quickly because the demand for items related to accused theater shooter James Holmes is high and the supply is low. The pellet, Holler says, may be the only item for sale anywhere.
"People have e-mailed me for the last two years asking if I had or could get a hold of anything related to James Holmes," says Holler. Many of the e-mails, he says, are from Holmes followers who call themselves "Holmies."
Richards has a history with Holmes's followers, some of whom have harassed her online, calling her a liar, an actor and a government pawn. Richards says she has mixed feelings about the possibility that one of them will buy the pellet. But, she says, "the sale is going to someone who was victimized by him, rather than people who are continuing to victimize."
"This whole thing isn't for publicity," Holler says. "It's not for kicks. It's to help her pay her bills." Holler says his customers are diverse, and he thinks the pellet might be bought by a museum or by a vendor who sells items at "horror conventions," which are like comic book conventions for people who are obsessed with horror movies and books.
Holler has never sold a bullet before, and he says he based the price on other high-demand items he's sold. The timing of the sale is purposeful, Holler says: Jury selection for Holmes's trial started on Tuesday.