Santa Bear
New twist in Ramsey case
Investigators ask public to help identify stuffed toy in photo
By Matt Sebastian
Camera Staff Writer

Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter, in a highly unusual move, appealed to the public Thursday to help identify a stuffed bear somehow connected to the JonBenét Ramsey murder investigation.
With no explanation of the toy's role in the 2-year-old investigation, the district attorney's office posted a photograph on the Internet of the furry white bear, dressed in a Santa Claus suit.
Investigators are trying to determine the bear's manufacturer and where such a stuffed animal could have been purchased in 1996 or earlier.
Such queries seem to imply detectives don't believe the bear belonged to JonBenét and now must find out who bought it and how it came to be in a crime-scene photo, presumably taken in the 6-year-old's bedroom.
"I make this public request for assistance knowing that it will give rise to considerable speculation about the status of the Ramsey case," Hunter said in a prepared statement released Thursday. "I intend to let this speculation take whatever course it will since to confirm or deny theories about what all this means would most certainly damage the ongoing investigation."
Suzanne Laurion, the district attorney's spokeswoman, would not elaborate on where the bear was photographed, whether police seized it as evidence or if the Ramseys have denied owning such a toy.
"We have nothing more to say," Laurion said Thursday.
Six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her parents' Boulder home Dec. 26, 1996.
Police have named no suspects, although JonBenét's parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, remain under suspicion. They repeatedly have denied any involvement in their daughter's death.
Hunter convened the county's grand jury in September to investigate the case. The 12 jurors and five alternates met again Thursday.
A Ramsey attorney also declined Thursday to discuss the mysterious stuffed bear.
Despite having observed police present their entire case last June, at least one member of Hunter's prosecution team was completely unaware of the bear.
"I don't know anything about it," Adams County District Attorney Bob Grant said. "This is the first I've heard of it."
Judging from the grainy photograph, the bear appears to be lying next to a Barbie doll on a bed spread or comforter.
The search warrant affidavit filed in Boulder District Court for the Ramseys' 15th Street home lists no stuffed animals in the inventory of items seized by detectives. A comforter from JonBenét's bed, as well as sheets and a pillowcase, are listed, though.
Denver legal analyst Andrew Cohen believes the district attorney's handling of this situation insinuates the bear is missing.
"If they had the bear, they'd say, 'We have this bear and we want to know where it comes from,' " Cohen said Thursday. "The ambiguity of it all probably suggests that they don't."
But the air of mystery surrounding the toy may not necessarily mean it's connected to the killer.
"You can't leap to the conclusion that the bear was used to lure the little girl out of her bedroom to the basement where she met her death," Cohen said.
Joseph Matthews, a retired Miami Beach homicide investigator, believes detectives are just wrapping up all the loose ends of their case.
"There's a game plan by the defense attorneys to come up with enough reasonable doubt that they could present to the jury if this could ever go to trial," Matthews said.
A stuffed animal that no one can explain could easily be used to raise such doubt and, therefore, must be checked out, the former detective said.
Investigators also could be doing the same thing in their quest to match unidentified DNA found on JonBenét's body and clothing. As recently as this month, detectives continued to take samples in hopes of identifying the unknown genetic material.
"I think they're just covering all the bases now," Matthews said.
According to the DA's office, the bear is about a foot long, with its torso and face covered in white, furry fabric. It's wearing a red Santa jacket, pants and a hat.
The clothing is trimmed along the edges with material that looks like curly lamb's wool. A half-inch-wide black belt is strapped around the bear's stomach. Attached to the belt with a shiny gold loop is brown pouch, about three inches long.
Any information on this specific bear, including photographs of possible matches, should be sent to Hunter, in care of the Boulder County District Attorney's Office, 1777 Sixth St., Boulder 80302

January 29, 1999 |
DA calls bear a close match

Michigan police department has been searching for teddy bear's manufacturer since December

By Christopher Anderson
Camera Staff Writer

Prosecutors working to solve the murder of JonBenét Ramsey said Saturday that they may have found the kind of Christmas teddy bear they have been searching for since late last year.

The Boulder County District Attorney's Office also confirmed that a Michigan police department had been quietly working to find the stuffed bear since before Christmas.

Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter is calling a Santa bear retrieved from a Denver woman's home on Friday "a close match," spokeswoman Suzanne Laurion said Saturday.

It has been reported that the grand jury investigating JonBenét's death is interested in learning about the manufacture and sales of the Santa bear because one was found on a bed in JonBenét's bedroom near the time of her murder, but is now apparently missing. JonBenét's aunt, Pam Paugh, recently told a reporter that a note was found in a pouch the bear had tied around its waist, but search warrants do not list any such note as evidence collected at the crime scene.

Prosecutors working with the grand jury appealed for the public's help Thursday through news media and the Internet, hoping to find a similar bear. A Denver woman who saw the district attorney's appeal and photo of the bear on a television broadcast turned over her bear to officials on Friday. Officials hope the bear will lead to information about who manufactured it, when and where it was available for sale and which distributing companies shipped it.

"It appears it will give us some of this information," Laurion said.

But just in case it is not the same type of bear they were looking for, officials are still asking for all the tips they can get, Laurion said, adding there will be an announcement when prosecutors are confident they found what they needed.

Hunter and grand jury specialist Michael Kane spent part of the day in the prosecutors' "war room" Saturday reviewing the tips and other information related to the Ramsey investigation, Laurion said.

Laurion confirmed Saturday that the Coldwater Police Department in Michigan had been searching for the bear since "late last year."

A Coldwater Police Department site on the World Wide Web that included two photographs of the teddy bear — but no mention of any connection with the Ramsey case — was posted sometime before Christmas, said Coldwater police officer Charles Spring.

"Our investigators spent time looking all over, calling across the country, and we still didn't know what it was all about," Spring said.

Unlike the Boulder County District Attorney's public appeal that generated more than 200 tips in two days, the Coldwater police department's Web site did not elicit a single response.

"We've had it up for quite a while," Spring said.

The Ramseys also had a vacation home in Charlevoix, in northwest Mich., which is more than 300 miles away from Coldwater, a small town near the southern border of the state. Laurion said she did not know if there was any connection.

"Our goal was to conduct a search from a distant police department. When this effort failed, we knew our next step was to issue a plea for assistance from the general public, which we did on Thursday," Laurion said.

JonBenét's body was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her family's home Dec. 26, 1996. Her parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, have been the focus of the murder investigation, but the couple has repeatedly declared they had no involvement in their daughter's death. The couple's attorneys have said they are willing to testify before the grand jury that has been investigating the murder since mid-September.

—Camera Staff Writer Matt Sebastian and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

January 31, 1999
In the end, Donna LaGriego identified the bear as one given to JonBenet as part of her "pageant loot". It had nothing to do with the crime, a red herring. The family just didn't remember it.

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