Charity volunteer falsely accused of stealing teddy bears in mix-up

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A new twist in a teddy bear caper that had metro Detroit bearing a grudge against a suspected Grinch.

Dozens of handmade teddy bears intended for children in need suddenly went missing right before the holidays. But an 18-year-old girl who was just trying to help kids with autism is an unfortunate causality in all of this.
Sarah Rainey wants to clear her name.

"It really still doesn't feel real that it happened," she said.

Rainey, 18, may look familiar because just before Christmas her picture was splashed all over the media after Northville Township police pegged her as a heartless teddy bear bandit. But it was just a big misunderstanding. 

"I work at a non-profit for kids with autism," she said. "I was just doing a good thing for the company and for all the kids. They were saying that I ruined Christmas for children, it was shocking."

Sarah works for Northville's Living and Learning Center which helps teens and adults with autism. It started when she went to collect cans and bottles from a company who allows the non-profit to cash them in and put the money toward their programs.

But instead of giving the garbage bags full or returnables to Sarah, the worker handed over bags of 80 handmade teddy bears that were supposed to be donated to the children of battered women staying at Oakland County's Haven shelter.

"I guess they just assumed I was from the place to pick up all the bears," she said. "And they brought out four big black trash bags so I couldn't see what was inside any of them and they put them in my car."

Sarah took the bags to Executive Director Rochelle Vartanian's garage but before the mistake was discovered - the company had already called the police and police alerted the media, who shared the story in hopes of finding the person responsible.

"I want to clear her name," Vartanian said. "This is such an amazing person and I'm just really upset that it happened."

Although police and the company realized all of this was a big misunderstanding and the employee handed over the wrong bags, the public had already turned against Sarah who started getting threats online.

"All the comments were 'She should die' and 'I wish those were real bears so they would maul her.'" Sarah said. "It is just frustrating because they don't know the story at all."

The company has now given all the teddy bears to Sarah, who plans to donate the stuffed animals to children in need. In the meantime, the girl in this surveillance video wants people to know she did nothing wrong.

"That was the biggest thing, what if I go to get a job in the future and someone sees this," she said.

Despite what happened we want to let people know kids at the Haven shelter still got teddy bears in time for Christmas. Now these teddy bears will be donated to another charity for children.