Donations pour in for Missouri homeless man who returned diamond ring

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (REUTERS) - A homeless Kansas City man's decision to return a diamond engagement ring that had accidentally fallen into a cup has prompted a flood of donations from people impressed with his honesty.

More than US$167,000 (S$207,000) in contributions has poured in for Mr Billy Ray Harris, who found the diamond and platinum ring in a handful of change a woman gave him earlier this month.

Mr Harris' decision to hold onto the ring until the woman, Ms Sarah Darling, came looking for it the next day has generated worldwide praise and publicity over the Internet.

"It's unreal," said Ms Darling's husband, Mr Bill Krejci, who gave her the ring when they got engaged about four years ago.

"At first, it was just us and some friends who put money into it, and then it went national and snowballed from there." Mr Harris, who has received about 7,200 donations, could not be contacted for comment.

Ms Krejci organised the fundraiser, affiliated with the organisation GiveForward.

Money will be collected for another 78 days before it is given to Mr Harris, according to the GiveForward website, which says the homeless man will also receive financial and legal advice.

GiveForward uses a small part of donations to cover costs such as handling credit card transactions.

Mr Harris, 55, has slept under bridges, said Mr Krejci. He is a regular panhandler in Kansas City's upscale Country Club Plaza shopping district but is living in a friend's apartment this week.

In a recent interview on NBC's Today Show, Mr Harris said he considered keeping the ring. "In my heart, I just couldn't do it," he said. "I'm no saint, but I'm no devil, either."

Ms Darling had removed the ring the day she inadvertently gave it to Mr Harris because it sometimes irritates her finger, Mr Krejci said. She accidentally included it with some coins.

"She was excited and surprised to get it back," Mr Krejci said.

He gave his wife's age as in the early 30s.