A Missouri man who was known for dressing as Santa Claus during the holidays is facing child molestation charges after a 6-year-old girl came forward and told investigators about his alleged crimes. In a disturbing twist, the young girl’s mother reportedly told her to stay quiet about the crimes as they continued living with the suspect.
On Monday, officers in Garden City, Mo., arrested 36-year-old Anthony Hall while he was working at Auto Zone. Investigators say that building the case on Hall took months, but Police Chief Thomas Alber noted that officers were able to get him off the street before another Christmas, “especially being the beginning of November where people would begin to book Christmas parties that might be employing this individual and allowing him access to more children,” WDAF reports.
The victim told her mother about the incidents but the parent told her to keep quiet as they were living in the same home as Hall, police said. When investigators spoke to the mother and Hall, both reportedly denied the allegations. But their stories reportedly changed when authorities showed them illustrations that the victim handed over. Hall, a father of three, also admitted that he’s been accused of sexual contact with his children, authorities said. Chief Alber noted that investigations involving children are handled specially in order to maintain truth and tact, saying, “Children go through special interviews with specially trained forensic investigators.”
Alber also noted that pedophiles often “gravitate toward areas where children are accessible and available,” and he continued, “They’re tough cases; they’re cases that hit many people right in the heart … When the child’s a victim, it’s especially difficult.”
Hall is a staple in the small town, and WDAF notes that there are several pictures of him with children on social media in which he’s dressed as Santa, including one photo on the Garden City Police Department’s Facebook page.
According a local blog citing the arrest warrant, Hall was charged with first-degree child molestation and booked in the Cass County Jail on $25,000 bond.
The Missiouri Penal Code names first-degree child molestation as a Class A felony, which is punishable with a prison term of no less than 10 years. Since the alleged victim is less than 12 years old, if convicted, Hall will not be eligible for probation, parole or conditional release.