GARDEN CITY, Mo. – A Missouri man who dresses up as Santa Claus every year has been arrested, accused of molesting a young girl, according to police.
Anthony Hall, 36, was trusted by many in the community of less than 2,000, Garden City Police Chief Thomas Alber told WDAF. He was a part of their families' holiday memories. Alber says he now fears there may be more young victims.
Officers arrested Hall Monday morning at his job at Auto Zone in Harrisonville. He's charged with child molestation after allegedly sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl.
Hall is known for dressing up like Santa Claus around the holidays and can be seen in photos on social media, even in a 2014 Christmas picture on the police department's Facebook page.
"People with these tendencies gravitate toward areas where children are accessible and available," Alber said. "They’re tough cases; they’re cases that hit many people right in the heart."
Investigators said that the girl and her mother were living with Hall when the alleged crime happened. When the girl told her mother, she told the victim not to tell and continued living in the same home as Hall, police said. Both Hall and the victim's mother denied everything at first but changed their stories after they were shown illustrations the girl gave investigators, according to court documents.
Chief Alber said that, along with the police, other agencies are involved, including the Missouri Department of Social Services.
"Children go through special interviews with specially-trained forensic investigators," Alber said.
The chief said working the case took months, but Hall's arrest was timely. "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," Alber said.
With four daughters of his own, Chief Alber said he's glad a man facing these types of charges is off the streets.
"When the child’s a victim, it’s especially difficult," Chief Alber said. "We take a great deal of time and care in investigating these cases."
Hall admitted to investigators he's been accused in the past of inappropriate sexual contact with each of his own three children.