By Sarah Craig
A local resident posing as Santa Claus was arrested with charges of child kidnapping on Dec. 6, 2008 at the Ithaca Mall.
The arrest of Edgar Hughes, a 57-year-old white male who was dressed in a worn, red jumpsuit at the time, led to the arrests of two other individuals on drug charges.
The mall Santa allegedly promised 8-year-old Billy Patterson presents and a chance to meet Rudolph if he came back with him to “The South Pole.”
“He said there would be candy! Lots of candy!” Billy said. “But there wasn’t any. Not even a candy cane! It wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be.”
The South Pole was actually a farm half an hour away from the mall where Edgar Hughes has lived for three years. The house was covered with cheap Christmas decorations, complete with a fake tree in every room.
There was “snow” everywhere: Three grams of pure cocaine was found in his house, along with 6 ounces of marijuana.
“We hadn’t been expecting to make this big of a bust going in,” said policeman John Ritter. “Apparently, Santa’s been the naughty one this year.”
The “merry appearance” of Edgar Hughes included rosy cheeks, twinkling eyes and a jolly belly. However, authorities believe the red blotches and stomach were due to prolonged alcohol abuse and his “twinkling” eyes glazed over from smoking too much marijuana.
After police confronted Edgar Hughes at his residence, he said he had evidence to defend his claim that he was the “real” Santa Claus. However, his “proof” turned out to be his roommates: his two relatives who seem to believe they are “The Easter Bunny” and “The Tooth Fairy.” Lee Hughes, who goes by “Bunny,” is a white male in his mid 40s who was wearing a gray sweat suit and a pair of bunny ears at the time of his arrest. Caroline Hughes, who prefers to be called “Fairy,” was a white female in her early 40s with a blue tutu and a dollar store tiara.
Authorities believe the relatives used their aliases to run a cocaine distribution ring.
“You know that money kids get under their pillow in exchange for a tooth? That’s all me! I give money to kids. It makes them happy. I don’t understand why I’m in trouble for that,” Caroline Hughes said before authorities handcuffed her.
Authorities seem baffled by the case, as the suspects seem to truly believe they are the mythical characters they claim to be.
As a result of recent events, the state is now requiring mall Santas to have licenses. The manager of the Ithaca Mall claimed they hadn’t decided at this time whether they plan on hiring a new Santa for the rest of the season after this recent embarrassment.
“It’s scary to think there are people like that in Ithaca.” Carrie Patterson, the mother of Billy, confided. “You hear about it happening in other big cities, but never in your own hometown.”
Sarah Craig is a sophomore journalism major. E-mail her at [email protected].