Santa Claus kidnaps 8-year-old girl in USA

A man dressed as Santa Claus lured an 8-year-old girl onto his motorcycle and drove away, and her father chased him until he pulled over and gave her back, authorities said.

The man, John Michael Barton, 55, was charged with kidnapping, police said. He was being held in jail Monday night on $100,000 (EUR 76,000) bond.

The girl, of Augusta, Georgia, and her family stopped at a convenience store off an interstate highway on Sunday night when they noticed Barton, dressed in a Santa Claus suit, refueling his motorcycle, police said.

Parents told police that Barton asked the children to come over and look at a stuffed Rudolph he had in his sidecar. Then, parents saw Barton driving away with their 8-year-old girl, authorities said.

The girl's father followed Barton, reaching speeds up to 80 mph (130 kph) and flashing his headlights repeatedly, police said. Barton eventually stopped at a parking lot and the father picked up the girl, who was not injured.

Barton was arrested later Sunday when police found him hiding in a utility room at a nearby bar, authorities said.

Barton had been portraying Santa Claus for several weeks and had given rides to other children in the area and had posed for photographs with children by his motorcycle, Sheriff James Metts said in a release, the AP says.

Barton did not have an attorney at a bond hearing on Monday, said Lexington County sheriff's spokesman John Allard. A call to the Lexington County public defender's office was not immediately returned.

A charge of kidnapping carries a maximum sentence of 30 years.

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