COLUMBIA, S.C. – A 55-year-old man dressed as Santa Claus forced an 8-year-old girl to ride in his motorcycle's sidecar for several minutes and was charged with kidnapping, authorities said.
The girl, of Augusta, Ga., and her family stopped at a convenience store off Interstate 20 on Sunday night when they noticed John Michael Barton, dressed in a Santa Claus suit, refueling his motorcycle, police said.
Barton asked the children to come over and look at a stuffed Rudolph he had in his sidecar. Then, he started up his motorcycle and drove away with the 8-year-old girl, authorities said.
The girl's father followed Barton, reaching speeds up to 80 mph and flashing his headlights repeatedly, police said. Barton eventually stopped at a church parking lot and the father picked up his daughter, who was not injured.
Barton was being held at the Lexington County Detention Center on Monday.
"We're really not sure what his motivation was," Lexington County sheriff's spokesman John Allard said. "That's something we're still looking into."
Barton, of Leesville, 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 at various locations in Lexington County and had given rides to other children in the area, Sheriff James Metts said.