A man known for playing the part of Santa Claus during the holiday season has been arrested for sexual abuse of a 7-year-old girl, authorities in southeast Missouri say.
Jeffrey Moffat is being held on $50,000 cash bond and faces charges of first-degree statutory rape and first-degree statutory sodomy. He is expected to appear in court later this month.
Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Capt. David James said in an e-mail that Moffat has portrayed Santa on the St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railway‘s Santa Express, a seasonal attraction in southeast Missouri.
“I would say his days are done as far as being a Santa anywhere around here,” James wrote in the e-mail, in which he also referred to Moffat as “our pervert Santa.”
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According to a probable cause statement, Moffat stands accused of sexually abusing the girl, who told her grandmother that Moffat touched her inappropriately. The girl later detailed the abuse to an investigator, who also spoke with Moffat.
“During the interview, Moffat denied touching (name redacted) in a sexual manner,” the probable cause statement reads. “However, when asked why (name redacted) would make these allegations against him, Moffat responded, ‘I don’t think she would.’ Continuing, (name redacted) ‘did not intentionally make all this up.’
At one point in the interview, Moffat stated, ‘How can I say she’s not lying then’ and after departing from the interview room concluded by stating, ‘Children don’t lie.'”
The Southeast Missourian reported:
Moffat allegedly “knowingly had sexual intercourse” and “deviate sexual intercourse” with the girl, according to the complaint filed in the case. The incidents are alleged to have taken place between Aug. 1, 2014, and Jan. 31, 2015, in Cape Girardeau County.
Cheryl Huffman, board president of the St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railway, confirmed that Moffat has been a longtime volunteer with the railroad and dressed as its Santa.
She described Moffat as “a giver” with a “heart of gold.”
Huffman expressed disbelief at the allegations against Moffat, saying: “Once you’ve known someone for so long, they don’t just suddenly change.”
She added: “I just thought in this country you were innocent until proven guilty, you know.”
Huffman said the train’s Santa runs begin the first weekend after Thanksgiving and estimates 1,100 children visited Santa at the railway last year.