Sheriff: Thief of Rudolph statue caught red-handed

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GARDENA, Calif. (AP) — When officers found a stolen Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer statue, they certainly said its shiny nose was glowing.

The 200-pound statue had been pilfered nearly two weeks ago from its perch atop a sign marking an upscale Southern California neighborhood, where a reindeer figure has been a seasonal fixture for half a century.

"It was remounted and lit up as if it was their own Christmas decoration," Los Angeles County sheriff's Sgt. Mark Moffett said after the statue was recovered Monday atop a trailer home in the city of Gardena. The homeowner was arrested.

It wasn't Rudolph's shiny nose but a tip that led authorities 9 miles from the Ranchview neighborhood in the city of Rolling Hills Estates to Gardena.

Meanwhile, with no Rudolph to guide Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve, residents had quickly mounted a replacement. They say this one will be better secured.

"I can't even believe that we did it in time. It's turned a heartbreak into a heartwarming story," said Korry Taylor, whose husband, Tim, frantically rebuilt the new Rudolph out of wood, using a photo of the stolen one as a blueprint.

"We feel like the Grinch stole Rudolph, but he didn't steal our Christmas spirit," Taylor told the The Daily Breeze newspaper after the new Rudolph was put in place Sunday.

For 50 years, various versions of Rudolph have helped the neighborhood usher in Christmas. The pilfered one, whose antlers were broken off during the theft, had been in place about six years.

It wasn't clear Tuesday if he would return to his post next year.

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