by Mark Hunter (Yes, I really sent this article in to the paper -- but I, um, expanded it here with additional information I didn't have the guts to send to my Editor.
Santa Claus remained in the Noble County Jail over the weekend after a high speed pursuit south of Albion led to numerous charges early on Christmas Eve day.
More specifically, David M. Messenger of Columbia City sometimes plays Santa Claus, and had a Santa Suit in his car with him when police sighted him at 1:43 a.m., according to the Noble County Sheriff's Department. Messenger, 51, was allegedly behind the wheel of a 2005 Ford Explorer that Deputy Brandon Chordas noticed parked beside a closed Merriam convenience store.
When Chordas got behind the dark vehicle and turned on his emergency lights, Messenger allegedly drove away, then sped northbound on SR 9 with Chordas in pursuit. The chase reached speeds in excess of 100 mph, and Messenger allegedly turned out his lights in an attempt to escape.
The Explorer turned east onto Baseline Road, then north on CR 200E, but went out of control when Messenger tried to make a high speed right turn onto CR 175N, and slid into the north side ditch. No one inside was injured, or sleighed.
Two juveniles in the vehicle then reportedly fled, while Messenger remained inside. One of the juveniles was apprehended, and the parents of the second turned him in to authorities. The two seventeen year old males were later released to the custody of their parents. No elf costumes were found inside the Explorer.
Police charged Messenger with Resisting Law Enforcement, then charged him again when they discovered his license had been suspended as a Habitual Traffic Violator. Further investigation reportedly led to the discovery of numerous narcotics in the vehicle, leading to further charges of Possession of Cocaine, Marijuana, Paraphernalia, and Controlled Substances. He was also charged with Dealing Cocaine.
Police believe that might explain why Santa is so rosy cheeked and jolly. Rudolph refused repeated requests to be interviewed.
Messenger was taken to the Noble County Jail, where he was held on on the naughty list with a $250,000 bond. A relative of his reportedly showed up at the Sheriff's Department a few days later, trying to report the damaged Explorer as stolen, but Messenger was not charged with that. No reindeer were injured.
Police say Messenger, who according to arrest records is 6 foot 4 inches tall and weighs 373 pounds, had a business card that stated he works as "Santa, and other fictional characters". No presents were found in his Explorer, but there was reportedly coal in the back.
Albion and Avilla Police assisted with the pursuit and investigation.