There are less than 2,000 people in the small town of Sea Girt, New Jersey, and last week all of them became suspects in a bizarre vandalism case.
City workers were testing the town's Christmas tree before the lighting ceremony on Friday, when they realized the lights weren't working at all. A closer investigation revealed the wires had been "sliced and cut."
Soon, the townspeople were on the hunt for a Christmas vandal, and news reports blamed naughty kids for the damage. "Somebody is trying to steal the spirit of Christmas," one local complained.
City workers were forced to scramble to keep the lights working until the ceremony, and to watch the tree carefully in case the Scrooge who wrecked it came back.
Meanwhile, the police were baffled by the crime, and hoped that news coverage would help them identify the holiday display vandal. In the end, they were right: someone had wrecked the display, and they were caught thanks to the extra attention.
But nothing else about this case turned out the way police imagined.
When Sea Girt police finally released a photo of the Christmas vandal last weekend, it wasn't the kind of "local" people expected.
It turns out a squirrel had been the one tearing up the town's Christmas display, which probably means he was chewing through the wires and not "slicing" them like people thought.
"The Sea Girt Police Department is proud to report that the case of our broken holiday lights has been solved," officers wrote on Facebook.
"We are happy that no human acted as a grinch in this incident. The squirrel was 'charged' with criminal mischief and released on bail."
Despite what they wrote, the squirrel wasn't actually captured, and authorities will be keeping an eye on the tree for the rest of the Christmas season, in case he returns.
Strangely, this isn't the first case of a squirrel stealing Christmas. Last year, a homeowner from Seattle caught a squirrel stealing her Christmas lights and burying them in her yard like nuts.
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