In Rhode Island, one young girl is seeking the help of her local police department for an answer to one of life's greatest mysteries: Is Santa Claus real?
Speaking to TODAY.com, Chief Matthew J. Benson of the Cumberland Police Department said that in the days after Christmas, he received a package postmarked for Dec. 26 containing a half-eaten cookie, carrots with bite marks and a handwritten letter from a local girl.
The Cumberland Police Department shared a scan of the letter in a press release on Jan. 20, which reads:
“Dear Cumberland Police Dapartment [sic], I took a sample of a cookie and carrots that I left for Santa and the raindeer [sic] on Christmas Eve and was wondering if you could take a sample of DNA and see if Santa is real?”
Benson said he was “blown away” by the delivery and while at first he thought it was adorable, the more he thought about it, the more the moment meant to him.
“For her to take that initiative and to push that forward because she has a question that she wants answered, I just think was amazing,” Benson said.
The Cumberland Police Department opened a "special investigation" into this request from "a local young investigator," according to the press release.
WJAR, an NBC affiliate in Providence, identified the girl as 10-year-old Scarlett Doumato. During an interview with the affiliate, her mom, Alyson Doumato, said her daughter is “always a little bit skeptical, and looking for the facts.”
Scarlett even has her own lab at home, including an instruction manual for a home detective kit alongside test tubes with residue from her own tests, a mini-blender, and other detective gear.
“I watch crime shows, and I thought it was like cool to be a detective," Scarlett explained.
Benson said that she sent in perfect evidence for the investigation, helped by her research and television-watching habits.
“She did the work — she collected the evidence, she tagged it the right way,” he said. “She’s obviously watching the shows very intently. Separate baggies. She did it right by the book, so we’re taking it just as serious as she is.”
The press release said that Benson “immediately instructed” the investigative division of the department to send her evidence off for analysis to the state's Forensic Sciences Unit of the Department of Health.
The post also included a scan of the evidence receipt, which listed both articles: one plastic bag with two pieces of baby carrots, and one plastic bag with a “partially eaten” Oreo cookie. Additionally, the receipt called for the items to be “examined for bite marks compared with any dental records on file” for Santa and his aliases, as well as any reindeer that might have been present that evening including Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen or Rudolph.
While Benson hasn’t had a chance to meet with Scarlett or her family yet, he was able to send her a letter to thank her for submitting her evidence. He also sent her additional pieces of evidence the department has uncovered in their investigation so far, including one photo of surveillance footage of a "reindeer" on a lawn.
Benson also enclosed a photo shared by the North Kingstown Police Department on Christmas Day, which captured a police car in the middle of the street with a faint image of Santa’s sleigh flying in the sky in the background.
Benson recalled to TODAY.com some of the letter he wrote to Scarlett. So far, they have a description of a person of interest: an older, larger man with a white beard and a red coat.
For Benson, the investigation into Santa on behalf of Scarlett has been "fun" and "energizing," he said.
“Anything that we can do to further foster her initiative and drive and her interest in an investigation, and anything we can do to keep that ball rolling, we’re going to do,” Benson said. “I just hope that it makes everybody think back to when they were a little kid and that wonder and curiosity. Anything we can do to foster that for her and make this really special, I’m willing to.”
As for what’s to come with the case, well, Benson said you just have to wait.
“We’re going through our investigation and we do have plans to release our findings, of course, in a very formal fashion with the young lady present if she’s available," he said.