Employees at a Virginia Petco chain were shocked to learn that a seasonal employee, hired by the company to play the role of Santa Claus and interact with pets and families, had been a convicted child sex offender.
According to reports, Max Meadows resident Leonard Russell Kidd had been released in 2015 after he spent years behind bars for forcing a 6-year-old boy to perform oral sex on him and allegations of inappropriate encounters with at least two other boys.
In addition to the sexual assaults that Kidd had been convicted of, in 1997 he had been accused of sexually assaulting another boy inside a bathroom at his high school. As a result of the accusations, Kidd was suspended for the remainder of his sophomore year. Due to Kidd’s classification as a special education student, the school was prohibited from expelling him and allowed Kidd to come back on the condition that he did not use the school’s restrooms unless escorted by school faculty.
Part of the terms of Kidd’s 2015 release explicitly stated that he was to stay away from events that may involve minor children, unless granted permission by his parole officer.
Petco’s “Photos with Santa” is a two-day event designed to benefit their “All For Holiday Homes” campaign, which strives to find homes for homeless animals. Though Kidd was only required to take photos with animals, there has been some concern that Kidd may have interacted with young children during the photo sessions.
The Roanoke Times contacted the Petco store after hearing word that Kidd had been hired for the role of Santa. A store manager was able to confirm that Kidd had worked for the store, but did not confirm or deny whether they had known about Kidd’s record prior to hiring him for the event. Employees the publication had spoken with were able to confirm that children had attended these in-store events.
Following up with the Virginia Department of Corrections, it was clear that the probation department was unaware of Kidd’s participation in the seasonal event. Spokesmen told reporters for The Roanoke Times that the terms of Kidd’s probation were confidential, but stated that they will be investigating the matter further in order to determine if Kidd had violated the terms of his conditional release.