Vandals steal lights, break reindeer, yank down Santa's sleigh in northern California

A Sonoma County family is trying to restore their holiday display after it was stripped by vandals.

Both parents are essential workers, juggling jobs nd two children, and are disappointed that someone trashed their effort.

"It's Christmas time, we're all supposed to have the Christmas spirit," Alden Dolcini said while restoring toppled decorations at his Cody Court home in Santa Rosa. "This is just plain rude, we took a lot of time to set this up, so being a Grinch on Christmas is just terrible."

Dolcini is a firefighter for CalFire, stationed in St. Helena on 72 hours shifts.

His wife, Cristie, is a medical assistant at Kaiser Medical Center in Santa Rosa.

They began constructing their display Thanksgiving weekend and finished in two weeks, working around their schedules and the needs of son, Gage, 5, and daughter Zoey, 7.

They finished the project the weekend of Dec. 5 and were thrilled to land a spot on a holiday house tour, compiled by the Press Democrat newspaper.

"Sunday night I went to bed and everything was fine, I had just put some finishing touches on some decorations," said Cristie.

But sometime in the night, vandals stole hundreds of ground cover lights, trampled and tore inflatables trying to rip them from the ground, knocked over trees, broke an illuminated reindeer, and yanked Santa's sleigh from the roof. 

"It was devastating because I'd spent hours working on this with my family," said Alden, who got a text at work from Cristie. "It said our lights have been stolen, with a bunch of sad faces and one crying face. 

It was Zoey who noticed the damage first, heading out the door Monday morning.

"A lot of our candy canes and our lights were stolen and our new Santa was broken into pieces," recounted Zoey.

The large candy canes lined the home's front walkway.

"That's when I realized what happened and the heartbreak set in," said Cristie. "The looks on the kids' faces and the questions that followed were really difficult but I just try to keep it uplifting and positive."

The couple has never heard of anything like this happening in their neighborhood.

It doesn't appear any other holiday homes featured have been targeted.

The Dolcinis had tried for the past four years to make that list, adding new decorations on the cheap, and improving each season.

"We've got to figure out how to rebuild, how we're going to make that happen," said Alden, who spent Wednesday evening re-wiring some damaged lights and re-attaching the arms on a Santa Claus figure.

People who have heard about the vandalism have also given the couple extra lights.  

But time is limited with their jobs occupying much of their time.

"It's a tough pill to swallow when you spend your days working to help people  and while you're sleeping and resting up for the next day this happens," admitted Cristie.

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Alden says firefighter colleagues at CalFire are as surprised by the theft as he is.

"They're all just flabbergasted that someone would do this and they feel for me that it happened."

After so much time away from home on wildfires in recent years, the opportunity to decorate was special.

"Home is really just a sanctuary where I can be safe and be with my family and enjoy everything," said Alden.

Santa Rosa police took a report and talked to neighbors, and found some home surveillance video that might provide clues.

Alden assumed they were kids on a prank, but also notes, the thieves only took the most expensive lights.   

Zoey has a firm message for them.

"It's not nice to steal people's stuff," she declared, while not holding a grudge: "I already got over it."

Her dad is determined to patch the display back together one way or another.

"We're going to get it back to full strength and even see if we can do it a little bit better," he said. 

Debora Villalon is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Debora at and follow her on Twitter @DeboraKTVU