The Christmas magic is still alive for this Virginia boy, 8, who discovered his "Elf on the Shelf" was actually on a secret mission for local police when it mysteriously vanished along with his mom's purse.
Every year, 8-year-old Jovani Villahermosa of Bristow looks forward to a visit from Freddie, the "Elf on the Shelf," around the holidays.
"Every year, Freddie the Elf on the Shelf comes from the North Pole on December 1," his mother, Lorraine Villahermosa, told InsideEdition.com. "He gets into all these shenanigans, gets into mess, brings [my son] little gifts here and there. He comes every single morning and in the evening, he goes back to the North Pole."
Villahermosa explained they have continued the tradition for the last five years, ever since Jovani was 3 years old. But as he has gotten older, his mom said he has started becoming skeptical of some of Freddie's movements.
"He's like, 'Oh mom, he did that last year. Why is he doing things that are boring?'" she recalled. "So this year I have to step up my game."
The single mother's plan to give her son a magical year was thwarted when her purse, which contained Freddie, was stolen.
"I was going crazy," Villahermosa said. "I knew I had a few things in the purse, but the most important was that stinking elf."
While she explained her locks could be changed and all her important IDs and credit cards were taken out the night before, Freddie the Elf was purchased many years ago. The company he was sold from has since changed the design of their "Elf on the Shelf," and Jovani was sure to realize Freddie was switched out.
When Freddie didn't show up that morning, "[Jovani] was devastated. It's the first time in five years he didn't show up for no reason."
Luckily, Villahermosa's purse was found the same day, but when a Prince William police officer came by the house to drop it off, the family was out for the day. By the time Villahermosa made it to the station, her purse, along with Freddie, had been confined to an evidence locker, where police could not retrieve it for several days.
The worried mother begged officers to snap another picture with a different Elf on the Shelf, hoping to tell her son that Freddie was on a special assignment to help the police find her purse.
"We were happy to accommodate," said Sgt. Jonathan Perock.
They snapped a photo, and Villahermosa brought it back to her son.
But, Perock told InsideEdition.com, "a child shouldn't have to be exposed to something like a purse being stolen and have to handle that. We wanted to handle it and do it quickly so the mom had an explanation to her child."
That evening, he went out and purchased his own Elf on the Shelf and snapped a series of his own photos, including one where it appeared he was presenting the Elf with a police lineup of Christmas villains, and even created a little business card for Freddie, explaining he was now an honorary detective.
Perock admitted, "It was probably five minutes of my time."
But, when Jovani saw the pictures of Freddie at the police station appear on his email the following day, his mom said he bought the whole story.
"I only have so much longer until my son stops believing in Santa," she told InsideEdition.com. "It's my heart's desire that this kid has the best Christmas ever, and this is going to be a Christmas he's going to remember with this elf."
Villahermosa said that when she finally was able to get her purse back, Freddie was still there, and ready to continue their December tradition where he left off.