It seemed extraordinarily creepy and disturbing - but police now say it was all just a misunderstanding.
Over the last week, residents in a quiet San Clemente community found eight to 10 porcelain dolls on residents' door steps - each them bearing a resemblance to a little girl living in the home.
The ornate dolls left residents unnerved and scared.
Without any kind of note or written message, all that residents knew was that someone for some reason had left a doll that looks like their daughter on their front door step without being seen, which gave off a "creepy" vibe, Orange County Sheriff's Lieuteant Jeff Hallock told City News Service.
Investigators soon discovered a common thread among the homeowners who received the dolls: They attended the same church. It wasn't long before they were able to track down the woman who left them and contact her.
It turns out her children had outgrown playing with dolls, so she elected to give them away.
"When she was deciding which dolls to give to which girls, she did make a conscious decision that she thought certain dolls resembled certain girls," Hallock said.
Authorities have declined to release the woman's name, saying the woman is embarrassed about it all.
"Because her intentions were good, she felt embarrassed at the fear she instilled in the community," Hallock said. "She just thought she was being nice."
Parents, many of whom know the woman through the church, were relieved.
"I think everyone was so worked up and concerned that when they found out it was her being kind, most people just breathed a sigh of relief," Hallock said.
Even though there was no criminal aspect to the doll drop-offs, Hallock said the sheriff's department dedicated resources to the case as if it were because of the fear it created.
Los Angeles Times