STONINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — The 50-pound peace sign stolen May 6 from a Sandy Hook memorial playground in Mystic returned to Connecticut Wednesday.
Since a replacement sign had already been erected at the playground in memory of Newtown school shooting victim Grace McDonnell, the original will go to the family, News 8 was told.
“This is probably one of the best examples of how we can work together with the media and other police departments,” said Stonington police Sgt. Dave Knowles, who’s been with the department for 28 years.
Last week, police in Herndon, Va., arrested 28-year-old Andrew David Truelove for the thefts of two signs from Sandy Hook memorial playgrounds in New Jersey and Mystic, Conn.
“This is not about the Herndon Police Department and this is not about the Stonington Police Department,” Herndon police Lt. Jim Moore said. “This is about Grace and Chase and that’s why we’re here.”
The New Jersey playground memorializes the life of Chase Kowalski. Both Chase and Grace were 7 when a gunman opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, killing 20 children and six staffers.
After Grace’s sign was taken, Truelove allegedly called the slain girl’s mother and told her the school shooting was a hoax. According to the New York Daily News, he did the same with Chase’s parents.
The Daily News article adds:
Cops in Stonington, Conn., got a lead on the suspect after he bragged about the theft and sent images of himself pointing the middle finger at the stolen signs to The Daily Banter, a news and opinion website. Police tracked the image data to Herndon, Va., where cops surveilled Truelove’s home and then searched it Friday (May 30). … The alleged thief has been sitting in jail since May 26 for a probation violation. His checkered background includes a conviction for abducting an 8-year-old girl from a schoolyard in 2007, cops said.
Truelove last week was charged with possession of stolen property and additional charges from New Jersey and Connecticut were pending. The Virginia man admitted to the thefts, police said.
“Just sad somebody has the heart to do that, so it’s good they found it,” said Pavol Andrasko, a visitor to the Mystic playground Wednesday.
News 8′s Tina Detelj reporting