A Virginia man accused of stealing two signs from parks honoring victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown and calling a victim’s family, claiming the shooting was a hoax, has been arrested.
Andrew David Truelove, 28, has been arrested in Herndon, Virginia, thanks to the help of Stonington police.
Truelove is accused of stealing a memorial sign for 7-year-old Grace McDonnell from a park in Mystic, Connecticut, and another for 7-year-old Chase Kowalski from a park in Mantoloking, New Jersey.
"He was just being disrespectful. That's the best way I can put it," said Becky Kowalski, Chase's mother. "For them to have no empathy toward myself, my family, and all other families that have lost children... it's sad."
After stealing the sign from the park honoring McDonnell, Truelove called the slain girl's mother to tell her why he did it, according to one of the playground's supporters.
Herndon police in Virginia told NBC Washington that Truelove may be part of a group known as the "truthers" who believe the Sandy Hook school shooting massacres was architected to trigger stricter gun laws.
He is banned from a school property in Herndon, according to police.
"It's hard to explain the why, because from our perspective it doesn't appear rational, that type of thought process," Herndon Police chief Maggie DeBoard told NBC Washington. "We know Sandy Hook occurred, obviously there are a lot of victims in that case. So I can't explain the why, but we do know that this suspect has a troubled past, he has an extensive criminal history, he has criminal history tied to kids."
Police searched the room Truelove rented at a home in the 400 block of Fillmore Street and found the two stolen signs.
But Truelove's father, Alan claims that his son didn't steal the signs, and when asked whether he believes the shootings happened, said he was "not interested" in discussing those events.
"They're chasing the wrong fella," Alan Truelove told NBC Washington. "So police have this investigation completely wrong."
Truelove has been charged with possession of stolen property and he is being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.
Police in Virginia said charges in Connecticut and New Jersey are pending. Investigators may upgrade his charges to felonies, NBC Washington reported.
The arrest comes after Stonington police called the Herndon Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Section earlier this week with a possible address for a suspect, police said.
Police also credit blogger and reporter Chez Pazienza of The Daily Banter with helping to crack the case. Pazienza wrote an open letter asking the thief to come forward, and he received a response, including photographs of the signs in a living room.
"I waas really angry and I wanted to see this person go down for this," Pazienza told NBC Connecticut in a Skype interview Friday. "I wasn't just going to let it go."
Stonington police said detectives will be traveling to Virginia to retrieve the sign for the Grace McDonnell park.