When a sign memorializing a 7-year-old victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was stolen in Connecticut, an outraged reporter in Los Angeles penned an open letter calling out the thief earlier this month.
What Chez Pazienza said he never expected was that the thief would respond. In a phone call, Pazienza said Andrew Truelove explained his theory that the massacre never happened and he had stolen the sign and a second for another victim in New Jersey.
Pazienza demanded proof. Truelove obliged, emailing pictures of the stolen signs sitting in his living room. The unlikely correspondence between the journalist and the alleged thief would be Truelove’s undoing.
Pazienza alerted authorities, touching off an investigation that led to the arrest of the 28 year old Friday in the room he rented in the 400 block of Fillmore Street, Herndon police said. Police said they recovered the stolen signs.
“He was deliberate. He wasn’t ranting,” Pazienza said of his call with Truelove. “However, he was saying things that made no sense whatsoever. At the same time, he was having the type of conversation that you and I would have about going to Starbucks for a coffee.”
One of the memorial signs was stolen from a playground in Mantoloking, N.J. and the other from Mystic, Conn. The signs were dedicated to 7-year-old victims Chase Kowalski and Grace McDonnell, police said.
“This guy likes to travel around and go to sites of massacres,” said Lt. Jim Moore, a spokesman for the Herndon Police Department.
Pazienza said he posted his initial open letter on a site he works for called The Daily Banter and The Huffington Post because he was incensed at the idea of someone vandalzing a site dedicated to the young victims of the mass shooting. Pazienza called the thief a “monster” in the letter.
Pazienza said he got a call a couple of days after the post appeared from a co-worker, saying a man had shown up at a relatives’ house in Northern Virginia asking to speak with him. The man said he hoped the co-worker could put him in touch with Pazienza and he was the person that stole the memorial sign in Connecticut. He left a phone number.
Pazienza called the number and was soon talking with the man, who did not identify himself as Trulove. The man did talk about conspiratorial touchstones like The Illuminati and Bohemian Grove. Pazienza claimed the man said CNN — Pazienza’s former employer — was ushering in the The New World Order.
When the conversation turned to Sandy Hook, the man asked if anyone had seen any bodies of the victims. He insisted Sandy Hook was a hoax because none of the parents of the victims of Sandy Hook cried on camera. The man thought the parents couldn’t really be grieving or were paid actors.
The man said he had even contacted one of the parents of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. The next day the caller forwarded the emails with the photos to Pazienza, using the codename both had agreed upon: Mark Felt (the true name of Deep Throat).
Pazienza reached out to police in Connecticut.
Herndon Police were contacted earlier this week by the Stonington Police Department with an address for the suspect. The second sign was reported stolen to the Brick Township Police Department in New Jersey.
Truelove is being held in the Fairfax County jail. Charges in Connecticut and New Jersey are pending.
Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults during a rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.