Two Herndon police officers drove to Connecticut on Wednesday to return stolen signs that ended up in the D.C. area that memorialized victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Detective Mike Croson and Lt. Jim Moore with the Herndon Police Department were driving six and a half hours to give the stolen signs back to the Stonington Police Department in Connecticut.
“We thought it would be a real honor to deliver back the signs to the jurisdiction where they were stolen from,” Moore said. “It’s very sentimental for the community and the families to have them back.”
Moore and Croson were the officers assigned to investigate the stolen sign incident after a reporter in Los Angeles alerted authorities and they launched an investigation. Andrew Truelove, a 28-year-old who lived in the 400 block of Fillmore Street in Herndon, was arrested and charged with possession of stolen goods after allegedly stealing the signs.
The case took on a strange twist when the reporter — Chez Pazienza — wrote an open letter calling out the thief. Oddly, Truelove responded.
He explained to Pazienza that he believed that the massacre that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 never happened. Pazienza said Truelove told him in a phone conversation that he had stolen signs dedicated to two 7-year-old victims — Chase Kowalski and Grace McDonnell. One sign was stolen from a playground in Mantoloking, N.J., the other from Mystic, Conn.
Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults during a rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
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 that the co-worker could put him in touch with Pazienza, and that he was the person who 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 Truelove. The man did talk about conspiratorial touchstones like the Illuminati and Bohemian Grove. Pazienza claimed that the man said CNN — Pazienza’s former employer — was ushering in the New World Order.
When the conversation turned to Sandy Hook, the man asked whether anyone had seen any bodies of the victims. He insisted that 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 e-mails 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.
After Truelove sent Pazienza pictures of the stolen signs sitting in his living room, the reporter went to authorities in Connecticut.
Herndon police were contacted by police in Stonington with an address for Truelove. He faces charges in Herndon and in Connecticut and New Jersey. He is being held in the Fairfax County jail.
“It means too much to the community up there,” Moore said of returning the stolen signs. “The entire community was in an uproar. This is about the kids. It isn’t about us or the police department up there. We’re going to hand-return it because it has a lot of meaning.”