By Alex Dobuzinskis
(Reuters) – A Virginia man who claims the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut never took place has been arrested after stolen memorial signs for two 7-year-old victims were found in his home, police said.
A sign honoring victim Chase Kowalski had been removed from a playground in Mantoloking, New Jersey, and another, in memory of Grace McDonnell, was taken from a playground in Mystic, Connecticut.
Both signs were found on Friday at the Herndon, Virginia, residence of Andrew David Truelove, 28, and he was arrested on a charge of receiving stolen property, Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard told reporters.
She said police tracked down Truelove after he emailed a reporter who had written about the thefts and the journalist passed along information to investigators.
Grand theft charges for removing the memorial signs are pending in Connecticut and New Jersey, DeBoard said.
Truelove told police he is one of the so-called “truthers” who do not believe the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook School actually happened. In the incident, one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history, gunman Adam Lanza, 20, a former student at the elementary campus, killed 20 children and six adults before taking his own life.
Truelove did not give police a specific reason for taking the two signs, DeBoard said.
“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 subject has a troubled past. He has an extensive criminal history. He has a criminal history tied to kids,” DeBoard said at a news conference.
DeBoard is being held in a Fairfax County jail, police said. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.
DeBoard’s father, Alan Truelove, told a local television station his son is innocent, and indicated that someone else stole the signs.
“They’re chasing the wrong fella,” the elder Truelove told a reporter with NBC4 Washington.
Bill Lavin, organizer of an effort to build 26 playgrounds to commemorate all the victims of Sandy Hook, said earlier this month that a man had recently phoned Lynn McDonnell, Grace’s mother, to tell her he took the sign honoring her daughter because “it was all a hoax.”
DeBoard confirmed Andrew Truelove contacted the family of at least one of the Sandy Hook victims.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner in New York; editing by Gunna Dickson)