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The McDonnell family admire the sign installed by the Where Angels Play Foundation in honor of their daughter Grace at the memorial park's April 27 opening. Less than two weeks later the sign was stolen. On May 30 police arrested a suspect in Herndon, Va. | Press File Photo

Virginia man charged in theft of Mystic playground sign dedicated to Sandy Hook victim

MYSTIC — A Virginia man has been arrested in connection with the theft of the sign for the Grace McDonnell playground that was built at Williams Beach in Mystic in April.

According to Stonington Police Captain Jerry Desmond, the town’s detective department utilized advanced forensic technology leading to the generation of a search warrant for the suspect.

“They hadn’t stopped working on the case since the theft happened,” Desmond said. “They have done a great job.”

The arrest was made by police in Herndon, Va.

Desmond said the suspect had the sign and a similar sign from another playground built by the Where Angels Play Foundation in his possession.

The playground was built in honor of McDonnell, a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012. The Where Angels Play Foundation organized its construction and is in the midst of building 26 playgrounds on the northeast coast, one for each victim.

The 4-foot-by-4-foot purple vinyl sign, which included a peace sign drawn by Grace herself, marked the entrance to the playground, which opened on April 27 near the Mystic branch of the Ocean Community YMCA. It was stolen on May 6.

Less than two weeks after the project was completed, a man called Grace’s mother to report that he had stolen the sign, claiming the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School were a hoax, according to William Lavin, founder of the Where Angels Play Foundation.

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