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Stonington Police Sgt. David Knowles answers reporters question regarding the recovering of a stolen sign, seen on the right, at a press conference at the Stonington Police Station. Two officers from the Herndon Police Department in Virginia brought a sign stolen from the Grace McDonald Memorial Playground in Mystic back to the Stonington Police station. The playground was built in honor of Grace, one of the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. | Jill Connor / The Westerly Sun

Mystic playground sign thief gets jail time in Virginia

STONINGTON — Andrew David Truelove is currently spending jail time in Virginia in connection with the theft of the sign identifying the Grace McDonnell Memorial Playground in Mystic.

On Aug. 8, Truelove was found guilty of possession of stolen property worth more than $200 in Fairfax County District Court in Virginia. According to Herndon Police Department Public Information Officer Lt. Michael Berg, the charge was a misdemeanor and he was sentenced to 12 months in prison, with four months suspended.

“He is also facing additional, unrelated charges,” Berg said Friday.

Over the last two years, Truelove has accumulated 15 charges, nine of which span from March 2014 to the present.

The charges vary in severity, from trespassing and disorderly conduct, to destruction of property and malicious shooting or throwing at a train or car, according to the state’s online database.

“There are other charges still pending,” Berg said, who added that Truelove could face additional charges from Stonington Police, who would have the responsibility of seeking extradition.

In addition, Truelove has been charged with theft of a sign honoring Chase Kowalski from a playground in Mantoloking, N.J.

In a case that received national attention, Truelove, 28, was arrested by Herndon police May 30 on grand theft and possession of stolen property charges thanks to a tip.

Truelove was accused of stealing signs from the two playgrounds, each built by Where Angels Play, a New Jersey-based nonprofit group that constructs playgrounds in honor of the 26 victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook School, Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.

According to news reports, the case started to come together when Chez Pazienza, the media editor at The Daily Banter, a news website, wrote an open letter shaming the thief, and Truelove responded, leaving a message and a telephone number. Truelove ultimately emailed photos showing the two signs in his living room, and other photos depicting a hand making obscene gestures at the signs. Pazienza then contacted Stonington Police.

After the sign from the Mystic playground was stolen May 6, an anonymous caller contacted Grace McDonnell’s mother admitting he was responsible for the theft and claiming the shooting at Sandy Hook was a hoax, according to William Lavin, founder of Where Angels Play.

The Stonington Police Department had been investigating the case since the 4-foot by 4-foot purple vinyl sign was reported missing by the YMCA. The signs were returned to their respective towns June 4 by Herndon Police Lt. Jim Moore and Detective Sergeant Michael Crosen.

Stonington Police Capt. Jerry Desmond could not be reached for comment as to whether extradition would be sought for Truelove upon completion of his current, or future, sentence.

At the time of the arrest, Desmond credited Detective Sgt. David Knowles and the town’s detective department for their relentless pursuit.

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