Skip to main content

Exclusive: The Daily Banter's Investigation Helps Catch Sandy Hook Memorial Thief (Updated)

This morning, police in Herndon, Va. recovered the two signs that had been stolen from the memorial playgrounds honoring Grace McDonnell and Chase Kowalski, victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. The police have told us that The Daily Banter's reporting on the story was instrumental in catching 28 year old Andrew David Truelove and bringing this case to a close.

This morning, police in Herndon, Va. recovered the two signs that had been stolen from the memorial playgrounds honoring Grace McDonnell and Chase Kowalski, victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. Police have told us that The Daily Banter's reporting on the story was instrumental in catching 28-year-old Andrew David Truelove and bringing the case to a close.

As we reported here last week, someone claiming to have stolen the signs contacted me and e-mailed pictures of the missing panels, boasting that he had taken them and then called the families of both McDonnell and Kowalski to taunt them by saying that their children had never actually existed and the Sandy Hook massacre was nothing but a hoax. I passed along all the information this person had sent me to the police department in Stonington, Conn., which was working the case. I've been in contact with detectives there several times since.

It turns out the photos that we received were loaded with metadata, including geotags, which led Stonington to contact Herndon, where many of the pictures were apparently taken. Police there tracked the geotags to the home seen in the photos we posted last week, which was actually a small unit rented by someone named Alan J. Truelove. They obtained a warrant and this morning confronted Truelove, the father of the man suspected of being the actual sign thief, Andrew David Truelove. While the elder Truelove hasn't been charged with anything, since he denies knowing the signs in his home were stolen, while being questioned he apparently asked the police how they could be sure the Sandy Hook shooting had really happened. So, yes, it looks like he's a Sandy Hook truther just like his son.

Herndon police told me that when they opened the front door of the Truelove home, the two signs were directly inside, right where they were in the pictures we ran last week.

The younger Truelove, meanwhile, is actually already in jail at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. He turned himself in on May 26th on a probation violation for a separate incident. He's now been charged with receiving stolen property, with further, heavier charges to follow. Andrew Truelove has an extensive criminal record, much of which is pretty disturbing.

In March of 2012 he was arrested for trespassing on the property of Fairfax High School in Virginia. Before that, in October of 2007, he was arrested and charged in the attempted abduction of an eight-year-old girl walking near the campus of Granby High School in Norfolk, Va. In a statement, Truelove claimed he had simply gone to the school to "seek out school bullies" and "threaten them" with a lug wrench. He claimed he grabbed the backpack of a young girl he found walking past the school but not with the intention of abducting her.

From his statement:

As I approached the field, I noticed a girl (approx. 8), alone, walking away from the field. As I wanted a clear area away from the field to threaten bullies (if I found any), I took hold of the backpack strap (which she had on backwards) and indicated that she should return to the field.

She did so At no point did I touch the girl except as above, nor did I drag or push her. As she approached the field, an older girl (who I now believe was her sister) approached her and escorted her back to the field.

I said to the older girl “Do you know of any bullies around here?” She laughed, said no, and kept walking. This was the last I saw of either girl.

He goes on to cast himself in largely heroic terms, saying at one point that while he was supposedly calling out threats to football players at Granby High School "A large and heavily-built coach approached me, and said 'I too was bullied'." The little girl's mother tells a different story, saying that her daughter was left traumatized after Truelove grabbed her.

It's also worth mentioning that Truelove claimed at the time to have been under psychiatric care for two years and was kicked out of the University of Virginia in 2003 for allegedly threatening his dorm-mates and some campus housing workers. A psychiatrist who testified at his eventual trial on the attempted abduction charges said Truelove exhibited symptoms of bipolar disorder, including depression and occasional hallucinations. His lawyer told the court, "All of the anger and violence is in Andrew's mind."

He was ultimately sentenced to four years in prison but apparently didn't serve out the term.

Update: The charges filed against Andrew Truelove in Virginia are misdemeanors but police in both Connecticut and New Jersey confirm that he'll face grand larceny charges for the alleged theft of the McDonnell and Kowalski signs, respectively. Meanwhile, Alan Truelove spoke to NBC in Washington, DC yesterday and alleges that his son had nothing to do with stealing the panels. (This despite the fact that they apparently sat inside the front door of his own home for two weeks.) "They're chasing the wrong fella," he said, while holding up a piece of paper that he claims has information about the "real thief" on it. When asked by a reporter whether he believes the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, the elder Truelove was quickly dismissive, saying, "Not interested. not interested in anything you say. I'm not interested in those events."

Alan Truelove has an interesting history, to say the least. In the 60s he was a somewhat prominent mathematician and statistician -- a member of Mensa who authored a maintenance manual for NASA's Apollo program. But as time went on his need to aggressively promote a conservative nationalist worldview seemed to override his dedication to science. He was eventually kicked out of Mensa after years of drama with the group over his racially charged "research" and online postings. Credit to Matt Osborne for sorting through the elder Truelove's past for the details.

Also, one minor correction was made to our initial story above. Alan Truelove wasn't officially placed under arrest on Friday; he was only held briefly by police and questioned. Given that there was more than one agency passing along information, and it was coming from different states altogether, it's not surprising that small discrepancies would happen.