Vandals hit playgrounds honoring Connecticut school massacre victims

Photos of Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre victims sits at a small memorial near the school on January 14, 2013 in Newtown, Connecticut. Credit: Getty Images
Photos of Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre victims sits at a small memorial near the school on January 14, 2013 in Newtown, Connecticut. Credit: Getty Images

A playground honoring a 7-year-old victim of the Sandy Hook School massacre in Connecticut was vandalized by a man who told the girl’s mother in a phone call just days before Mother’s Day that the shootings were a “hoax” and her daughter never existed, authorities said on Wednesday.

Police are investigating the theft of a 50-pound vinyl sign from a playground in Mystic, Connecticut, dedicated to first-grader Grace McDonnell, who was gunned down with her classmates in 2012.

“It’s sick that some people would do something this horrific to a family already so traumatized,” said Bill Lavin, who is organizing the effort to build 26 playgrounds to commemorate the 20 children and six adults killed in the shooting spree on Dec. 14, 2012.

Gunman Adam Lanza, 20, a former student at Sandy Hook, also killed his mother the same day and shot himself to death in one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.

The theft in Mystic marked the second act of vandalism at Connecticut playgrounds honoring Sandy Hook victims. Just days earlier, vandals spray-painted graffiti on a sign at a playground in Hartford that is dedicated to first-grader Anna Grace Marquez-Greene.

The sign in the Mystic playground named to honor Grace McDonnell on April 27 included a peace symbol based on her artwork.

Its theft touched a nerve across the United States, said Lavin, founder of the Where Angels Play Foundation, a New Jersey non-profit organization building the playgrounds in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

“We’ve been getting calls from people around the country who are outraged and have already sent enough in donations that we will put up more signs and billboards with the message to ‘Live Grace-Fully’ in honor of Grace,” Lavin said.

Lavin said the vandalism was discovered after the man phoned Lynn McDonnell, Grace’s mother, early last week “to tell her he took the sign because it was all a hoax.”

McDonnell could not be reached for comment. Lavin said she was “obviously very upset” and the family has asked the foundation to address all media inquiries about the sign theft.

Nearly all of the 26 playgrounds have been opened, with plans to dedicate the 22nd one to slain pupil Benjamin Wheeler on Sunday in Ocean City, New Jersey. The final playground will be opened by August and dedicated to the school’s late principal Dawn Hochsprung, among the first victims killed by Lanza.

“This isn’t going to stop us from moving forward. We will replace the sign and move ahead,” Lavin said.



Ditka calls Redskins team name critics 'politically correct…

Mike Ditka, the 74-year-old 11-season coach of the Chicago Bears and 3-season coach of the New Orleans Saints, may be endangering his position as an…


US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.


Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.


After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.


Review: 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For'…

The belated sequel "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" makes one question whether the first one may have been not so hot. Still, Eva Green vamping!


'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

And then there were six. It was a big night on stage as the Top 6 got to dance with each other, All-star partners and perform a solo routine.

Going Out

5 things to do in NYC this weekend…

FILM Lebowski Fest Aug. 22-23, 8 p.m. Various locations, Manhattan $20-$30, The Dude abides — for 48 hours to celebrate the 1998 Coen brothers classic.…


'Doctor Who' personality profile: the 4 Doctors

When the time comes for a new Doctor, there's always some anxiety over the big question: Who will he be? The series owes its longevity…


Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.


Jalen Saunders still unsure what caused car accident…

Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his car accident, but he didn't say a whole lot.


2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)


2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)


Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…


Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…


Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…


Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…