A 28-year-old Rockville man was arrested April 9 and charged with spray painting swastikas and hate-based words on the outside of Tikvat Israel Congregation in Rockville.
Andrew Lemond Costas was charged with malicious destruction of property, defacing religious property and damaging property of a group because of the group’s religious beliefs.
Costas and 23-year-old Rebecca Matathias of Brookeville were charged with second-degree arson for setting five small fires at St. Catherine Laboure Roman Catholic Church in the 11800 block of Claridge Road, Wheaton.
Matathias, who was not implicated in connection with the synagogue vandalism, has strong ties to Tikvat Israel.
Matathias’ family “have been long-time — and beloved — members of the Tikvat Israel community,” according to an email sent to congregation members. Her mother, Amy, is the synagogue’s office manager, and her father, Dan, is a regular Torah reader,” it said in the email.
“We are now and will continue to be there to support the Matathias family through this difficult chapter,” it said in the letter, which was signed by Rabbi Marc Israel, Cantor Rochelle Helzner and three other members.
Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department — 1st District Investigation Section received multiple tips that identified Costas as the person who spray-painted swastikas and hate-based words on the Rockville synagogue on March 28.
“Investigators received multiple tips identifying the suspect as Costas,” Montgomery County Police wrote in a press release.
Israel called Costas’ arrest “a sense of relief, I think, to the community to know that he will be brought to justice.”
The police took the matter seriously and the arrest occurred soon after the crime, said Israel, calling it “a positive sign about the community we have,”
The fact that Costas “lives in the neighborhood a lot of our members live, that’s terrible disconcerting,” Israel said.
Israel said the incident “was clearly an event that was planned purposefully,” adding, “The hatred he has shown through this event is a terrible thing.”
When asked if he would like to see Costas go to jail, Israel answered, “I do hope he is put away both to have an opportunity to reflect on the seriousness of what he did,” and also to show others there are consequences to such acts.
The synagogue had the graffiti removed the next day.
In the Wheaton incident, Costas and Matathias were charged with setting five separate fires, according to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. Photographs by the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service showed a blackened exterior wall.
Costas is in custody at the Central Processing Center in the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville awaiting review of his case, which is expected this week. Matathias posted bond and was released.
Suzanne Pollak is a Washington-area writer.