Family: College student’s alleged crime spree ‘came out of nowhere’
UPDATE: 9:45 P.M. WEDNESDAY, MAY 27:
NEWTOWN — The attorney representing the family of a University of Connecticut student wanted in connection with two homicides says he’s suffered from mental health issues for years, but the deadly crime spree “came out of nowhere.”
On Tuesday, Peter Manfredonia remained on the run — believed to be in the Poconos area of eastern Pennsylvania — after police say he killed two people in Connecticut, including shooting his former Newtown High School classmate in the head, according to the state’s chief medical examiner.
In an interview with Hearst Connecticut Media, attorney Michael Dolan said Manfredonia’s parents had been in regular contact with him until the series of events began on Friday.
His father, Robert Manfredonia, is facing charges of his own, according to Lt. Aaron Bahamonde, a spokesman for the Newtown Police Department. Robert Manfredonia, 54, of Newtown, is free on $50,000 bond after being charged in April with second-degree sexual assault, two counts of risk of injury to a minor and two counts of providing alcohol to a minor.
According to his warrant, Robert Manfredonia provided alcohol to two underage teen girls in Newtown on April 10. One of the girls also told investigators they “smoked a little weed,” the warrant stated. After one of the girls left, Manfredonia groped the other teen, the warrant stated.
When confronted the next day by the girl’s mother, Manfredonia did not “deny or dispel the allegations,” the warrant stated.
Dolan said he was not aware of the charges against Robert Manfredonia.
Robert Manfredonia declined to comment when reached Tuesday. Efforts to reach Peter Manfredonia’s mother, Jeanette, were unsuccessful.
Dolan did not know when the last time Manfredonia spoke to his parents, but said they had a heightened concern about his history of mental health issues when they heard about the alleged crime spree.
“He certainly did have mental health issues, but he had no history of violence,” Dolan said. “This really came out of nowhere.”
His parents, who are divorced, are cooperating with the investigation, Dolan said.
Peter Manfredonia grew up in his family’s former home on the same Sandy Hook street as Adam Lanza, according to property records. According to posts on his social media feeds, Peter Manfredonia supported Sandy Hook charitable organizations that formed to end gun violence after Lanza killed 20 students and six educators in 2012.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to all of the families and people impacted by the shootings and attacks linked to UConn student Peter Manfredonia,” a statement reads from Sandy Hook Promise. “We can confirm that he participated in an athletic event in 2019 and chose Sandy Hook Promise as one of his fundraising recipients. We hope he surrenders peacefully to the authorities and that no one else is hurt or killed.”
Peter Manfredona was recently living in an off-campus apartment in Storrs, according to Dolan, who did not know if he had any roommates.
Dolan said he’s trying to use the media to reach out to Peter Manfredonia, who was last seen in Pennsylvania Sunday afternoon and is considered “armed and dangerous,” according to police.
“On behalf of the family, I’m pursuing every avenue to reach their child, including cooperation with police,” Dolan said.
Manfredonia, an accomplished football player and track athlete at Newtown High School where he graduated in 2015, is a senior at the University of Connecticut, where he is a finance and mechanical engineering student.
Stephanie Reitz, a UConn spokeswoman, declined to comment whether Manfredonia had a disciplinary record at the school.
UConn President Tom Katsouleas said in a statement that the university has been working with Connecticut state police and other agencies to help in the search for Manfredonia.
“The horrific and incomprehensible loss of life is reminiscent of so many other tragedies at so many other places around the country and the world,” Katsouleas said. “Though rare, we have been sadly reminded that none are immune from such random acts, and that they don’t always happen somewhere else.”
Lt. John Aiello, commanding officer of the Connecticut state police Eastern District Major Crimes Squad, addressed Manfredonia during a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the agency’s Middletown headquarters.
“Peter, we’ve talked to your family. We’ve talked to your friends and your roommates. All of them have said the same thing that this behavior is out of the ordinary for you,” Aiello said. “We know this is not who you are.”
While Aiello urged for Manfredonia to surrender, Pennsylvania state police said the fugitive has continued to elude authorities.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Anthony Petroski said a black Hyundai Santa Fe with Pennsylvania license plate KYW-1650 was stolen around 9 p.m. Monday from the area where Manfredonia was last seen. However, he said police have not confirmed whether Manfredonia stole the vehicle.
Bahamonde said Newtown police have increased their manpower for each shift and have taken “a defensive standpoint” in case Manfredonia returns to Connecticut.
Bahamonde said Newtown police have assisted state troopers in conducting “some searches” in town, including at Robert Manfredonia’s Queen Street residence.
Manfredonia was last seen Sunday afternoon in eastern Pennsylvania near the Poconos. The Pennsylvania state police said Manfredonia used an Uber to flee into East Stroudsburg Sunday afternoon after ditching a woman he kidnapped in Connecticut and her car at the New Jersey border.
Pennsylvania state police have released an image of Manfredonia walking along railroad tracks carrying what appeared to be a large duffel bag shortly after he was dropped off by the Uber. Pennsylvania state police said they believe the bag is filled with guns Manfredonia is accused of stealing during a Connecticut home invasion over the weekend.
It remains unknown what sparked the alleged crime spree that began Friday when police say Manfredonia attacked two men with a type of machete in upstate Connecticut. However, a source close to the investigation said Manfredonia was on his way to meet a former girlfriend when his motorcycle broke down in Willington.
Theodore DeMers offered Manfredonia a ride on his ATV when police say the 62-year-old man was attacked with an “edged” weapon. A second man who came to the aid of DeMers was critically injured, police said. By Tuesday, officials said he was in stable condition.
Chief Medical Examiner James Gill said DeMers’ death was caused by “sharp force and chop injuries of head with sharp force injuries of torso and extremities.” The manner of death was classified as homicide, Gill said.
On Sunday, a Willington man reported being held captive by Manfredonia, who stole his guns, food, supplies and his truck during a home invasion, according to police.
A few hours later, police recovered the stolen truck in Derby, setting off an extensive search that led authorities to a Roosevelt Drive home about a mile away. Police said video surveillance showed Manfredonia walking “directly” toward Nicholas Eisele’s home between 5 and 6 a.m. Sunday. Eisele also graduated Newtown High in 2015 and was described by police as an “acquaintance” of Manfredonia.
Gill said Eisele’s cause of death was “gunshot wounds of head.” Gill said Eisele’s manner of death was ruled homicide.
By the time police arrived, Manfredonia had fled and kidnapped Eisele’s girlfriend in her 2016 Volkswagen Jetta. The woman and the car were recovered later Sunday in New Jersey. Police said the woman was unharmed and returned to Connecticut where she was interviewed by investigators.
Staff writers Ben Lambert, Rob Ryser and Kendra Baker contributed to this story.
Anyone with any information is asked to call Derby police at 203-735-7811, state police at 860-896-3200 or the FBI at 1-800-CALLFBI. Any sightings of Manfredonia should be called in to 911.