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‘He just flipped:' Arrest warrants reveal new details in Peter Manfredonia case; UConn student led police on multi-state manhunt after murders

A Willington woman ended a relationship with Peter Manfredonia just four days before he showed up on her street and killed a man who lived nearby, police say in arrest warrants unsealed Monday.

The woman, who had been seeing Manfredonia, told police she ended the relationship May 18 after learning Manfredonia had hacked into her social media accounts. She told police that on May 20 -- two days before Manfredonia allegedly murdered one man and gravely injury another on Mirtl Road in Willington-- she sent Manfredonia a screen shot of the text of a state law indicating that hacking into her accounts was a crime. She never heard back from him, she told police.

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Manfredonia, a UConn senior, has been charged with murder in the killing of Ted DeMers, 62, of Willington and attempted murder for the brutal assault on an 80-year-old man on Mirtl Road on May 24. He is accused of attacking both men with a samurai sword.

Manfredonia, who is expected to be charged in a second homicide in Derby, led police on a six-day manhunt across the Northeast and was brought back to the state two weeks ago.

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The warrants offer no explanation for what prompted the brutal attacks on the two men on Mirtl Road, although the warrants indicate DeMers was helping Manfredonia by giving him a ride on his ATV after Manfredonia claimed he’d “dumped” his motorcycle.

Witnesses told police they saw Manfredonia slashing DeMers with what turned out to be a samurai sword, and then saw Manfredonia attack the second man, who’d apparently gone to DeMers’ aid.

Two witnesses said they yelled at Manfredonia to stop, and that he then looked at them and started advancing toward them. They retreated into their home and locked the doors.

Police talked to multiple witnesses in Willington, some of whom were able to link Manfredonia to the crimes on Mirtl Road. Police also discovered evidence, including Manfredonia’s cell phone and driver’s license, left near the spot Manfredonia abandoned his motorcycle at the end of Old Town Road in Willington.

The warrants also indicate Manfredonia had several interactions with police in the past, some of which were for “suicidal and homicidal ideation.” Manfredonia’s attorney, Michael Dolan of Hamden, told reporters last month that Manfredonia has struggled with mental health issues for several years.

Manfredonia remains jailed in lieu of $7 million bail for the Willington crimes. He has not yet been charged in connection with the Derby incidents.

‘Calm and apologetic'

In the hours after the Mirtl road attacks on the morning of May 22, Manfredonia broke into another Willington man’s home and held him at gunpoint with the victim’s gun.

The home invasion victim, according to warrants for Manfredonia’s arrest unsealed Monday, made small talk with his captor, and then got Manfredonia, 23, to talk about what happened hours earlier.

“I asked if he wants to talk about what took place with the murder and he told me that he hadn’t slept for five days and he just flipped,” the man told state police, according to the warrant. “He said he didn’t know why he did it and that he was remorseful for it.”

The home invasion victim, bound to a chair in his basement, suggested to Manfredonia that they call police and try to work something out.

“He was calm and apologetic but couldn’t explain why he did that,” the man told police.

Manfredonia rejected the idea of turning himself in.

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“He told me he was going to have two good weeks and then he figured it would end in either a shootout, the death penalty or life in prison,” the man said.

Police went to the 73-year-old home invasion victim’s home the morning of May 24 after learning his pickup truck had been involved in a minor crash in Derby. The man lives about 1.25 miles from where Manfredonia abandoned his motorcycle.

Troopers from the Tolland barracks first tried to call the man, but got no answer. When troopers arrived a short time later there was no answer at the door, so they forced their way in and found the man in the basement tied to a chair. They freed the man from his restraints and he have them an account of his time with the accused killer.

He said that he’d learned of the killing on Mirtl Road and that a suspect was on the loose and locked his doors. He had a .22-caliber rifle nearby and an unloaded 9mm pistol with two magazines nearby when he dozed off in a recliner.

“I woke up abruptly around 5:15 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, May 23, to a male holding a gun to the back of my head and shouting at me not to turn around or he would blow my [expletive] brains out,” the man told troopers. “I turned around anyways and saw a young white man in his early 20s who was dressed in a black t-shirt and black sweat pants that appeared to be soiled like he had been in the woods and he was barefoot. He had a blank look on his face.”

The man said he had not seen a photo of the suspected killer -- state police did not release one until later on Saturday -- but he suspected that’s who the man was.

“He yelled at me to turn around and to put my hands behind my back,” he man said. “When I put my hands behind my back he zip-tied my wrists together.” The man said he thinks Manfredonia used zip ties he found in his garage in his toolbox.

“Then he put a piece of duct tape over my eyes and around my head,” the man said. Later, he put duct tape around his chest and legs to secure him to the chair. Twice, Manfredonia helped the man use the restroom during his captivity.

Later, Manfredonia took the duct tape off the man’s eyes and asked him what he liked to watch on television and then put a movie on, according to the warrant.

Manfredonia asked the man if anyone called him in the last 24 hours and whether anyone would be visiting his house to check on him. Manfredonia also played voicemail messages on the man’s cell and house phones.

One message was from a relative who lived nearby and was concerned about the news of the murder and told the man to be careful. Another message was from a neighbor.

After a bit, the man said he tried to make small talk with his captor. He asked him name and he responded “Rick.” The man asked Manfredonia how he got into his house and he said he used a ladder to climb up to an air vent into his garage, pulled out the vent cover and shimmied into the garage. He then used a saw to cut through a door to reach a deadbolt and let himself in.

After several hours, the man said he tried again to talk to Manfredonia. He said he’d heard a motorcycle was used in the Mirtl Road crimes so he asked his captor if there was anything he was fond of and Manfredonia brought up motorcycles.

“While we were talking the news came on and it showed a picture of the murder suspect from Willington and his name,” the man said. “When I saw the picture on the news, it looked like the young man who was with me but a younger picture of him. I asked him if his name was really Peter. He said yes and I asked why he wanted me to call him Rick and he said just for the hell of it.”

The man then asked Manfredonia if he wanted to talk about what happened. Manfredonia said he could not believe he could do what he did, according to the warrant.

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Manfredonia’s demeanor changed and the man said he was trying to be careful about what he asked his captor.

“While we were talking he was very careful about what he would say and it seemed like he didn’t want to face the reality of what happened,” the man said. Manfredonia talked about the Willington killing as if he was the person responsible but would not talk about specific events or what happened before or after the attacks, the man said.

A phone call from a neighbor

Later on the man told police he received a call from a relative who left a message.

“Peter told me we had to call her back and he told me to tell her that everything is OK,” the man said. “Peter called that family member from the house phone and put it on speaker phone, and I told her that everything was fine. After that, Peter heard a knock on the door. Shortly after that my house phone rang and Peter asked me who it was and I told him it was my nearby neighbor.”

Manfredonia answered the phone and put it on speaker and the person who’d just knocked asked the man where he was.

“Peter was whispering to me telling me what to say, and the [caller] wanted to know if we could get together in the morning,” the man said. “Peter was holding up two fingers telling me two days but I told him tomorrow morning. We ended the phone call and Peter told me my buddy screwed up the next morning for him.”

Manfredonia offered the man food and gave him his medications. He also searched the house and the man’s wallet, questioning him about his credit cards. He also said he was going to take one of his vehicles.

The man said he asked Manfredonia to leave his Jeep, which had belonged to his late wife. Manfredonia later left in the man’s pickup truck. Manfredonia then packed up food, liquor, and then searched the house. He took firearms and money.

“When he was done he came back downstairs and he started telling me his plan,” the man said. “Peter told me he was going to shower at some point and then leave in the morning.”

The man fell asleep about 11 p.m. Saturday, then woke up about 2 a.m. Sunday. Manfredonia was up and was getting ready for the day.

Manfredonia tied the man’s bindings tighter to secure him to the chair. “When I looked at him he had the same blank stare that he had the day before,” the man said. About 5:15 a.m. Manfredonia left the man’s house and headed to Derby.

In Derby, according to police, Manfredonia shot and killed Nicholas Eisele, 23, an acquaintance from Newtown, and kidnapped Eisele’s girlfriend and stole her car. He fled to New Jersey and then Pennsylvania, leaving the girlfriend at a rest stop along I-80 near the Pennsylvania border.

The manhunt ended May 27 with Manfredonia’s capture in Hagerstown, Maryland.

In addition to murder, attempted murder and home invasion for the incidents, Manfredonia is charged with first-degree assault on a person older than 60, first-degree kidnapping with a firearm, first-degree robbery, first-degree larceny, two counts of stealing a firearm and a single count of third-degree assault on a person older than 60.

David Owens can be reached at dowens@courant.com.

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