The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Prosecutor: Manfredoni­a told victim he had different ‘intended target’

- By Ethan Fry Ethan.Fry @hearstmedi­

“Mr. Manfredoni­a said to her ‘The guy on the four-wheeler was not the intended target, and the other guy just got in the way.’”

Tolland Judicial District State’s Attorney Matthew Gedansky quoted the woman as telling police

Nearly three years after Peter Manfredoni­a’s capture following a six-day, four-state manhunt, the 26-year-old former University of Connecticu­t student will take formal responsibi­lity for the killing of his Newtown High School classmate, Nicholas Eisele, and the kidnapping of Eisele’s girlfriend.

Manfredoni­a is scheduled to appear before a judge a Superior Court in Milford Thursday, where is expected to plead guilty to crimes related to Eiesele’s May 24, 2020 homicide on Derby’s Roosevelt Drive, as well as the subsequent kidnapping.

The hearing will come a week after he pleaded guilty in Vernon Superior Court to charges of murder, first-degree assault, and home invasion in connection to the May 20, 2020 samurai sword attack that killed Theodore Demers and maimed Demers’ neighbor, John Franco, on Mirtl Road in Willington, after which he broke into a nearby home and held a man hostage for more than a day.

And while the evidence in the cases against him is voluminous, to say the least – it took a prosecutor more than a half-hour to detail the facts supporting the charges at the Feb. 8 hearing, leafing through page after page of handwritte­n details on a legal pad – what specifical­ly prompted his killing spree remains unclear. He allegedly told witnesses that he had “snapped,” but didn’t say what had triggered the attack.

At one point during his drive with Eisele’s girlfriend, Manfredoni­a admitted to the Willington attack and home invasion, but indicated he had another victim in mind.

“Mr .Manfredoni­a said to her ‘The guy on the four-wheeler was not the intended target, and the other guy just got in the way,’” Tolland Judicial District State’s Attorney Matthew Gedansky quoted the woman as telling police, without elaboratin­g.

According to an arrest warrant, a person living on the road where the attack occurred had told police they had considered obtaining a restrainin­g order against Manfredoni­a.

As the prosecutor spoke Wednesday in Vernon, more than 20 of the victims’ family members and neighbors sat behind the prosecutor in the courtroom’s public gallery.

Manfredoni­a’s lawyer, Michael Dolan, declined to comment on the specifics of the case Friday.

“All the parties have put a lot of effort in,” he said of the plea deal. “It’s Peter’s decision to resolve this without a trial. We explored a number of different defenses and after lengthy consultati­on, this is how he chose to resolve the matter.”

Gedansky said Demers, 62 at the time of his death, was an unofficial “block captain” of the rural road used as a cut-through by dirtbike riders, and had given Manfredoni­a a ride on an ATV after Manfredoni­a had apparently “dumped” his Kawasaki motorcycle at the end of the cul-de-sac moments before the attack.

After eluding capture immediatel­y afterward, Manfredoni­a broke into the nearby home by using a ladder to shimmy into an air vent in the garage, then sawed a hole through a door, Gedansky said.

He stayed there for more than a day, during which he used zip ties and tape to bind the 73-yearold man living there to a chair and made a series of “cryptic” admissions, Gedansky said — and told him that he had no plans to surrender to police scouring the area for him.

“He said he wanted a good two weeks and then he knew how this was going to end — a shootout with police,” Gedansky said, quoting the home invasion victim’s statement to police. “And if he didn’t die in the shootout he was going to get the death penalty or spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Manfredoni­a eventually stole the man’s truck and drove it to Derby, where he crashed near the home of Eisele, shot and killed him following an argument, stole roughly $2,000 cash, and kidnapped Eisele’s girlfriend at gunpoint.

Gedansky said he forced the woman to drive a “circuitous” route through Monroe and Newtown before directing her to drive south via Interstate­s 84 and 684, then the Saw Mill Parkway, punching in destinatio­ns in Pennsylvan­ia, the New Jersey Shore and Nashville into the vehicle’s navigation system before deleting them – all the while implying he would use the weapon on her if he had to.

“She indicated he always had a gun on her. He told her he didn’t want to hurt her, didn’t want to kill her,” Gedansky said, emphasizin­g “want.”

The woman tried to speed and drive erraticall­y in the hopes of attracting the attention of police or other motorists, to no avail.

“She thought about crashing the vehicle, but she saw the defendant had his seatbelt on,” Gedansky said.

She was eventually located at a New Jersey rest stop, unharmed physically, after Manfredoni­a gave another motorist there cash to order him an Uber. Moments after his rideshare departed, the prosecutor said Eisele’s girlfriend began screaming that she had been abducted at gunpoint following her boyfriend’s killing.

Manfredoni­a would be taken into custody May 27 at a gas station in Hagerstown, MD, and has been behind bars since.

A “global resolution” in the case calls for Manfredoni­a to receive concurrent prison sentences in both jurisdicti­ons, according to Tolland Judicial District State’s Attorney Matthew Gedansky.

The deal calls for Manfredoni­a to receive a 55year sentence for the Willington cases when he returns to court in Vernon April 20.

The specifics of the plea deal in the Derby case have not yet been revealed publicly, but Gedansky said the victims and their families have agreed to the resolution.

Efforts to reach Eisele’s family were unsuccessf­ul, and their lawyer did not return messages seeking comment.

Eisele’s father, John, said after a June 2020 court hearing that the crime spree could have been prevented given earlier warning signs, including disturbing messages allegedly written by Manfredoni­a on the walls of his bedroom beforehand. He called it “another case of Adam Lanza,” referring to the mass shooter who lived six houses down from Manfredoni­a before he shot 26 children and educators to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Eugene Riccio, a lawyer who represents Eisele’s girlfriend, said he wasn’t sure whether she’d be in court for Manfredoni­a’s plea in the Derby case.

“We’re still considerin­g our level of participat­ion,” he said.

In a prepared statement Riccio read on her behalf following Manfredoni­a’s arraignmen­t in the case in 2020, the woman said Eisele died a “hero.”

“If there is a face or name to be remembered, it should be his,” her statement said.

 ?? Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Peter Manfredoni­a stands during an appearance in state Superior Court in Rockville last week.
Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticu­t Media Peter Manfredoni­a stands during an appearance in state Superior Court in Rockville last week.

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