WILLINGTON, Conn. (AP) — A college student sought by police as a suspect in two slayings was looking for a third person, a young woman he knew, when he showed up in the rural Connecticut neighborhood where the first victim was killed, the victim’s wife said Tuesday.
The suspect, University of Connecticut senior Peter Manfredonia, 23, was last reported seen in Pennsylvania on Sunday and is the target of a search involving several police agencies and the FBI.
Cyndi DeMers, whose husband Ted Demers was killed on Friday, said in an interview that Manfredonia was looking for a female acquaintance when he came walking down the road in front of their Willington home wearing a motorcycle helmet. Manfredonia said that his motorcycle had broken down, and Ted Demers was killed with a machete after giving Manfredonia a ride back to his bike.
“He said to my husband, ‘I know so-and-so,’ who is one of our neighbors, which then opened up the door to trusting this person,” Cyndi DeMers said.
“I think he got in the way of what he was going to do,” she said. “He was clearly walking to her home with a mission, with a machete in his backpack.”
DeMers said she talked with the young woman’s father over the weekend and discovered the family had been considering getting a restraining order against Manfredonia, who had been to the home in the past. Her neighbors have been told by police not to return to their home until he is captured, she said.
Another neighbor, who came to DeMers’ aid, also was attacked. That man suffered serious hand injuries, but is expected to survive, Cyndi DeMers said.
Manfredonia is suspected of killing DeMers, 62, and later Nicholas Eisele, 23, a high school classmate who was found dead Sunday about 70 miles (110 kilometers) away in Derby, Connecticut.
Authorities say he then forced Eisele’s 23-year-old girlfriend into her car and fled the state with her. The girlfriend was found Sunday at a rest stop near Paterson, New Jersey, with her 2016 Volkswagen Jetta, police said, and was not hurt.
Manfredonia took an Uber to a Walmart in East Stroudsburg, not far from the New Jersey border, Pennsylvania State Police said Tuesday.
Police discovered through interviews with the driver and from security camera footage that Manfredonia walked behind the store and onto railroad tracks, authorities said.
State police said they don’t believe Manfredonia has ties to the area, or a car. He might try to use another ride-hailing service to flee, the agency said.
Manfredonia, who is believed to be armed with several guns stolen during a home invasion in Willington, was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and dark shorts and carrying a large duffel bag. Police have circulated a photo of a person matching his description walking along railroad tracks in East Stroudsburg.
A lawyer for Manfredonia’s family, Mike Dolan, said the suspect has struggled with mental health issues and has “sought the help of a number of therapists.”
“Peter, if you are listening, you are loved,” Dolan said at a news conference Monday. “It is time to let the healing process begin. It’s time to surrender. You have your parents’ and your sisters’ and your family’s entire support. So, Peter, from your parents, we love you, please turn yourself in.”
Cyndi DeMers said her husband would be remembered as a kindhearted man, always willing to help anyone in need. That, she said, was what he was doing when he was killed.
“He was like the neighborhood watch,” she said. “He was home all the time, so he kind of kept an eye out. He was that guy.”
A news briefing was planned late Tuesday afternoon at Connecticut State Police headquarters in Middletown.
This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of the first name of Cyndi Demers.