BREAKING NEWS: Former Sandy Hook Resident Captured After Multi-State Manhunt
UPDATE: This report was amended at 10:38 pm on May 28 to report the suspect has been apprehended.
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A former Sandy Hook resident accused of murdering two individuals, including a former Newtown High School classmate, was apprehended in Maryland after a multi-state manhunt that utilized FBI Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies, according to the Connecticut State Police.
The CSP posted the following update just before 10 pm Wednesday, May 27: "Suspect, Peter Manfredonia has been found and is in custody. Connecticut State Police Eastern District Major Crime are on scene in Hagerstown, MD. There are no injuries to any law enforcement personnel or Manfredonia."
Manfredonia, 23 — is a prime suspect in a deadly assault in Willington that occurred on Friday, May 22, and a homicide in Derby on Sunday morning, May 24. For a period of time police believed he was armed with several weapons stolen during a home invasion in proximity to the Willington murder site early Sunday. He has also been implicated in an alleged assault, an alleged kidnapping, and in at least two vehicle thefts.
According to Fareeha Rehman and Katie Misuracaa reporting at regional independent media source LocalDVM.com, police say Peter Manfredonia was arrested Wednesday night at the Pilot Travel Center near the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
The Hagerstown Police Department said said Wednesday evening that an Uber driver dropped Manfredonia, 23, off in Hagerstown on Tuesday, May 26. LocalDVM.com has images of an individual police believe was Manfredonia at a Sheetz convenience store in that community.
A stolen Hyundai Santa Fe Police believe Manfredonia took was also recovered in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania State Police. The news outlet says a "Trooper Petroski tweeted that Manfredonia took an Uber to Hagerstown from a Sheetz in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania."
Police suspect he was somewhere in the Chambersburg area for at least 24 hours.
Manfredonia, a senior University of Connecticut finance and mechanical engineering major from Sandy Hook, is suspected of killing Ted DeMers, 62, of Willington, and Nicholas Eisele, 23, of Derby, before forcing Eisele’s girlfriend into her car and fleeing the state with her.
The second murder victim was found dead at his home, which is about 60 miles (96 kilometers) southwest of Willington. Eisele was a 2016 Newtown High School graduate who worked with his father in a landscaping and irrigation business.
State police described Eisele as an acquaintance of Manfredonia’s. The woman, 23, was located Sunday at a rest stop near Paterson, N.J., with her 2016 Volkswagen Jetta, police said, and was not hurt. Hours earlier, a Willington man reported being held against his will by Manfredonia, who then left with food, several guns, and the man’s truck. The truck was later found abandoned near Osbornedale State Park in Derby, about a mile from Eisele’s home.
Some time after Eisele's girlfriend was found Sunday at a rest stop near Paterson, Manfredonia took an Uber to a Walmart in East Stroudsburg, Penn., not far from the New Jersey border. Pennsylvania State Police discovered through interviews with the driver and from security camera footage that Manfredonia walked behind the store and onto railroad tracks.
Paterson is about a 90-minute drive from Derby, where Eisele was killed. East Stroudsburg is about an hour farther west on Interstate 80.
Possible Escape Vehicle Sought
Pennsylvania police previously said they do not believe Manfredonia has ties to the area, or a car. He might try to use another ride-hailing service to flee, the agency said.
On Tuesday, authorities said they were looking for a black 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe with Pennsylvania license plate KYW-1650 that was stolen around 9 pm Monday. Police had not connected Manfredonia to the theft, they said, but it was taken from the area where he was last seen on surveillance video.
One day earlier, Mike Dolan, a lawyer for the Manfredonia family, pleaded for Manfredonia to surrender. 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. “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.”
As the story continued to develop, it was learned on May 26 that Manfredonia was looking for a young woman he knew when he began his rampage, according to the wife of his first victim.
Cyndi DeMers, who had been married to Ted DeMers for 42 years, 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.
When asked why he was walking down the rural road, Manfredonia said his motorcycle had broken down, Cyndi DeMers said. 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 their young neighbor’s father over the weekend and was told the family had been considering 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.
An additional neighbor, who came to the aid of Ted DeMers, also was attacked. That man suffered serious hand injuries but is expected to survive, Cyndi DeMers said.
Plea For 'Peaceful End'
Connecticut State Police also pleaded at a news briefing on Tuesday for Manfredonia to turn himself in.
“We want you to be able to tell your story,” Lt John Aiello said. “We are here to listen to you. Your parents, your friends, all of us back here in Connecticut want a peaceful end to this.”
Eisele’s family set up an online fundraiser to help cover funeral expenses, and far exceeded the goal of $10,000 in just a few hours.
Cyndi DeMers said she and her husband were looking forward to becoming grandparents for he first time next month. Ted DeMers 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.”
Associated Press writer Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report and additional Associated Press reporting is included.