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Ex-UConn senior admits murdering stranger with samurai sword, carrying out terrifying home invasion after 5 sleepless nights

Peter Manfredonia

Peter Manfredonia stands next to his attorney Michael Dolan during an appearance in Superior Court, in Rockville, Conn., Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. (Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP, Pool)

Prosecutors in the state of Connecticut secured a high-profile guilty plea on Wednesday in the case of a former University of Connecticut college student accused of murdering a man with a samurai sword and wounding another before continuing a gruesome crime spree.

Peter Manfredonia made national headlines in May 2020 after he murdered 62-year-old Theodore DeMers and wounded 80-year-old John Franco before perpetrating a separate home invasion holding a homeowner hostage for more than a day. DeMers had offered Manfredonia a ride after the suspect’s motorcycle broke down. Franco, a neighbor, had tried to help DeMers, but was critically injured, authorities said.

Cynthia DeMers told The Hartford Courant at the time that her husband was “at peace and will continue to watch over our family.”

“We will all move forward and continue on as he has instructed us to do,” she said.

The Willington crimes began on May 22, 2020, but investigators said they soon learned the extent of Manfredonia’s crimes was multi-state and multi-day in nature.

The Newtown resident’s guilty plea in Rockville Superior Court pertained only to the murder, assault, and home invasion incidents that collectively formed the genesis of the deadly spree.

The home invasion victim held hostage in a basement reportedly told police that Manfredonia confessed “he just flipped” as the hostage situation continued, The Associated Press reported.

“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 homeowner said. “He said he didn’t know why he did it and that he was remorseful for it.”

The defendant allegedly took the man’s truck, his two guns, and left.

Authorities in Derby allege Manfredonia then went to a residence on Roosevelt Drive on May 24, 2020, and murdered Nicholas Eisele, 23, and kidnapped his girlfriend, who mourned him as a “hero” after the shooting. Eisele was a high school friend of Manfredonia’s. He was shot in the head.

Peter Manfredonia

Peter Manfredonia (Maryland State Police)

After receiving a 911 call for a well-being check, police arrived on scene and found Eisele dead in the home. The girlfriend of the deceased was kidnapped from the residence and a 2016 Volkswagen Jetta was stolen, officers said.

From there, Manfredonia allegedly drove to New Jersey where police said the stolen Volkswagen Jetta and the uninjured kidnapping victim were found. The victim identified Manfredonia as her “captor.”

The increasingly sprawling search was aided by various tips and sightings of Manfredonia over the ensuing days. For instance, Pennsylvania State Police said they learned an Uber had dropped off Manfredonia at a Walmart in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, which is near the border with New Jersey.

When the manhunt reached its sixth day, Manfredonia had made it to the state of Maryland. In the end, the suspect was captured at a truck stop.

Manfredonia was extradited to Connecticut in June 2020 and has remained there ever since.

Prosecutors said that Manfredonia faces 55 years behind bars in the Rockville Superior Court case. Sentencing was set for April 20.

Manfredonia is expected to appear in Milford Superior Court next on Feb. 16 for a hearing relating to charges in the murder and kidnapping case. His lawyer Michael Dolan informed the Rockville court his client intends to plead guilty that day. Manfredonia would face a second 55-year sentence that won’t run consecutively.

The attorney said that his client had a “psychotic episode” after mental health issues went unaddressed. Dolan said the COVID-19 pandemic impacted his client’s ability to receive help.

Last October, the defendant’s father Robert Manfredonia admitted sexually assaulting a teenage girl after providing her with vodka at his home. The victim also smoked marijuana while at the residence.

The crime reportedly occurred a matter of weeks before his son committed the murder, assault, and home invasion.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.