A man in Maine has been found guilty of three separate murders that occurred during a shooting spree in February 2020.
Jurors in Waldo County convicted Thomas Bonfanti, 65, on Wednesday of three counts of murder, one count of aggravated attempted murder, and one count of aggravated assault.
On Feb. 3, 2020, the defendant traveled to three different houses and shot four different people in the towns of Machias and Jonesboro, Me. As a result of the bloody rampage, 57-year-old Shawn Currey, 49-year-old Jennifer Bryant Flynn, and 33-year-old Samuel Powers died. A fourth person, Regina Long, suffered severe injuries but survived.
“Three horrific murders committed and Regina Long who came in and testified was just an absolute tower of power,” Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis said in a statement provided to Bangor CBS/CW affiliate WABI after the verdict was returned. “So, it’s very gratifying. We felt the evidence was very strong and compelling from the beginning of the case and obviously the jury agreed.”
Bonfanti knew all four of the victims, but despite a six-day trial, his motives remained somewhat less than crystalline.
Ellis argued the defendant “set out with a plan” to methodically shoot and kill his victims before confessing at the local American Legion outpost—but to what exact end, remained uncertain.
Bonfanti surprised the court by taking the stand immediately after the state’s opening statement and laying out the contours of his own defense.
“Basically, all the evidence will show we had a couple of accidents, self-defense, and I think all the evidence will show that,” he said, according to a report by Portland NBC affiliate WCSH.
The oddity was acknowledged by the defense itself.
“I’ve done a lot of trials and I have never had a client do his own opening so that was unique,” Jeff Toothaker, Bonfanti’s defense attorney, would later tell Portland CBS affiliate WGME. “I’m curious as to how it impacted the jury.”
During his opening statement, the defendant said witnesses would testify that after the shootings, he laid $789 on the bar and said: “This is my cremation money. I just shot seven people. I snapped. They finally made me snap,” WCSH reports.
Indeed, three witnesses testified that Bonfanti walked into the Machias American Legion and said something to the effect of: “This is my cremation money. I just killed several people. I just snapped,” according to Bangor, Me. Fox affiliate WVII.
Perhaps hinting at his motivations, the defendant would later tell jurors that all of his victims were “drug addicts” who had “serious records,” while he didn’t have such a criminal history.
Or maybe there simply wasn’t much of a motive at all, as evidence presented at trial was inconsistent, with Bonfanti also claiming he was upset because of a rumor that funds had been stolen from the veterans social club.
But while the money issue was used by the defendant to explain his underlying reason for traveling to the homes in question that awful day, he insisted it was not his motive for shooting and that the killings were both accidental and in self-defense.
Bonfanti told a story about struggling with Long before she was shot several times. She disputed that account, saying she was serving him coffee when he held his gun to her neck and squeezed the trigger. She would play dead on the floor to avoid being murdered. Long also said she had no idea what her assailant’s motive might have been.
The prosecution, for its part, argued the alleged embezzlement issue at the American Legion had “nothing to do with” the shooting spree, according to a report by the Bangor Daily News.
“That remains a mystery,” Ellis told jurors, referring to a motive. “There are all kinds of theories that weren’t fully played out in court. It could be multi-layered. We don’t really know.”
Bonfanti’s motive, to the extent he had one at all, may be odd and mysterious, but jurors in Waldo County, where the trial was moved due to pre-trial publicity concerns in Washington County where the shootings occurred, didn’t seem to care.
They returned guilty verdicts on all counts against Bonfanti after deliberating for just a few hours.
The defendant’s sentencing hearing is not yet scheduled, but it will likely be held in Machias. The three murder convictions carry sentences of 25 years to life in prison. The two additional convictions carry sentences of up to 30 years in prison and fines.
[image via screengrab/WABI]
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