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College student wanted in 2 killings caught in Hagerstown after foot chase

Jesse Leavenworth, David Owens and Dave Altimari
The Hartford Courant (TNS)
This photo provided by the Washington County, Maryland, Sheriff's Office, Thursday May 28, 2020, shows Peter Manfredonia. The college student wanted in connection with two killings and a kidnapping in Connecticut was taken into custody in Maryland after authorities tracked him to a truck stop, according to new details released by police on Thursday. (Washington County, Maryland, Sheriff's Office via AP)

HARTFORD, Conn. – A multistate manhunt for Peter Manfredonia, a 23-year-old Newtown man wanted for two homicides in Connecticut, ended Wednesday night in Hagerstown, Md., when a Connecticut state police detective caught him during a foot chase.

He was captured about 9 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday. No shots were fired and no one was injured.

Two Connecticut State Police Eastern District Major Crime Squad detectives went to Maryland and worked with Maryland state police and Hagerstown police all day Wednesday tracking Manfredonia after he took a ride share service to the city in the Maryland panhandle on Tuesday.

State police in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maryland, along with the FBI and the U.S. Marshals and others had been pursuing Manfredonia, who was believed to be heavily armed and had eluded law enforcement since he allegedly killed two men and fled Connecticut on Sunday.

More:Last seen in Pa.: Connecticut murder suspect’s family pleads for his surrender

More:Police: Fugitive in Connecticut slayings traced to Chambersburg, Hagerstown

The killing rampage began Friday when police say Manfredonia hacked to death a Willington man while searching for a female friend. Manfredonia evaded police search teams throughout the weekend and later allegedly fatally shot a Derby man in the head Sunday morning before stealing a car and heading to New Jersey and then taking a ride share to East Stroudsburg, Pa., on Sunday afternoon.

Police in Pennsylvania say Manfredonia was spotted Tuesday morning in Chambersburg, Pa., carrying a black bag believed to contain firearms, before he took an Uber to nearby Hagerstown, Md.

This undated photo provided by the Connecticut State Police shows Peter Manfredonia. A woman who said she was abducted by Manfredonia, a college student suspected of killing two people in Connecticut, has been found safe in New Jersey, police said Monday, May 25, 2020. Manfredonia was last seen Sunday walking along railroad tracks in East Stroudsburg, Pa. (Connecticut State Police via AP)

Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, police near Scranton searched a wooded area near an old coal mining town after another possible sighting of Manfredonia.

Police and a crew aboard a Pennsylvania state police helicopter searched a wooded area near Duryea, Pa., late Tuesday and early Wednesday after a firefighter reported seeing a man matching Manfredonia’s description behind a firehouse, according to Duryea police. The search ended after several hours and came up empty.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania State Police warned Uber and Lyft drivers that Manfredonia “may attempt to solicit ride sharing services, possibly through third-party means, to flee the area.” Law enforcement officials said he might also seek refuge in wooded areas, a hotel or motel, or an abandoned building.

A man matching Manfredonia’s description was seen at a Sheetz convenience store in Chambersburg, just off I-81 in southern Pennsylvania about 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. A black Hyundai Santa Fe stolen from East Stroudsburg, near where Manfredonia was sighted about 6 p.m. Sunday, was recovered near the Sheetz store.

Police said the person they believe could be Manfredonia then received a ride from an Uber driver to Hagerstown, about 24 miles south of Chambersburg.

Police said surveillance video and witness descriptions of the man match Manfredonia’s description.

State police in Pennsylvania and Connecticut on Wednesday did not release any additional information about the manhunt, which has stretched from Connecticut to New Jersey to Pennsylvania and now Maryland. Manfredonia is a student in the University of Connecticut’s elite business and engineering program.

Back in Connecticut, new information emerged Wednesday about what Manfredonia was doing on Mirtl Road in Willington, where police say he killed a man and badly injured another after showing up on the rural road last Friday morning.

Police say they believe Manfredonia was headed Friday morning to the home of a young woman he knew who lived on the street. His intentions were unclear, but Manfredonia had left his motorcycle behind and was on foot and armed with what has been described as a small samurai sword or machete.

Manfredonia never made it to the woman’s house after running into Ted DeMers, a Mirtl Road resident, who offered to give Manfredonia a lift on his four-wheeler to where Manfredonia had left his motorcycle.

There was a violent confrontation and DeMers was brutally killed and a second neighbor, an 80-year-old man, was badly injured after he went to DeMers’ aid. Manfredonia never made it to the woman’s house.

On Wednesday, the wife of the man who survived Friday’s attack told The Hartford Courant that her husband was in stable condition at a local hospital.

“His hands are the worst,” she said. “He had other injuries that needed stitching.”

Her husband was home on Mirtl Road Friday morning when he apparently heard the violent confrontation involving DeMers and Manfredonia and went to help. DeMers’ widow, Cynthia DeMers, said she found both men lying on the ground after a neighbor alerted her. Ted DeMers was later pronounced dead.

The wife said she was away from home when the attack happened and came home to crime scene tape.

Because of COVID-19, she has not been allowed to see her husband in person and has only been able to speak with him for about three minutes each day, she said. They have not talked about the attack, she said.

“My impression is he had no clue what he was getting into,” she said.

The 80-year-old victim worked in finance and was a U.S. Navy veteran, his wife said. He had gone back to school after retirement and also was learning to speak Italian, she said. He loved playing golf and working with his hands and had recently been building stone walls around the couple’s property, she said.

The wife said her husband of 46 years, who grew up in Trumbull, is tough, and the doctors and nurses are amazed at his resilience.

She described their neighborhood as a peaceful haven – until Friday.

“It’s been a nice, quiet, wonderful neighborhood,” she said. “All you hear is the stillness and the birds, and to have it broken up by something like this is so tragic.”

As for Manfredonia, she said, her voice breaking, “I don’t want him killed … I pray, pray, pray that he does not kill anybody else.”

In an obituary, the DeMers family said he died after “a simple and cruel twist of fate – he simply offered a hand to a stranger in need. For this good deed, his life was taken from him.”

After the attack Friday morning, Manfredonia went into hiding before carrying out a home invasion elsewhere in Willington. He held a 73-year-man hostage but did not harm him, authorities said, before stealing guns, food and the man’s pickup truck on Sunday morning.

Police say Manfredonia drove to Derby on Sunday morning, crashed the pickup and walked to the home of Nicholas Eisele, an aquaintance from Newtown, and killed him. Eisele, 23, died of gunshot wounds to the head, according to the state medical examiner’s office.

Manfredonia then kidnapped Eisele’s girlfriend and stole her car. She and the car were found at a truck stop along I-80 in New Jersey, about seven miles from the Pennsylvania state line. Manfredonia fled to Pennsylvania by Uber.

This week, Manfredonia’s family and state police urged Manfredonia to turn himself in.

Throughout his life, Manfredonia has struggled with mental health issues, but has never been violent, said Michael Dolan, a lawyer for Manfredonia’s family. Manfredonia grew up on the same Newtown street as Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Connecticut State Police Lt. John Aiello issued a message directly to Manfredonia on Tuesday.

“Peter, we’ve talked to your family,” Aiello said. “We’ve talked to your friends and your roommates. All of them have said the same thing, that this behavior is out of the ordinary for you.

“We know this is not who you are Peter,” Aiello continued. “I want you to know that we are continuing our investigation. One thing we are missing right now is you. We want you to be able to tell your story. We are here to listen to you.”

Police asked anyone with information about the investigation to contact the FBI tip line at (203) 503-5555.