Photo: State Police Photo
Law enforcement in two states are on the hunt for a Connecticut man authorities say is connected to two homicides in recent days as the search brought investigators from Willington to Derby and stretched to New Jersey on Sunday.
State police said they were looking for a 2016 black Jetta with a Connecticut license plate of AU78524.
The vehicle had a tribute bumper sticker to the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, with the number 26, Trooper First Class Christine Jeltema said during a press conference shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday.
Later Sunday afternoon, state police said the vehicle had been found in Pennslyvania but soon clarified that it was found in New Jersey “at the Pennslyvania border,” and that authorities were searching for the suspect — identified by police Saturday as 23-year-old Peter Manfredonia.
“We are investigating various leads that we do have,”Jeltema said, adding that the agency has notified surrounding police departments and neighboring states to be on the lookout. “We have various leads that we’re looking into.”
Manfredonia, a University of Connecticut senior, is accused of a deadly assault in Willington that left one man dead and another injured Friday morning, as well as a homicide in Derby Sunday morning.
State Police said Manfredonia was believed to be armed with pistol and long guns. He was seen “carrying unknown type bag with food rations and is believed to be armed with numerous weapons,” state police said.
The vehicle has been located in PA. PA law enforcement agencies are actively looking for the suspect. https://t.co/mz9JMHyNT9
— CT State Police (@CT_STATE_POLICE) May 24, 2020
Manfredonia was described as a white male, 6-foot 3 and weighing 240 pounds, with black “disheveled hair,” and was last seen wearing a gray T-shirt and gray sweat pants.
Newtown police said Saturday that Manfredonia has ties to their town.
When asked Sunday whether investigators searched Newtown or had concerns the suspect might be in that area, Jeltema said, “This is an ongoing and active investigation. We are gathering information. We’re not at the liberty to disclose at this time.”
Newtown police said Sunday the department has stepped up patrols and increased manpower out of an abundance of caution.
“Residents should be aware and on the lookout, that while no immediate danger exist the potential is here and we have addressed it by bringing in extra manpower to patrol and protect our residents,” police said. “The suspect has very strong ties to Newtown and with the recent sightings of Peter in Derby in the Route 34 area, we want our residents and those around to be aware of this very dangerous individual.”
Sunday’s events began after state police were called to a home on Turnpike Drive in Willington, where the homeowner was held against his will Sunday morning, Jeltema said. She said the suspect took supplies from the house, including food and firearms, and the victim’s truck. The victim was uninjured and refused medical treatment.
Derby police said police responded to a report of a minor one-vehicle crash on Hawthorne Avenue, near Osbornedale State Park, and found a vehicle abandoned around 6:45 a.m. Jeltema said the vehicle was the one taken from Willington Sunday morning. State police searched the area.
Investigators quickly learned that the suspect — Manfredonia — had an acquaintance on Roosevelt Drive in Derby and responded there, according to Jeltema.
“A male was found deceased in the house,” Jeltema said, adding that the victim’s vehicle was taken.
State police and local investigators remained on scene, with traffic on Roosevelt drive diverted onto side streets, investigating well into the afternoon Sunday. A police helicopter flew overhead, with units on the ground, including K9 units, searching nearby areas during the early afternoon hours.
It all started Friday, around 9 a.m., when troopers from Troop C responded to an incident on Mirtl Road in Willington to find two victims suffering from injuries after an assault with an “edged weapon,” troopers said.
One victim, identified by police as 62-year-old Willington resident Theodore Demers, died as a result of his injures. The second man was injured but survived. State police said it was unclear what prompted the assault.
Manfredonia, a 2015 graduate of Newtown High School, is a University of Connecticut student majoring in finance and mechanical engineering.
In a statement Sunday, UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said records from the university show Manfredonia is a student in the joint school of engineering/school of business program. She said he first enrolled at UConn in the fall of 2015. He is a current senior.
“He is not attending summer courses, and had not been living on the UConn campus either at the time of the incident in Willington or during recent semesters,” Reitz said in the statement.
Reitz said the university is in contact with state police to provide any help and information that might help with the investigation.
“The university expresses its deepest, most heartfelt sympathies to the victims and their families in this horrible, incomprehensible tragedy,” Reitz said. “They are all in our thoughts.”
She said the university couldn’t discuss specific individuals and cases, but did say that “UConn strives to do everything possible to identify and engage with students of concern and to provide them with all the assistance and resources we can both for their own well-being and that of the wider community.”
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.