College student pleads not guilty to second murder charge
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A college student who avoided capture in several states for six days after a homicide, kidnapping and home invasion spree in Connecticut pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a second murder charge and other crimes.
Peter Manfredonia, 23, a former University of Connecticut student, took part in the arraignment at Milford Superior Court via a video feed from the courthouse detention area. A judge set bail at $5 million on the new charges, adding to the $7 million in bail imposed previously on another murder charge and other alleged crimes.
The new charges are connected to the fatal shooting of Nicholas Eisele and the kidnapping of his girlfriend in Derby on May 24. The girlfriend, who has not been named by authorities, was found unharmed at a rest stop near Columbia, New Jersey, later the same day.
Eisele was killed two days after police allege Manfredonia killed 62-year-old Ted DeMers and seriously wounded another man in a Samurai sword attack in Willington, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) from Derby. After the sword attack, Manfredonia is accused of breaking into another man’s house in Willington and holding him hostage for about 24 hours before taking off with his truck and firearms, police said.
Relatives of Manfredonia and Eisele were in court Tuesday, as well as a lawyer for Eisele’s girlfriend. The lawyer, Eugene Riccio, read a statement by her.
“Nicholas Eisele will forever be remembered as a loving, protective boyfriend but also a hero following his own selfless actions on that day,” the statement said. “The healing process can not begin until we can be assured that justice has been served and Peter Manfredonia is held accountable for his actions that altered and destroyed the lives of both Nick, myself, and countless others.”
Manfredonia’s lawyer, Michael Dolan, declined to comment on the charges. Manfredonia wore an orange prison jumpsuit and a mask because of coronavirus precautions, appearing via the video feed. His parents were in court, but left before the proceeding began, Dolan said.
“To see their son in custody was very difficult,” Dolan said. “It’s just a very sad day. The entire Manfredonia family is just ... heartbroken. Their hearts go out ... for all the families.”
The new arrest warrant affidavit in Eisele’s killing provides the first public account by his girlfriend of the harrowing events in Derby.
The woman told police that Manfredonia burst into her and Eisele’s apartment shortly before 6 a.m. She said the two men knew each other from growing up in Newtown, and Manfredonia had come to the apartment a few months earlier to buy marijuana from Eisele.
She said the men got into a fight and Manfredonia shot Eisele. Then, she said, Manfredonia forced her to drive him in her car out of state.
During the drive through Newtown and to New Jersey, Manfredonia told her he killed Eisele and DeMers because they said things that made him snap, but he did not elaborate.
Dolan has said that Manfredonia had a history of depression and anxiety, but had never shown signs of violence.
After Manfredonia let the woman go in New Jersey, investigators tracked him to Pennsylvania, where police said he took an Uber to a Walmart in East Stroudsburg. Authorities searched the area but didn’t find him. A man fitting his description was later spotted near Scranton, Pennsylvania, prompting another search there.
Police believe Manfredonia stole a car and abandoned it in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, before taking another Uber to Hagerstown, Maryland, where he was captured without incident when police spotted him near a truck stop.
Manfredonia previously pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder, home invasion and other charges connected to the events in Willington.