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College student who killed a man with sword sentenced twice to 55 years in prison

Peter Manfredonia was sentenced to 55 years in prison for killing two people, injuring another, holding a man hostage and kidnapping a woman in 2020.
Ned Gerard
/
AP
Peter Manfredonia was sentenced to 55 years in prison for killing two people, injuring another, holding a man hostage and kidnapping a woman in 2020.

A Connecticut court issued a second 55-year prison sentence to a man who attacked two people with a samurai sword, killing one and severely injuring the other.

It's the second sentence — and identical in length — for Peter Manfredonia, 26, who also fatally shot a man and kidnapped his girlfriend before leading police on a six-day manhunt across several states in 2020.

Manfredonia was a senior studying finance and mechanical engineering at the University of Connecticut when he "just flipped," according to his arrest warrant, and fatally struck 62-year-old Theodore DeMers with a sword on May 22, 2020, outside the man's home in Willington, Conn.

Manfredonia then attacked the man who came to DeMers' rescue, John Franco, who was 80 years old at the time, leaving him with severe injuries to his hands, neck and head.

Manfredonia broke into a nearby home and took a third man hostage for 24 hours. A day later, he drove across the state to Derby and fatally shot a former classmate and kidnapped that classmate's girlfriend. He let her go, physically unharmed, at a rest stop in New Jersey.

After a six-day search, police arrested Manfredonia at a truck stop in Hagerstown, Md., without incident.

On Wednesday, the defendant was sentenced to 55 years in prison for the second killing and the kidnapping. On Thursday, he was sentenced to an additional 55 years in prison for the sword attacks, court documents show.

Between the two cases, Manfredonia pleaded guilty to five counts of murder, assault, kidnapping and home invasion. Both of his sentences will run concurrently, and he agreed not to seek early release as part of his plea bargains, The Associated Press reports.

The victims and their families in both cases agreed to the plea bargain after months of discussion, according to reporting from Connecticut Public Radio.

This weeks' sentencing hearings came with several days of emotional testimony from victims and eyewitnesses.

Cindy DeMers, the widow of the man killed by samurai sword, told the court she believed her husband's killer deserved the death penalty, even though Connecticut outlawed capital punishment in 2016.

"It was like being in a war zone," she said, according to the Associated Press. "All I could focus on was reassuring Ted that he was going to be OK and we would put his body back together. We will get through this. We had gotten through so much together up until this point.

"He was still alive when he was taken away, but he never came home," she added. "My husband's life was stolen from him viciously. Life as I knew it [was] stolen from me. My world as I knew it came to an end."

State Attorney Matthew Gedansky said that Manfredonia was in DeMers' neighborhood because he planned to kill his ex-girlfriend, who lived nearby, the AP reported. Michael Dolan, the defendant's lawyer, said his client has bipolar disease and anxiety and was actually planning to commit suicide in front of the woman as part of a psychotic episode.

Witnesses said DeMers thought Manfredonia had crashed his motorcycle and was offering to help when he was attacked, according to several media accounts of the trial.

Manfredonia apologized twice in court this week, directing separate comments to each of the victims and their families.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: April 21, 2023 at 9:00 PM PDT
An earlier version of this story misspelled Willington, the town where the attack occurred, as Wilmington.
Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.