Manfredonia arrested: What we know about the double homicide suspect, his deep roots in Sandy Hook

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(WTNH) — The six-day, four-state manhunt for 23-year-old Peter Manfredonia finally came to a close at a truck stop in Maryland Wednesday. But how did Manfredonia’s background lead him here?

Former FBI agent, current University of New Haven professor, Ken Gray told News 8 Wednesday, “It’s unusual for a person not to have a history of violence to all of a sudden go into this series of attacks.”

“I would put more stock into the idea that he had some kind of psychotic break,” continued Gray, who was with the FBI for 24 years.

Before his name was plastered all over the news, the suspect in two brutal murders over the weekend in Connecticut was studying to be a mechanical engineer at the University of Connecticut.

A university spokesperson confirmed to News 8 Manfredonia is enrolled as a senior at their institution and that he does not currently live on campus and has not done so during recent semesters. The university said it is working with state police on the investigation.

RELATED: Peter Manfredonia arrested in Maryland after reportedly killing 2 men in Connecticut

Monday, UConn told News 8 Manfredonia was studying at the School of Engineering and Business. Manfredonia enrolled in 2015 and was an honor student during his freshman year.

Right after enrolling at UConn, Manfredonia was an intern at Bozzuto‘s food distributor in Cheshire. A spokesperson there said he worked on the “Dream Ride” project in August of 2016 raising money for Special Olympics and law enforcement.

Manfredonia is a 2015 Newtown High School graduate. He lived in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown. Neighbors confirmed that he lived down the street from Sandy Hook mass shooter, Adam Lanza.

At 6’3” and more than 200-pounds, he played defensive end for their football team and was ranked in the state.

Former neighbors of Manfredonia are trying to square the memory of the kind young man they knew with the monster police say they’re hunting down.

“They were a loveable family. Really sweet. And I can’t see them…This is totally out of character,” a neighbor who lives on the block where Manfredonia grew up told News 8 Wednesday.

The woman lives between Manfredonia’s childhood home and the home of Sandy Hook mass murderer Adam Lanza. That house was razed to the ground and in its place sits an empty, overgrown lot filled with trees and bushes.

The woman says both families lived on the block at the same time. She said the coincidences of time and place are hard to ignore.

“We’re a good town. I know that in my head. But it is a little hard to assimilate,” she said. “It’s a little surreal. I feel like, ‘what’s happening?’ What’s in the water here?”

She went on to say, “We saw them walking the neighborhood. The kids trick-or-treated here. They were friendly and kind. Just very likable. Sensitive. Some of the kindest people I’ve known.”

RELATED: Multi-state manhunt underway for 23-year-old suspected of killing 2, believed to be armed; Person abducted in Derby found safe in NJ

But police say 23-year-old Manfredonia has left a trail of carnage behind him since Friday. They say he first murdered 62-year-old former US Marine Ted DeMers of Willington with a machete days before Memorial Day, and later killed childhood friend and Sandy Hook native Nick Eisele at Eisele’s home in Derby.

“They must be devastated. The whole family must be devastated. I can’t even imagine what they’re going through. I feel so sorry for the victims but I also feel sorry for the family,” said the neighbor. 

In a statement, J.T. Lewis, whose brother was murdered in Sandy Hook, said of the tragedy, “The Sandy Hook shooting didn’t just leave behind 26 victims…Its effects are still being felt today.”

On Monday, Mike Dolan, the attorney for the family of Manfredonia, said he’s been struggling with mental health issues for years.

“You won’t be surprised to hear that Peter has struggled with mental health issues over the past several years,” he said. “He sought the help of a number of therapists, and he’s had the support of his parents and loved ones to help him through those struggles.”

UConn released this statement Monday regarding the manhunt for their student:

With respect to the student in question, while the university can’t discuss specific individuals or cases, 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.

Stephanie Reitz, UConn spokesperson

The university went on to expresses its “deepest, most heartfelt sympathies to the victims and their families in this horrible, incomprehensible tragedy. They are all in our thoughts.”

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