DeMers, 62, was a retired U.S. veteran. He was an outdoorsman and woodworker, who loved his community.
Loved ones told News 8 was helping 23-year-old Manfredonia, who had said his motorcycle had broken down and run out of gas, when he was attacked with a machete. He died of his injuries while being taken to the hospital. His neighbor, John Franco, was also attacked and is currently at Hartford Hospital in stable condition.
The community came out both Wednesday and Thursday evenings to light candles and pray for the lost soul. Among them, was DeMers’ wife, Cindy.
“He was a presence, always, and he is still with us here today, and he’s going to help us get through this difficult time,” Cindy told News 8.
“Many people feel so helpless; they want to do something but can’t right now,” Pat Jones, DeMers’ sister-in-law, added. “But what they don’t realize is just the act of reaching out, that is what is helping the family feel supported.”
While people came to remember DeMers, they are also prayed for Franco.
Alice Franco, the second victims’ wife, was at a vigil held on Thursday. She told News 8 he’s undergone surgery to repair his hand that was damaged in the attack.
“He’s actually had surgery on his left hand, yesterday, trying to repair all the nerve damage that was done there because that hand was the worst,” she said.
She said it’s not just his physical wounds that run deep, but his emotional ones as well.
“I’m not sure how he’s doing emotionally. He says [it’s] ‘Because I don’t remember. I don’t remember.’ Every day I talk to him, he always asks about Ted and Cindy so you know, they are the true victims here.”
She said she’s unable to see him in the hospital right now because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the women said they’re thankful for the support they’ve received from the community.
“I think it’s unbelievable support, the support that this town has shown myself and my family,” Cindy said.
“His family is horrifically suffering because of this incident; we just want to embrace the family,” said Willington resident, Beverly Cosgrove.
“It is a hard thing,” added Kia Martinson, another Willington resident. “It doesn’t really happen in a small town this way, and sadly, it shouldn’t happen anywhere this way. I think there’s a lot of confusion and a lot of ups and downs about how everyone feels about it.”
The small town of Willington is barely a spec on the map, but people said that’s what makes it great. Everyone knows their neighbor, everyone is willing to lend a helping hand, and this week, their peace and tranquility were shattered by one man.
“We used to leave our doors open,” Joe explained. “Now we have our shotguns loaded and our dogs are out, and we don’t know what to expect.”
On Wednesday evening, Manfredonia was taken into custody at a truck stop in Maryland. An arrest that the victims’ families and neighbors are thankful for.
“I think everybody is out there doing the best they can,” Samantha Dadalt said. “I give credit to the state police for everything they have done and continue to do so far.”
Family members and loved ones of Nicholas Eisele, the man believed to be Manfredonia’s second kill, also mourned his loss Thursday night.
The family’s spokesperson said the family wants a just punishment for their son’s accused killer.
“For this family, the healing process will not begin, will never begin, until and only until the successful prosecution, just sentence, and denial of any and all appeals of Peter Manfredonia.”