Police stand Monday afternoon in the parking lot of the American Legion Post 9 in Machias after responding to reports of shootings earlier in the day in Machias and Jonesboro. Machias police Chief Todd Hand on Wednesday confirmed that his department is investigating a complaint about missing funds at the local Legion hall, but said he doesn't believe there is connection between the money in question and the shootings. Credit: Bill Trotter

The Machias Police Department is investigating the disappearance of funds from American Legion Post 9, but it is unclear whether the missing money might be connected to a Legion member who is accused of fatally shooting three people on Monday and who was taken into custody at the Legion hall.

Both the local chief of police, Todd Hand, and the post’s commander, Brian Smith, said they do not believe the disappearance of the money has anything to do with the killings. Thomas Bonfanti, 63, of Northfield, the legion’s historian, has been charged with three counts of murder and one count of elevated aggravated assault in connection with the shootings.

When Bonfanti showed up at the Legion hall late Monday morning, he told members that the police were looking for him and that they should call police to tell them where he was, Smith said, relaying the accounts of Post 9 members who were there at the time.

Bonfanti, who showed up within about a half hour of police learning of the shootings, was unarmed when he arrived at the Legion hall, Smith said, adding that he does not know if Bonfanti told other Legion members why police were looking for him.

Bonfanti’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein, told reporters on Wednesday that he had only limited information about the case but said “there may be some related circumstances involving the American Legion, and some investigation that was ongoing relative to that.”

Silverstein did not provide more information about what sort of investigation he was referring to. The American Legion is a national veterans’ organization.

“I think there are more circumstances involving the Legion that may be relevant to this, although it’s difficult for me to assess,” Silverstein said Wednesday. “Until I get access to more information, I’m not going to be able to unravel all that.”

Hand confirmed Wednesday that his department had received a complaint about funds missing from the local American Legion, but said he is unaware of any connection that might exist between the complaint and the shootings. Another law enforcement agency, the Maine State Police, is investigating the shootings.

The missing funds investigation is in its relatively early stages, Hand said, and it would be premature to say if charges might result. It may turn out that the funds were accidentally mishandled rather than intentionally misused, he said.

Hand declined to identify Legion members who might be involved in the investigation, or how much money had gone missing, but did say that it could result in a felony theft charge if someone took the money on purpose. Under state law, felony charges can be filed if an alleged theft involves the taking or misuse of cash or other property worth at least $1,000.

On Thursday, Smith declined to comment on the investigation into the missing money, but said that Bonfanti was uninvolved with keeping track of the funds.

“It has nothing to do with Tom Bonfanti,” Smith said.

Smith, who has been in Florida since before Monday’s shootings, said that news about the shootings and the charges filed against Bonfanti have been difficult for other Legion members to absorb. Bonfanti, who has worked odd jobs as an automotive mechanic, has been a member of the Legion for more than a decade, he said.

“He considered the Legion his home,” Smith said. “He was well liked within the building. That’s where he would go [to socialize].”

Smith said he is not sure how long Bonfanti has lived in the area. Prior to living in Northfield, a small town about 13 miles northwest of Machias, Bonfanti had lived in Massachusetts, Smith said. Bonfanti served on active duty in the Army during the Vietnam War, Smith said, but he is not sure if he was stationed or ever saw combat in Vietnam.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....