Returning from an errand run to Napa Auto Parts on Monday morning, Gorden Flynn wasn’t surprised to see police at his friend Regina Long’s home on Kennebec Road in Machias.
He knew Long and her boyfriend had a fraught relationship, so he didn’t argue when an officer told him to move on. Then Flynn noticed that his dog Mercedes, a boxer and pitbull mix, didn’t greet him at the door when he got to his Kennebec Road home. Nor did his wife, who was supposed to be ready to go to a doctor’s appointment. Then he saw her lying awkwardly on her side on the bed in their living room, one shoe on and another half off.
Flynn was the first to discover that Jennifer Bryant Flynn was dead – one of four victims of a shooting spree in Machias and Jonesboro on Monday that also left Long wounded and 57-year-old Shawn Currey, Long’s boyfriend, and 33-year-old Samuel Powers of Jonesboro dead.
“I thought she was asleep,” the 47-year-old Flynn said Friday as he sat in his family’s house in Lubec, his head in his hands. “What I don’t understand is, why? Why would anybody do this? She was an innocent woman.”
That’s the question that lingered Friday, four days after Maine’s first triple homicide since 2017: Why did 63-year-old Thomas Bonfanti of Northfield allegedly shoot three people to
death and injure a fourth before showing up at the American Legion hall in Machias and asking members there to call the police?
Earl and Sherry Sprague of Whiting described Bonfanti as their friend — a kind and generous man known for being helpful to his friends, particularly those at American Legion Post 9, where Bonfanti is the historian.
“I’ve known Tom for probably 20 years. He has been a legion member for as long as I have known him,” said Earl Sprague, who described Bonfanti as a reliable mechanic and handyman. “He worked on vehicles for me. He has always been really peaceful.”
“He is always trying to help somebody,” Sherry Sprague said Friday night at the Thirsty Moose Cafe in Machias. “He loves to talk. If you polled everybody in here, they would all say he’s a great guy.”
Bonfanti, a U.S. Army veteran and Massachusetts native, lived in a camper in Northfield, the Spragues said.
Flynn and his brother John Flynn described Bonfanti as a friend of Devon Bryant, one of Jennifer Bryant Flynn’s three children, until the two had a bitter dispute at the American Legion early last summer. Bryant was also a good friend of Powers’, they said.
Even after the friendship apparently ended, Gorden Flynn and Jennifer Bryant Flynn continued to welcome Bonfanti into their Machias home. Bonfanti visited their home as recently as a month ago, Gorden Flynn said.
Angela Garrison of East Machias said that she and her husband David were like foster parents to Bryant Flynn’s children, allowing them to live at their home and helping them overcome substance use or escape a difficult home atmosphere.
“Devon brought him [Bonfanti] into the family,” Garrison said. “It was a big falling out of some kind, or a fight.”
Bonfanti had difficulties with addiction, too, the Spragues said. His criminal history in Maine lists an operating under the influence charge in November 2004; a Washington County jury found him guilty in April 2007.
But he had been sober and lost 40 pounds, until he drank on Friday night, Jan. 31, three days before the shooting, the Spragues said. That’s the day a Machias police officer arrested Bonfanti and charged him with operating under the influence. Bonfanti posted an unsecured bond of $500 before he was released.
Sherry Sprague said that if Bonfanti did shoot the four victims, he would have a reason for doing so.
“Sooner or later, we are going to find out why this happened,” she said.
Mercedes, the Flynns’ dog, was missing after the shooting spree, and investigators didn’t tell Gorden Flynn why. But they told Flynn he could pick up the dog at a local kennel, which he did later in the week.