Thomas Bonfanti had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit when he was arrested on a drunken-driving charge three days before he allegedly killed three people and wounded a fourth, according to Machias police.
The 63-year-old Northfield man, who remained jailed on murder charges Tuesday, failed a breathalyzer test with a 0.19 score after Machias police Officer Tyler Dunbar pulled him over at Center and Main streets the evening of Friday, Jan. 31. The legal limit for driving is 0.08.
The information about Bonfanti’s arrest on an operating under the influence charge three days before he allegedly carried out a shooting spree at three homes in Machias and Jonesboro explains some of what was happening in Bonfanti’s life in the lead-up to the triple homicide.
The day Bonfanti was arrested on the OUI charge was the first day he drank in at least six months, according to two friends, Earl and Sherry Sprague of Whiting.
Three days after the alleged drunken-driving incident, Bonfanti was arrested at American Legion Post 9 and charged with fatally shooting Shawn Currey, 57, of Machias; Samuel Powers, 33, of Jonesboro; and Jennifer Bryant-Flynn, 49, of Machias. Regina Long, 49, who was shot along with Currey at their home at 323 Kennebec Road in Machias, remained in serious condition Tuesday at Maine Medical Center in Portland, according to a hospital spokesman.
The alleged drunken-driving incident began at 5:27 p.m. Jan. 31, when Washington County dispatchers received a 911 call reporting a maroon Ford Expedition being driven erratically in downtown Machias. Dunbar was on Main Street near Center Street when he saw the vehicle heading toward him, Machias police Chief Todd Hand said.
Dunbar waved the SUV to the side of the road to keep the intersection clear. The truck took the left turn from Main Street onto Center Street too wide and hit a curb on the far side of the road before stopping. During their brief conversation, Dunbar noticed that Bonfanti’s words were slurred and that he smelled of alcohol, so he administered a field sobriety test, which Bonfanti failed.
Once he was in custody, Bonfanti failed a breathalyzer test administered at the Washington County jail, Hand said.
Bonfanti was issued a summons for operating under the influence and released from the jail after posting an unsecured bond of $500. Hand said he did not know what time Bonfanti took the breathalyzer test or what time Bonfanti was released.
Bonfanti was allowed to make bail, which Hand said was justified under the circumstances.
“At that point in time, he is just a guy that had too much to drink. He wasn’t not complying with anything we asked him to do,” Hand said Tuesday. “He wasn’t any kind of a threat other than his driving under the influence.”