Thomas Bonfanti was ordered held without bail Wednesday when he made his first court appearance at Calais District Court for three counts of murder and one count of elevated aggravated assault. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

BELFAST, Maine — A Northfield man accused of shooting and killing three people in three different locations in Washington County told a jury Wednesday morning that he shot them in a dispute over missing American Legion funds.

Thomas Bonfanti, 65, a longtime member of the American Legion, said he found out that a large amount of money was missing from the local chapter in Machias. Bonfanti gave his own opening statement to the jury, a task that normally is done by a defendant’s attorney.

Bonfanti told jurors that he learned that the money was being used to feed someone’s drug habit, and that the people he shot were involved in the scheme. He went to the three houses where the shootings took place — two in Machias and one in Jonesboro — to talk to the victims about the missing money, and shot them in self-defense.

“Every case has two sides,” Bonfanti told the jury. “The state wasn’t there. I was.”

Prior to the jury coming into the courtroom, Jeff Toothaker, who is representing Bonfanti at the trial, told Justice Bruce Mallonee that Bonfanti wanted to make his own opening statement. The judge approved the request.

Bonfanti is accused of shooting four people, including the three who died, at three different houses in Machias and Jonesboro on the morning of Feb. 3, 2020. He was arrested at the American Legion Hall in Machias later that morning without resistance.

Killed in the shootings were Jennifer Bryant Flynn, 49, of Machias; Samuel Powers, 33, of Jonesboro; and Shawn Currey, 57, of Machias, all of whom were shot at their homes. Bonfanti also is charged with one count of aggravated attempted murder and one count of elevated aggravated assault in the shooting of Regina Hall Long, now 51, who was dating Currey and was shot the same morning. Long survived her injuries.

Long testified Wednesday afternoon, telling the jury that Bonfanti came to her house the morning of the shooting for what started out as a social visit. Currey, who had not met Bonfanti before, was also there.

“I was kind of happy to see him,” Long said. “He was my friend. He used to come to me and talk to me about his problems. I gave him a hug and invited him to sit down.”

She said Bonfanti was worried about having been arrested a few days before on a charge of drunken driving, and that he was worried about the missing money at the Legion hall.

“He was scared they were going to blame him,” Long said.

Long told Bonfanti she had to take Currey to an appointment, and when she stood up, she heard Bonfanti rustling around in his coat.

“I just thought he was putting his coat on,” Long said. “I felt something on my neck, and when I went to look, he had a gun to my head.”

Bonfanti pulled the trigger, shooting her in the face, and then he shot Currey in the neck, she said. Currey fell to the ground, and then Bonfanti shot her in the face again. She said she then fell to the ground and pretended to be dead, but Bonfanti shot her a third time, in the shoulder.

“I pretended to have a seizure, and pretended to die,” she said. She grabbed at her heart and then lay still again.

“Tom stood there staring at me. It felt like forever,” she said.

Bonfanti left, and she managed to call 911 from her landline in the living room.

She had a hard time talking to the dispatcher on the phone, saying she lost a lot of teeth and half of her tongue when Bonfanti shot her. But the dispatcher understood her when she said her address and an ambulance arrived a few minutes later.

Long said she spent three weeks in a Portland hospital, and that she can no longer work. She said she always has her mother or a friend stay with her at her home, and that she continues to be in a lot of pain.

“I’m scared to death of being alone,” she said. “It feels like someone is punching me in the head constantly.”

Long is expected to resume testifying on the stand on Thursday morning.

In his opening statement, Robert “Bud” Ellis, a prosecutor with the state attorney general’s office, told the jury that Bonfanti shot Currey twice. One shot severed his spinal cord, he said.

“Shawn Currey was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” the prosecutor said.

Ellis told the jury the state does not need to prove or to show why Bonfanti shot his victims. They just have to show that he did so on purpose.

“What matters is what he did,” Ellis said.

Others who testified Wednesday include Sam Powers’ mother Elizabeth Powers, Jennifer Bryant Flynn’s husband Gordon Flynn, and Sam Powers’s friend and neighbor Aaron O’Bannon. All three testified about not being present for the shootings but finding the victims dead.

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....