Sole survivor: Eric Lindquist looks to memorialize his parents and brother

Eric Lindquist at the remains of his family's home in Griswold Saturday, July 21, 2018. Lindquist's mother, father and brother were murdered last December, after which the assailants allegedly burned down the family's home. Eric, who was no longer living at the home, is the only surviving member of the family.  (Tim Cook/The Day)
Eric Lindquist at the remains of his family's home in Griswold Saturday, July 21, 2018. Lindquist's mother, father and brother were murdered last December, after which the assailants allegedly burned down the family's home. Eric, who was no longer living at the home, is the only surviving member of the family. (Tim Cook/The Day)

Griswold — Kenneth Lindquist had built his home on a flat lot in a new section of a woodsy subdivision close to his family's cottage on Pachaug Pond.

An ambitious man who had mastered many trades, Ken, blond and medium in stature, wanted the house at 70 Kenwood Estates to be perfect. By 1997, his wife, Janet, a 5-foot-1-inch brunette with a sweet face, was eager to move in, having recently given birth to the couple's second son, Matthew.

The couple moved in with sons Eric and Matt, and over the next 20 years Ken continued making improvements.

By the time the boys were grown, the ranch had a fully finished basement, cool in the summer and warmed by a wood stove in the winter. After rebuilding vintage Ford pickup trucks, riding go-carts or fishing on Pachaug Pond, they would retire to the basement and its pool table, dart board, stereo system and bar.

Jan was a June Cleaver, a quintessential house mom. Described by a neighbor as a "big ball of sunshine," she glowed the brightest in the kitchen, which Ken remodeled in 2015 and Jan decorated in a rooster theme right down to the salt and pepper shakers and dish towels. When she wasn't preparing culinary treats for the family, she was cooking up something for Skylar, a golden retriever who got a birthday cake every year and a full plate of turkey and trimmings on Thanksgiving.  

On Dec. 20, 2017, Jan, 61, Ken, 56, and Matt, 21, became victims of one of the most deadly and disturbing crimes in recent Connecticut history. Eric Lindquist had moved out of the family home when he went to college, and at age 28 is the only surviving member of the family that had dwelled at 70 Kenwood. The family pet, Skylar, also died that day.

State police say a Hartford man hatched a plan with Matt Lindquist to burglarize the home in exchange for drugs, but Sergio Correa, 26, and his adopted sister, Ruth Correa, 23, went on a killing spree instead. The sister confessed that they stabbed Matt multiple times and left his body in a wooded area up the street before entering the family home. She described how she hit the family dog with a golf club and the siblings taunted the parents and beat them with a wooden bat. She said as dawn approached, they poured an accelerant from the  basement on the floors, set it on fire and left with stolen items, including Matt's car. The criminal frenzy continued miles away, when Ruth and Sergio Correa stopped at an apartment complex in Glastonbury on their way back to Hartford and torched the stolen car, police say.

Eric Lindquist hired a contractor to cart away the charred ruins of the family home. A bare, compromised foundation surrounded by safety fencing now dominates the 1.4-acre property. The detached garage Ken and Eric built to supplement the two-bay attached garage still stands in the backyard, along with a swingset also built by Ken Lindquist. A few car parts Ken meant to take to a scrap yard or sell remain, along with a stack of firewood he intended to burn last winter. 

Jan's globe garden ornaments, spherical decorations that caught her fancy and that she may not have known were said to ward off evil, still stand amid some of the plantings in the front yard. The family grew vegetables in containers, but this summer a pumpkin patch has sprouted in the ground and promises to deliver at least two fat gourds by fall.

The fire burned so hot, it scorched some of the tall pines that form a semi-circle around the property. Ken's work truck, a 1977 Ford F-150, parked in the driveway, was spared.

From a young age, Eric helped his dad build and fix things around the house, and in later years they restored cars. He and his father were rebuilding a 1980 Triumph Spitfire that was about half finished. The frame was in the detached outbuilding that survived the fire but most of the parts were in the house.

•••

Eric Lindquist says he had as much chance of winning Powerball as losing family members under these circumstances. He had hoped his parents would be around for at least 20 more years. They had big plans for their retirement. Eric thought he would have his kid brother in his life forever. Ken Lindquist fathered a daughter, Danielle Nichols, years before he met Jan but she only lived at Kenwood Estates briefly. Now a mother of four, she lives in the area. She, too, is struggling to comprehend what has happened.

Ken and Jan each were survived by a sister and brother and other extended family members.

An environmental analyst for the state's Office of Policy and Management, Eric tends to study a situation before taking action. He wants more information before he comments on the crimes that claimed his family on the long, dark eve of last year's winter solstice. He was told right away that his parents were homicide victims but didn't learn the horrific details until Matt's body was discovered in May 2018 and the two suspects were arrested.

Eric granted a phone interview earlier this summer and a face-to-face meeting in July at the scene of the crime.

For now, he wants the public to learn the names, faces and stories of his family members, good people, he says, including Matt, who was a victim of both the crimes and opioid crisis.

At Eric's request, neighbors Bob and Brenda Thibeault, who purchased the lot across the street and built their home at the same time as the Lindquists, agreed to meet with a reporter a couple of days later to talk about their close, decadeslong friendship with the family. They sat at their dining room table and fought back tears as they recalled the good times.

Their 24-year-old son Mark Thibeault, who was Matt's best friend, also agreed to an interview that evening. He stood near his pickup truck in his parents' driveway as darkness descended and gazed over at what used to be his second home. The families were so close for so long that he felt free to go into the fridge for a snack or use the basement pool table even when "Mr. Link" and the boys weren't around.

 •••

Eric saw his parents for the last time at a Christmas party three days before they died. He gave his mother the $400 he had collected from the sale of a great aunt's handmade lace wedding dress on eBay. It was a Sunday, and the Steelers-Patriots game was on TV. His father was teasing his mother, who was not a sports fan and kept asking how many more minutes before it was over. Jan didn't always have a good ear to detect when people were messing with her and, when she finally got it, would say, "Oh, Jeez."

Jan Lindquist grew up in Westerly, but fully embraced life in rural Griswold, an interior southeastern Connecticut suburb 30 miles from the ocean. She had developed rheumatoid arthritis but was making the best of it by studying and employing the nutrition and therapies that would ease the pain. She had worked as a hairdresser and at Electric Boat, but what she relished most was the traditional roles of wife and mother. The guys might be sweaty and frustrated with a project in the yard but, when they came inside, she was there to soothe them with a cold drink and a snack.

Ken Lindquist was semi-retired from his most recent work as a construction project manager on large jobs, including hospitals, restaurants and banks. He could fix anything and would happily teach anyone how to rebuild a car, repair a generator or install a door, provided the student showed up on time. He gave of his time freely but happily accepted compensation of a steak dinner and a bourbon and coke.

He loved adventures and wanted his sons and friends to experience the thrills with him. He bought three snowmobiles one winter and took Eric, Matt and Bob and Mark Thibeault on a trip to Maine. Though freshwater fishing was second nature to the Lindquists, who spent summertime leisure hours on Pachaug Pond, Ken wanted everyone to experience saltwater angling, too, so he bought an ocean-worthy fishing boat.

Every Christmas, the Thibeaults would look forward to Jan's Christmas cookies, and on Dec. 19, 2017, hours before she was killed, Jan met Brenda in the driveway to deliver that year's confectionary gift. Brenda had purchased the assorted nuts that the Thibeaults always gifted in return but didn't give them to Jan that day because they were unwrapped. The Thibeaults eventually gave that last batch of Jan's holiday treats to Eric Lindquist.

Bob Thibeault, who grew up in Taftville, met Ken Lindquist, who grew up in Montville, 40 years ago at Pachaug Pond, where their families owned cottages. Thibeault told the story of their friendship to about 300 people who attended a memorial service for Ken and Jan in June. Bob, who works in information technology and plays guitar in a band, and Ken worked together on various projects over the years and Bob went along on Ken's adventures. Last summer, Ken convinced Bob to take the day off and go to the beach. They went to Misquamicut, then to the Ocean House in Watch Hill, a couple of middle-age "wise guys" who didn't care if they were underdressed. 

The Thibeaults aren't big on cooking, which made them appreciate Jan's cooking that much more. Mark Thibeault was a big fan of the special appetizer she prepared for every party: cubed buffalo chicken, speared with toothpicks and served cold in a blue and yellow square porcelain platter with ranch dressing on the side. They were so delicious on their own, Mark skipped the dressing.

Matt, younger than Eric by 5½ years, always wanted to be around his big brother and often got his way. Smart but less studious than Eric, Matt was good with his hands. After graduating from Norwich Technical High School's HVAC program in 2015, he wanted to work and make money.

In the months leading up to the tragedy, Matt exhibited warning signs of an addiction problem but none of his friends and family members would have guessed it could escalate so quickly and severely.

Matt had become less social as he shifted his relationships beyond Griswold but he still walked across the street to chat with Mark Thibeault. The two had remained close even after Matt enrolled at Norwich Tech and Mark stayed at Griswold High. If it was nice out, Matt and Mark were outside. At night, they would sit on lawn chairs in the Lindquists' front yard, gazing at the sky and talking for hours.

A couple of days before the fire, Mark was getting into his truck to drive to his third-shift machinist's job at Electric Boat when Matt called out across the street that he had lost the job Mark helped him get at a machine shop in Plainfield. Mark needed to get to work on time and told Matt, "I'll talk to you later."

A couple of days later, he got a phone call at work and rushed home to find his "second home" consumed by fire.

•••

Eric Lindquist is learning how to manage his anger, fear and disgust and to channel it constructively. His parents were proud of his accomplishments and he knows they would want him to continue to succeed. He tells himself that it could have been worse. He could have been in the house that night. He could have been relying on his parents for financial support. He could have had less of a stable foundation than the one they had provided.

His father always called Eric the great listener, and he has taken a chunk of good advice from everybody he's spoken to over the past eight months, particularly older people who have been through more hard times. Comparisons of the Lindquist case to the Cheshire home invasion-murders of 2007 are inevitable, since three family members also died in Cheshire at the hands of two people who torched the home. The sole survivor of the Cheshire crimes, Dr. William Petit, reached out to Eric Lindquist and the two spoke on the phone.

He lives with a close friend, Corey Pelletier, who is always willing to listen when Eric needs to talk. Pelletier says Eric thanks him all the time, but that he's just doing what a friend would do. Pelletier, who is from Chaplin, met Eric when they were both studying environmental earth science at Eastern Connecticut State University, and over the past six or seven years was welcome at the Lindquists' parties and adventures. The last time he saw Ken, Pelletier said he and Eric were ice fishing on Pachaug Pond and Ken kept them company from shore as Skylar ran around.

Eric Lindquist has met with the state's attorneys who will be prosecuting the Correas' cases and a victim advocate.

He is not completely unfamiliar with the criminal justice system. At 21, Eric served as a juror in the trial of the man who shot and killed Sean Hill in Norwich in 2006. The jury couldn't reach a unanimous verdict and the judge declared a mistrial.

Eric is planning a memorial service for Matt. He set up a memorial account with the Avalonia Land Conservancy to honor his father's love of the outdoors and his mother's love of wildlife. He chose to memorialize them that way so that he can be directly involved and help to develop an open space preserve. 

k.florin@theday.com

Matthew Lindquist is seen in this undated photo with the truck that he rebuilt with his father, Kenneth. Both were murdered in Griswold in December.  (Courtesy of Eric Lindquist)
Matthew Lindquist is seen in this undated photo with the truck that he rebuilt with his father, Kenneth. Both were murdered in Griswold in December. (Courtesy of Eric Lindquist)
Kenneth and Janet Lindquist. (Courtesy of Eric Lindquist)
Kenneth and Janet Lindquist. (Courtesy of Eric Lindquist)
Skylar, the Lindquist family pet, also perished in the December fire.  (Courtesy of Eric Lindquist)
Skylar, the Lindquist family pet, also perished in the December fire. (Courtesy of Eric Lindquist)

How to contribute

Donations in memory of Kenneth and Janet Lindquist may be made to Avalonia Land Conservancy Inc., P.O. Box 49, Old Mystic, CT 06372.

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