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    Thursday, July 25, 2024

    Risen from the ashes: Couple builds dream home on site of triple murder in Griswold

    Matthew Berube lights candles at the table March 13, 2022, before a weekly Sunday night dinner at his parents' home in Griswold. Rob and Debi Berube bought the land at 70 Kenwood Estates where the Lindquist family house once stood and moved in about a year ago. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Griswold — A blue and white ranch-style house sits nestled into a half-moon of tall pine trees in a sleepy, small-town neighborhood called Kenwood Estates.

    The whistle of a wind chime floats across an idyllic front porch, bordered by a garden filled with fairy figurines, birdfeeders and a birdbath watched diligently by a long-haired housecat. Inside, Rob Berube sits at a kitchen island topped with white marble, flipping through photos from the construction of his dream retirement home. His wife, Debi, clips coupons for their Sunday dinner.

    Farther down the winding, wooded road, a man pushes a smiling child on a sunshine-yellow swing while chatting with a neighbor. An American flag waves above a classic, white gazebo and a set of Adirondack chairs that face the peaceful Pachaug Pond.

    It is a picture of quintessential, postcard New England.

    Four years ago, it was a very different scene.

    On the night of Dec. 20, 2017, two siblings from downtown Hartford made their way down that same, winding road. They were lost in the woods, much as they were lost in their lives — the brother, a convicted criminal dealing drugs to the addicted. The sister, a struggling single mother who easily succumbed to being her big brother’s accomplice.

    A few hours later, the home that formerly occupied the property at 70 Kenwood Estates in Griswold was scorched to the ground and everyone who lived there was dead.

    Sergio and Ruth Correa are to be sentenced in the murder of three members of the Lindquist family that night in one of the most vicious crimes in recent Connecticut history.

    Kenneth Lindquist, a 56-year-old construction project manager who built his family home from the ground up over more than two decades, was killed by a baseball bat that shattered his skull into more than 30 pieces. His wife, 61-year-old Janet, a kind, loving mother of two with a Christmas cookie recipe that was famous around the neighborhood, was tortured and strangled in her bedroom. Their youngest son, 21-year-old Matthew, was attacked with a machete and left to die in the woods. The family’s golden retriever, Skylar, was struck with a golf club.

    The Lindquists' home, after hours of mayhem and violence, was set on fire, reducing it to rubble.

    For nearly three years, the lot sat empty except for the damaged foundation, a reminder of the horror that had been unleashed upon the neighborhood.

    Eric Lindquist — Kenneth and Janet’s son and Matthew’s older brother — was left to clean up the mess and, in the midst of his grief, grapple with what to do with the land where his family once lived.

    “It was kind of a scar on the neighborhood,” said Rob Berube, who now owns the property.

    A year ago, that scarred lot was replaced — piece by piece — by a new home.

    A new beginning

    The Berubes broke ground in October 2020. They laid a new foundation, planted their seeds for grass and flowers and trees, and put on all the finishing touches of a cozy, family home: a basketball hoop for their granddaughter in the drive, hand-stitched quilts made by a family member on every bed and a state-of-the-art kitchen with stainless steel appliances.

    The couple, close in age to Kenneth and Janet Lindquist, have rewritten the narrative of the space and made it into what the Lindquists once made it — a welcoming space for family and friends, a place where family meals and baked goods are always filling the kitchen, a dream home built with and filled with love.

    The former scar on the neighborhood of meticulously designed homes and manicured lawns is now the center of family life for the Berubes, where memories are being made around the farmhouse table — Debi Berube jokingly calls it “the last supper table” — that fills their dining room.

    The lace-covered surface is surrounded by seven chairs and a bench, where every Sunday the Berube’s two children, granddaughter, two best friends and Debi’s father and soon-to-be stepmother gather for Sunday dinner.

    On the counter, between the oven and a white KitchenAid mixer, sits a recipe card holder with the week’s Sunday recipe waiting to be cooked: Tuscan chicken, beef stroganoff, meatloaf.

    On Sunday, March 13, the family gathered around the kitchen island, helping with dinner preparations and telling stories. The couple’s 32-year-old son Matthew Berube kept his eyes on a sticky note that laid out a minute-by-minute schedule for when each part of the meal should be slid into the double-oven.

    Rob Berube and his best friend, Barry Black, occasionally slipped out to check on a golf game on the TV in the living room, where the family’s enormous Maine coon cat, Pretty Kitty, lounged on a chair.

    In the kitchen, Debi Berube kissed her granddaughter Isabella Galipeau’s cheek as she moved casserole dish after casserole dish from the oven to the island. Isabella stood back-to-back with her grandfather, giggling as she measured her height against his.

    When they took their seats, they toasted to their family and erupted in laughter over tall pours of red wine.

    “This is what it’s always like, we’re always laughing,” said the Berubes' daughter, Jessica Berube, cozied up beside her daughter at the end of the table.

    Every Sunday, the group of nine gets together for the same ritual. One a night a week, Jessica, Isabella and Matthew come over for another sit-down dinner. Other nights, neighbors gather round for cards and cocktails.

    Isabella also enjoys spending afternoons with kids her age in the same friendly neighborhood where Eric and Matthew Lindquist spent years riding bikes and playing baseball, wiffleball and kickball.

    The Berubes are living the life the Lindquists wanted to live on that same land.

    Before the fire, the land at 70 Kenwood Estates was full of family and love, much like it is again now.

    When he looks back on his childhood, Eric Lindquist recalls a life that was like a 1950s sitcom. While he and his brother rode their bikes and played manhunt, Janet Lindquist would be cooking her specialties such as prime rib and scallop-stuffed jumbo shrimp in her cozy, yet modern, kitchen.

    “I remember my mom yelling out to us, ‘Dinner’s ready! Come home!’ when we were out playing in the neighborhood,” he said.

    The Lindquists completely modernized the kitchen — where roosters adorned everything from the dish towels to the salt and pepper shakers — in 2014, with all updated appliances. It was the last big project the Lindquists completed in their dream home.

    It’s where Janet Lindquist, a homemaker at heart, spent most of her free time.

    On March 13, before the Berubes' guests arrived, Eric stood in the kitchen at 70 Kenwood Estates and watched Debi Berube prepare to make Sunday dinner.

    It was his first time inside the house.

    “‘Wow, I’m inside a house that’s foreign to me but I’m on this same parcel of land that, if I transplanted myself back in time five years ago, I’d be in my parents' living room right now,” Lindquist said later that week.

    Though it’s an all-new space, there’s evidence of its past.

    “There are still traces of my family on the property,” Lindquist said. “The red maple tree in the front yard, for instance, was planted by me when I was 12. It was probably 3 inches in diameter and 12 feet tall then. Now it covers a much larger footprint, having survived the intense heat of the flames cast upon it four winters ago. And there is still the attached garage in the backyard built by me, my Dad, and my grandfather when I was 14 or so.”

    The garage, warped by the heat of the flames that torched the house, is still standing. And it still houses the remnants of the 1980s Triumph Spitfire 1500 that Lindquist was rebuilding with his dad before he was murdered.

    Lindquist, who thanked the Berubes for their kindness and compassion, said their home feels like a fresh start for the family, not one tainted with traumatic memories.

    “The Berubes' house is beautiful. It has a very cozy feel, I felt welcome,” Lindquist said. “I didn’t feel any negativity and I didn’t feel any regret. I was happy to see that they built the house that they always wanted and happy to see that it’s working out for them.”

    While some traces of his life there linger — he pointed out things like a tricky light switch on the same electrical grid — “At this point it’s no longer staring me in the face," he said. "There’s no more sign of what happened there.” 

    “Back when it was just a foundation and some rubble, I would think about the things that happened," he said. "But now it’s completely altered — there’s nothing left to trigger the memory.”

    But that wasn’t always the case.

    'Disconnect from the past'

    In the years after the crimes, 70 Kenwood Estates was a place Lindquist went to try to remember, to mourn. He’d revisit the site to visit his family, he said. But the memory of the terror unleashed there still haunted neighbors and passersby.

    “I might’ve held onto it a little longer if I had more privacy there,” he said of the property. “I’d go there because it was a spot to basically visit my family, to remember, to sit and think and stare in my own world. But it was always interrupted — by neighbors walking by and staring, people slowing down their cars as they drove by. I felt like anytime I was visiting to pay my respects and just be alone, I couldn’t be alone.”

    In the midst of his grief, he had to handle the logistics and expenses of excavating the land — and then deciding what to do with it.

    “In 2018, after the dust of the police investigation began to settle," Lindquist said, "I was faced with a difficult decision to keep or sell the property.”

    “The decision to sell was fairly easy, even if bittersweet. There was no way I was going to rebuild a house of my own on that lot," he said. "I needed to move on and disconnect from the past, to start fresh with a new life of my own, and I knew that is what my parents would have wanted me to do as well.”

    But, like most things happening in Lindquist’s life at the time, it wasn’t easy.

    Realtors wouldn’t touch it.

    “I was told by almost everyone that it would be difficult to sell the land, that nobody would want it,” Lindquist said, because of the history of the house that once stood there. He realized he’d have to do it alone.

    Before he even put the land on the market, he got a letter.

    Rob Berube, who’d married Debi on nearby Pachaug Pond 35 years ago, knew the lot at 70 Kenwood Estates was vacant. He knew it was a neighborhood that afforded the lifestyle the couple wanted in their upcoming retirement: a close community, friendly neighbors, the privacy of the tall trees surrounding the big backyard.

    The Berubes had followed the headlines about the crimes and the subsequent trial. “We were very much aware of what happened,” said Rob Berube, 61.

    And they didn’t mind at all.

    In their eyes, most land in Connecticut bears the memory of a death. Their old home, a 1940s farmhouse set far from the road in Preston, was once the location of another couple’s death.

    “I think other houses we’ve lived in have had more things that have sent shivers up your spine ... I’ve never had that spine-tingling feeling here,” Rob Berube said, sitting at the kitchen island with his wife. They said they’ve never felt even a moment of negativity in their home and have never given thought to the idea that it might be haunted.

    “It doesn’t faze us at all,” Debi Berube said. “If you didn’t live where somebody died, there would be no homes in Connecticut.”

    When they first started building, neighbors would stop by the construction site and whisper, “Do you know what happened here?”

    They did, the Berubes would say, and they didn’t care.

    “We’re not superstitious, we don’t believe in anything paranormal,” Debi Berube said, joking that their friends brought sage to wave over the land when they started to build.

    But as the lumber-filled lot took the shape of a house, passersby changed their musings to ones of relief, even rebirth. “It’s so nice to see a home here again,” they would say.

    Lindquist said he hopes the neighborhood can start to heal.

    “I’m happy that new memories are being made by another nice family that seems to share similar values as my parents,” he said. “I’m not only happy for them as a new family that’s able to enjoy a nice neighborhood and provide memories for generations of their own, but for the rest of the neighborhood, my fellow neighbors, who had to drive by for months and months looking at wreckage and a constant reminder of what happened there.”

    “I’m glad they no longer have that constant reminder every time they drive by," he added, "but on the other hand it feels like the final chapter in terms of erasing what happened there.”

    He said he didn’t feel any negativity in the Berubes' home, despite standing feet from the spots where his parents were murdered.

    Overall, he is comforted to know that there’s a home and a family there again.

    More than four years ago, Eric Lindquist’s life changed irrevocably when he woke to a call that his parents' home was engulfed in flames.

    In December 2021, Sergio Correa, 30, was found guilty on 13 charges for his role in the Lindquist murders. He faces more than a lifetime in prison. His adoptive sister, Ruth Correa, testified against him in exchange for a suggested sentence of 40 years, rather than the more than a century she faced behind bars. They are set to be sentenced May 3.

    The siblings drove from Hartford on that December night as part of a plot to trade guns for drugs with Matthew Lindquist, who was battling an opioid addiction. Ruth Correa said when they arrived, the plan went awry when Sergio Correa chased Matthew Lindquist into the woods with a machete. 

    In the same woods where Eric Lindquist said he and his brother used to play, Matthew was left to die.

    The Correas then made their way over to 70 Kenwood Estates, where they broke in — through the basement Kenneth Lindquist had finished with a pool table and bar — and unleashed unspeakable suffering on Kenneth and Janet Lindquist in the living room, Matthew’s bedroom and the master bedroom, according to testimony. They stole the family’s Christmas presents and bags full of household items such as towels. They torched the house and stole Matthew’s car, which they set on fire in an attempt to burn the last of the evidence, then went home.

    Eric Lindquist, who sat through every day of Sergio Correa’s weekslong trial, said he often thinks about what would have happened if the house hadn't been set aflame.

    Though the loss of the house that his parents poured their savings, sweat and souls into only compounded his grief, he said it sometimes crosses his mind that no matter what happened, he would have lost the house.

    And in some ways, the fire may have made it easier: “who knows what it would have looked like in there, how much would have needed to be gutted, if I could even stand to go in the place,” he said. “Then I would have dealt with the clichéd haunted house.”

    Instead, he cleared the wreckage and another family started anew.

    And now, despite the land’s sordid past, the Berubes' have their dream house: a custom, cozy home where they will welcome their family and retire.

    It is their life’s work realized, much like the first house was for Kenneth and Janet Lindquist.

    Family members, from left, Lois Slonsky, Debi Berube and Isabella Galipeau, 11, toast before a weekly Sunday night dinner March 13, 2022, at their home in Griswold. The Berubes bought the land at 70 Kenwood Estates where the Lindquist family house once stood and moved in about a year ago. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Isabella Galipeau, 11, measures how tall she is against her grandfather Rob Berube before their weekly Sunday night dinner March 13, 2022, at their home in Griswold. Rob and Debi Berube bought the land at 70 Kenwood Estates where the Lindquist family house once stood and moved in about a year ago. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Debi Berube, right, and her best friend Leisha Black talk as they make crescent rolls for a weekly Sunday night dinner March 13, 2022, at Berube's home in Griswold. Berube and her husband, Rob, bought the land at 70 Kenwood Estates where the Lindquist family house once stood and moved in about a year ago. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Rob Berube, center, leads a toast during a weekly Sunday night dinner with family and friends March 13, 2022, at his home in Griswold. He and his wife, Debi, bought the land at 70 Kenwood Estates where the Lindquist family house once stood and moved in about a year ago. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Rob and Debi Berube's home in Griswold March 13, 2022. The couple bought the land at 70 Kenwood Estates where the Lindquist family house once stood and moved in about a year ago. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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