Siblings accused in Lindquist family killings appear in court

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Sergio and Ruth Correa were brought to New London Superior Court Monday in preparation for a probable cause hearing next month on charges they killed three members of the Lindquist family and torched their Griswold home in December 2017.

Prosecution of one of the most deadly crime sprees in recent state history is likely to pit the siblings against one another, and the defense is looking for material that could discredit Ruth Correa as she seeks leniency by cooperating with the state.

The 24-year-old adopted sister described the crimes in detail to state police investigators and appears to be poised to testify against her 27-year-old brother. Sergio Correa's lawyers think there could be something in Ruth Correa's mental health and child welfare records that would help them impeach her as a witness. 

Sergio Correa appeared briefly before Judge Arthur C. Hadden, who said he would be reviewing the sealed records "in camera," or in privacy, ahead of the Aug. 27 hearing to determine whether the records contain information that should be shared with lawyers.

Ruth Correa, who must sign a release before the records are turned over to the judge, was brought to the courthouse to meet with her lawyers.

Family members of victims Janet, Kenneth and Matthew Lindquist and print and television journalists were in Hadden's courtroom Monday for what could have been a lengthy hearing on the defense's motions for disclosure of the records.

But it was over within minutes of Sergio Correa entering the courtroom in a prison jumpsuit and leg irons to sit with his three attorneys,  Joseph E. Lopez Sr., Jessica Luu-Missios and Maureen Murphy from the public defender's office.

State's Attorney Michael L. Regan stood up immediately to say he was stipulating that Ruth Correa's mental health and Department of Children and Families records would be turned over to the judge for review. The records were subpoenaed by the defense and provided under seal to the clerk's office.

Regan said the law requires the defense to make a showing before a judge begins reviewing the records, but he was stipulating to the review "out of an abundance of caution and in consideration of the lenity and deference the appellate courts have shown these type of motions."

Sergio Correa's lawyers are also seeking disclosure of any discussion between state's attorneys and Ruth Correa's lawyers about whether she would receive "something of value" in exchange for her cooperation. The motion was not discussed Monday.

Regan said afterward that he could not comment on whether the state would be entering into a formal cooperation agreement with Ruth Correa. In its motion "for disclosure regarding any incentive or motive that cooperating co-defendant Ruth Correa may have for testifying ...," Sergio Correa's attorneys cite a recent argument before the Connecticut Supreme Court during which members of the court "strongly criticized the 'wink and a nod' practice where the state claims that there are no implied benefits to a cooperating witness (either jail house informants or codefendants) for his/her testimony at trial."

Both siblings are charged with crimes that could keep them in prison for life: murder with special circumstances, three counts of felony murder, first-degree robbery, first-degree arson, second-degree arson and home invasion. Ruth Correa could improve her prospects of one day being granted parole by testifying against her brother.

Sergio Correa has yet to enter a plea, and until this spring had continually waived the 60-day time limit for a probable cause hearing, which all defendants facing a life sentence are entitled to and is often likened to a "mini trial." He is being held at the New Haven Correctional Center in lieu of a $3.25 million bond.

Ruth Correa, who is charged with the same crimes as her brother, has waived her right to a probable cause hearing and is being held at the Janet S. York Correctional Institution in Niantic. Her bond is $2.5 million.

Arrest warrant affidavits in the case describe the siblings reuniting in the fall of 2017 after Sergio Correa spent 10 years in prison for violent crimes he committed as a teen. According to the warrants, Ruth Correa went along for the ride from Hartford to Griswold on Dec. 20, 2017. She said Sergio Correa had agreed to provide drugs to 21-year-old Matthew Lindquist in exchange for access to the Lindquist home to steal guns belonging to Lindquist's father, Kenneth.

Ruth Correa said that upon arriving in Griswold, she and "Gio" fatally stabbed Matthew Lindquist and disposed of his body in the woods near the family home. They went to the Lindquist home, where they tortured and killed Janet and Kenneth Lindquist, stole the guns and other items and set the home on fire.

k.florin@theday.com

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