Hallbrooks turns down plea offer in East Lyme murder case

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Avery Hallbrooks, accused of fatally stabbing his longtime partner at an East Lyme motel in December 2018, turned down a state's attorney's offer Wednesday to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of up to 48 years.

Hallbrooks appeared to waver and turned to his attorney, John E. "Jack" Franckling, as they stood before New London Superior Court Judge Hillary B. Strackbein on Hallbrooks' "accept or reject" date. Franckling, a court-appointed attorney with experience trying murder cases, said he has mentioned hiring another lawyer.

"It's your decision," Franckling told Hallbrooks. "I'm with you no matter what."

Prosecutor Sarah W. Bowman offered Hallbrooks, 29, the option of pleading guilty to murdering 25-year-old Corina Rodriguez, also known as Corina Zukowski, in exchange for a prison sentence of 48 years. Under the deal, his attorney would have the right to argue for a shorter prison term at sentencing.

When Hallbrooks indicated he was rejecting the offer, Judge Strackbein told him the case would be added to the trial list and the plea offer withdrawn. She also told him the state is planning to file an additional charge: assault resulting in the death of a fetus. The victim, already the mother of three children, was pregnant at the time of her death.

Should he be convicted at trial and receive a maximum sentence, Hallbrooks would face 84 years in prison, the judge told him.

Relatives and friends of the victim were in court wearing "Justice for Corina" T-shirts. On the back of the shirts was a heart with the outlines of three children and the words, "We miss mommy."

According to East Lyme police, Hallbrooks confessed to stabbing Zukowski after they fought about his drug and alcohol use. After the stabbing, he said he washed off the knife and threw it into the woods, then called 911, police said.

k.florin@theday.com

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