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Judge denies speedy trial motion for man accused of triple-murder in Griswold

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A judge on Wednesday denied a motion for a speedy trial and change of venue for the long-awaited trial of a man accused of killing three members of a family in Griswold in 2017.

Sergio Correa appeared Wednesday afternoon before Judge Hunchu Kwak in New London Superior Court during the first in-person hearing in the case since October, held to address a few unresolved and new matters in the high-profile case.

Correa, 29, is charged with killing Kenneth, Janet and Matthew Lindquist and their family dog in their Griswold home on Dec. 20, 2017.

He and his sister Ruth allegedly stabbed 21-year-old Matthew Lindquist to death and disposed of his body in the woods before going into the Lindquists' home, beating Kenneth and Janet to death and setting their house on fire. Correa, who is being held on a $3 million bond, was brought in from the Department of Correction and sat quietly during the proceedings wearing a bright yellow jumpsuit.

Correa’s defense attorney Joe Lopez and his co-council Corrie-Anne Mainville moved again for a speedy trial, a change in venue and petitioned the judge to stop prosecutors from filing a new search warrant for Correa’s phone. Lopez argued in previous hearings that the state had illegally seized Correa’s iPhone 7 in December 2017, 165 days before they obtained a warrant for the phone, he said.

Phone records showed that Correa had been texting Matthew Lindquist the night of the murders and that the two had a conversation about Correa coming to the Lindquist home at 70 Kenwood Estates to deliver drugs and steal from the younger Lindquist's parents. The detectives didn't get search warrants for the phone and its contents until after they seized it, but the state argued that detectives had probable cause since the phone had been an instrument in the commission of the crime.

Stephen Carney, assistant state’s attorney, said Wednesday that his office had been informed by the FBI that new technology could potentially produce more information in a subsequent search of the phone. He said his office notified Correa’s lawyers as a courtesy. Lopez then challenged the prosecution's plans to search the phone again.

Judge Kwak supported a separate motion by Lopez asking for documentation of what the digital forensics company Cellebrite did with Correa’s phone while it was in the company's custody. The judge supported requests that documentation be produced, in addition to planned testimony by a former Cellebrite employee about the chain of custody of the phone and forensics run on it.

Judge Kwak denied Lopez’s motion to prohibit the prosecution from conducting further searches on the phone but said the defense will have the opportunity to challenge whether any newly obtained information is admissible.

Attorney Mainville asked the judge for a speedy trial, noting other jury trials that have been scheduled in the state and making mention of the highly publicized trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was tried and convicted by a socially distanced jury.

Judge Kwak said that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he could not accommodate the defense’s request that a trial date be set or grant their motions for a change of venue or speedy trial.

In June 2020, Superior Court Judge Arthur C. Hadden denied Correa's motion for a speedy trial, saying the right to life of all the parties involved in a trial have to be protected during the coronavirus pandemic. The Judicial Branch still has not resumed jury trials.

Kwak said that when the court is able to resume trials, Correa’s is at the top of the list.

“I have no information and if I did, I would share it with you,” Kwak said on the resumption of trials. “Believe me, I wish I could start jury selection next week. This case is number one on the list.”

Kwak said he is hopeful that the case may go to trial in September, though defense attorneys said they were hoping things would move more quickly and allow them to begin jury selection in June.

Correa’s 26-year-old sister Ruth Correa also remained incarcerated. She has agreed to testify against her brother in exchange for a 40-year prison sentence.

Members of the Lindquist family were present at the hearing but declined to comment on the proceedings.

t.hartz@theday.com

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