Family hopes trial of Sergio Correa may finally bring answers four years after heinous Griswold triple murder

Each holiday season since the deaths of Eric Lindquist’s younger brother and parents has brought on waves of new family memories, both fond and painful, but none has been more difficult than this year.

This month marked the start of the long-awaited murder trial against Sergio Correa, who is accused with his sister Ruth of killing 21-year-old Matthew Lindquist and his parents, Kenneth and Janet, inside the family’s Griswold home before burning it to the ground just before Christmas 2017.

For two weeks, after more than 18 months of COVID-19 trial delays, Eric Lindquist has relived the lurid details of the slayings — many of them revealed publicly for the first time — inside a New London courtroom just a few feet from the man accused of committing the murders.

Last Monday, Eric Lindquist, now 31, took the stand and described Thanksgiving traditions he lost with his family’s passing, and he is expected to take the stand once more on the prosecution’s final day of evidence late this week. The case will then be turned over to Correa’s public defenders to present their evidence, and the trial is expected to stretch into late December.

“The silver lining is hopefully at the end of this process, everything will be laid out on the table,” Lindquist said last week. “There will no longer be any secrets, any hidden information from the family. We will know everything there is to be known about what happened that night; everything that can be known.

“That’s what I’ve been after, answers. I’ve been after answers from day one. And the frustrating part is that it’s almost four years later and I still don’t have all the answers in front of me. I never will. I kind of have to accept that, but it’s difficult when you know there are things the police know [but] can’t share with even the most immediate family members because of the risk of compromising the integrity of the case.”

Sergio and Ruth Correa, who are both from Hartford, were accused of committing the murders together as part of a botched plan with Matthew Lindquist to trade him heroin for the chance to steal guns from the Lindquist’s home. Police have said Matthew tried to back out of the plan and that the siblings instead brutally murdered Matthew, tortured his parents for hours before killing them, robbed the home and then set it ablaze.

Sergio Correa has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of murder and arson stemming from the crime, and his trial began Nov. 12 in the New London Judicial District.

The first days of the trial included graphic details and extremely emotional testimony about the killings that came to a head in the questioning of Ruth Correa, who has said her brother Sergio committed most of the acts of violence that night. Ruth Correa pleaded guilty this summer to three counts of murder as part of a plea deal that sent her to prison for 40 years in exchange for testifying against her brother, who in turn has argued that Ruth is lying to implicate him.

Joseph Lopez, one of Sergio Correa’s two public defenders, spent hours attacking Ruth Correa’s credibility during an intense cross-examination, and The Day newspaper reported she broke down in tears during questioning about her being separated from her children while imprisoned.

Early last week, Lopez also cross-examined state police detectives who led the initial investigation into the murders and critically questioned their harsh interviewing techniques with Sergio Correa’s then-girlfriend Tanisha Vicento, including lying to her and secretly recording a conversation with her. Vicento ultimately provided written statements to police that implicated Sergio Correa, and she is expected to testify early this week in the case.

There is no dispute the Lindquists were murdered, but Lopez and Corrie-Ann Mainville, Correa’s other public defender, plan to argue that Ruth Correa was responsible for their deaths. Mainville said during opening arguments that they will call another inmate to testify to comments Ruth Correa made while incarcerated in York Correctional Institution about the Lindquist murders, including that “it was the best high of her life,” The Day reported.

Lopez and Mainville are expected to begin presenting their evidence to the jury as early as Friday after Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Carney’s final day of the prosecution’s evidence, including testimony from the medical examiner about the violence committed on each of the victims.

Although the evidentiary parts of the case originally were expected to last until Christmas, the proceedings are advancing faster than expected.

“We are ahead of schedule on this trial, and we expect to finish in about four weeks,” New London Judge Hunchu Kwak said Tuesday. “That’s subject to change, but according to the attorneys, we are well ahead of schedule, which is good.”

At that pace, the case could be turned over to the jury in the middle of December, opening up the possibility of delivering a verdict by Dec. 20 — the fourth anniversary of the slayings.

The holidays already are among the most difficult parts of the year for close friends and family of the Lindquists, but having the trial coincide with Thanksgiving and Christmas has made this fall especially hard, Eric Lindquist said last week. He, his half sister, close friends and extended family members have attended every day of the trial and not only have confronted parts of the crime they already knew but learned many new, gut-wrenching details in the process.

“It’s reopening the wound, as they say,” Lindquist said. “Just like during the probable cause hearing in the fall of 2019, we’re now reliving everything again; everything is in the news being talked about. It’s on our minds constantly. … I guess there’s never a good time, right?”

In the midst of remembering so many parts of the crimes as the trial approaches its halfway mark, Lindquist tried to turn last week to memories of relaxing Thanksgiving’s past, from settling in to watch the parade on TV to the vivid smell of his mother’s cooking filling their home.

It’s difficult, but Eric Lindquist hopes to focus on remembering his family’s lives before their tragedy — riding bikes and scooters around the neighborhood with his brother after riding the school bus home, summer cookouts at the family cottage on Pachaug Pond, working on trucks or home projects with his father, and how his mother would hug him goodbye and linger on the porch to wave until he was completely out of sight.

An array of close friends has attended the trial every day to support Lindquist and his family, sometimes as many as two dozen supporters filling many of the pews in the courtroom, which he said has sustained him during the exhausting days of testimony.

“Without them I don’t know where I’d be,” he said. “They’re what hold me together. If I didn’t have them, I probably would not be in a good state of mind. I probably wouldn’t be living in Connecticut still.

“It’s all I have left, right? My closest friends, because my family was taken from me.”

Zach Murdock can be reached at zmurdock@courant.com.

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