Sister receives deal from state, testifies about Griswold triple murder

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Ruth Correa described the murders of Matthew, Janet and Kenneth Lindquist in excruciating detail as she testified Tuesday at the probable cause hearing of her brother, Sergio Correa, in New London Superior Court.

Implicated along with Sergio in the Griswold triple murder, home invasion and arson that occurred on Dec. 20, 2017, she recently signed a cooperation agreement with the state in exchange for a 40-year prison sentence.

She is expected to plead guilty to three counts of felony murder at a later date, but first must provide truthful testimony against the older brother she had adored.

The 25-year-old mother of two from Hartford, who has been incarcerated since May 2018, wore a black and white striped sweater, black pants and white sneakers as she sat on the witness stand in Judge Arthur C. Hadden's courtroom. She wore eyeglasses and had her dark hair in tight braids, a different look than the loose, wavy hairstyle she had worn for her routine court appearances.

Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney guided her through about three hours of chilling testimony that elicited tears and expressions of horror from family members and friends of the victims who filled one side of the courtroom.

During the afternoon, Ruth admitted she had lied about some of the details and forgotten others under a lengthy cross-examination by defense attorney Joseph Lopez. She is expected to continue testifying when the hearing resumes Wednesday.

Both of the lawyers questioned her as if they were speaking to a young child and rephrased their questions using simpler language when she didn't appear to understand. She said she is a high school graduate.

Sergio Correa, 27, is exercising his right to a hearing at which the state must prove it has enough evidence to prosecute him for crimes that would keep him in prison for life. He is accompanied in court by a team of lawyers and has been changing out of his neon-colored prison jumpsuit into a gray business suit. 

Ruth is the state's star witness, having confessed to driving her brother to Griswold after he made a deal to provide drugs to 21-year-old Matthew Lindquist in exchange for access to his father's gun safe. 

After confessing to the crimes to police in May 2018, Ruth testified troopers drove her directly to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after she told them she wanted to jump out the 10th-floor window of her apartment. She said that she has never been diagnosed with a mental illness but admitted she takes antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs in prison. She said she started smoking marijuana at age 9 and was using it every day in December 2017.

She had been adopted by Sergio's father, Correction Officer Pablo Correa, at age 5 or 6 and said she looked up to her older brother. When Sergio went to prison for 10 years for violent crimes at age 16, she said she felt as if he hadn't been thinking about her when he "did what he did."

In the fall of 2017, after Sergio was released from prison, Ruth testified that she fixed him up with her best friend, Tanisha Vincento, but said both she and Sergio were jealous of the time they each spent with Vincento. Ruth said she also was upset with Vincento because Vincento would drop off her children with Ruth and leave them for days at a time.

Ruth lived in an apartment building with her children and roommates and didn't work. Though she received food stamps and WIC support for her children, she was being evicted for nonpayment of her $70-a-month rent. She said she stole items, such as diapers or wipes, when she needed them and took money from men rather than ask for help.

When her brother asked her to take a ride to Griswold, she went along. She said they smoked marijuana along the way, and Sergio watched porn on his phone until she told him to stop. Neither sibling has a driver's license.

They arrived at the Kenwood Estates subdivision about 11 p.m. planning to stage a robbery at the Lindquist home in which "two black men" were to be implicated.

Sergio had a bag of folded plastic bags in the console of his Mitsubishi Galant that night, but they contained no drugs, Ruth testified. He also brought a machete, baseball bat, golf club, zip ties, duct tape and another knife.

The plot went wrong immediately after Matthew Lindquist met them at a nearby cul-de-sac and jumped into the back seat of the car wearing a blue bathrobe. Fidgety and stuttering, he kept asking for the drugs and moving in his seat until he jumped out and ran, she said. Sergio chased him into the woods, and Ruth followed. Sergio hit Lindquist in the back of the head with the machete, and Lindquist fell.

Ruth testified that her brother gave her a knife, told her, "Get him, Tylee (her middle name)," and guided her hand as she stabbed Lindquist, who stood with his back against a tree.

She said that even after Sergio stopped guiding her, she stabbed Lindquist in the chest more than 10 times as Lindquist asked the siblings why they were doing this and to stop.

Sergio told him they would call an ambulance for him, but they never did, Ruth testified.

Under cross-examination, she admitted she was stabbing Lindquist so that he would stop making noise, and said she had called him a derogatory name because he had set up his parents.

She described the "metallic" smell of Lindquist's blood before she and Sergio covered him up with sticks and branches and left him. She said they walked to his family's home, with her armed with the golf club, in case there was a dog, she said, and Sergio with the bat.

Inside the home for hours, she described how Sergio beat both of Lindquist's parents with the bat, and the siblings stole everything they could find of value: towels and detergent from the laundry room, knives and forks, and a laptop computer from the office that she said she liked because it was purple. They took the Christmas gifts that were sitting in one room. Ruth took $120 from Janet Lindquist's purse, admitting under cross-examination that she used it the next day to purchase a cellphone.

Kenneth Lindquist woke up immediately when they entered the first floor of the house and began fighting with Sergio. Ruth said she heard the sound of "a bat hitting wood" as her brother assaulted Kenneth, she said.

The "big yellow" family dog, Skylar, came up to her and she said she hit it once with the golf club. The dog made a noise and ran away. The golden retriever would perish that night along with the Lindquists.

Janet was the next victim, hunched up against a bedroom wall as Sergio pointed a gun at her. Ruth described how her brother humiliated the 61-year-old housewife. Janet then "got her head bashed in" and then he strangled her, according to Ruth's testimony.

Under cross-examination, Ruth admitted she had told police Sergio strangled Janet twice. Asked to re-read a transcript of her confession, she admitted she forgot that detail.

She said she and Sergio poured flammable liquids found in the basement throughout the home, and that Sergio lit an exercise ball on fire to start the blaze.

They took the stolen goods to Matthew Lindquist's Saturn, and before they left, Ruth said her brother told her to set fire to the Ford pickup truck parked near the garage. She said she wiped down the F150 with liquid before they left. It did not catch fire.

They drove back to Sergio's car, parked in the cul-de-sac, and she got into it and followed Sergio, driving the Saturn, out of town. She described getting off the highway, transferring the stolen goods into Sergio's car, and driving to a location — later revealed as Glastonbury — where Sergio told her to wait. She said he came running up to his car and they drove back to Hartford, where they split up the stolen goods.

She said she never spoke of the events of that night with anyone until she talked to the police in May 2018, though a security guard from her building had told police she described them to him.

"Where you honest with the police?" Lopez asked.

"For the most part," she responded.

k.florin@theday.com

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