Sen. Somers to introduce legislation that will help provide more support to victims’ advocates

December 21, 2021

Four years after murders, surviving Lindquist family member seeks judicial reform

December 21. 2021

By Taylor Hartz

The Day of New London

Four years ago Monday, Kenneth and Janet Lindquist were awakened in their home near a wooded area of Griswold by Sergio Correa and his adopted sister, Ruth, who had crept into their basement.

Unbeknownst to them, their youngest son, Matthew Lindquist, had desperately been texting one of the invaders as his parents slept, arranging to trade guns for heroin near the Lindquist house.

By sunrise, all three Lindquists were dead.

After four years of what he calls a “roller coaster of grief” that has no end in sight, Kenneth and Janet’s surviving son, Eric Lindquist, is trying to channel that grief, and his anger, into something that will make things easier for the next family that walks in his shoes.

He hopes to turn the horror of his family’s murders into a catalyst for change in the criminal justice system. 

“Crime isn’t going to go away. Evil isn’t going to go away. We can fight against it all we want, but there’s always going to be a next victim,” said Lindquist. “There will be another innocent person in my shoes who has to suffer through what I’m going through and I just want that person to have a little easier of a time.”

Matthew, Kenneth and Janet Lindquist were all killed by the Correas in a home invasion that began late at night on Dec. 19, 2017, and continued into the early morning hours of Dec. 20. It ended with their home in the Kenwood Estates neighborhood being set on fire. Sergio Correa is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Hunchu Kwak on March 2. Ruth Correa is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Hillary B. Strackbein on March 28.

Lindquist said the trial of Sergio Correa, which ended last week, highlighted glaring issues in Connecticut’s criminal justice system, which he said is in desperate need of reform.

“We do have a judicial system that works to some degree,” he said minutes after a 12-person jury found Correa guilty on 13 out of 14 counts he faced in connection with the Lindquist murders. “But whether it’s working to the fullest extent, and doing everything we can to protect the communities it’s designed to serve, is another question.”

Lindquist has expressed concern that Correa, who had previously been convicted of violent crimes that Lindquist thinks should have carried more time behind bars, was released on parole just months before the murders.

Lindquist and other members of his family also expressed frustrations with the state’s presentation of evidence throughout the trial, calling into question the use of “outdated courtroom technology” — such as a projector — that led prosecutors to encounter technical difficulties while showing crime scene photos, and in Lindquist’s opinion, potentially miss key evidence.

He also shared concerns about it often being difficult to hear witnesses as they testified in the courtroom “due to an audio amplification system that worked only some of the time.” Plastic partitions put in place as a COVID-19 precaution made the acoustics of the courtroom more complicated during Correa’s trial, which was one of the first held since the pandemic.

Lindquist also said it was, at times, difficult for him and his family to hear prosecutors and even the judge due to these same issues.

The 31-year-old also spoke out about his disappointment in how the court, he thinks, treats victims only as “interested parties” in a trial such as Correa’s, “rather than resources capable of assisting the investigation and prosecution.”

He said he wishes he could have been more involved in helping prosecutors build their case.

“I understand the importance of protecting the integrity of a case and eliminating potential bias, but it sure would have been nice to be more involved and able to better assist with the State’s efforts,” Lindquist said in a statement.

He said that all of the frustrations made what was already a painful, gut-wrenching experience for him and his family even harder.

Lindquist attended every day of the weeks-long trial and has been present at nearly every court appearance related to the case since it started years ago. He said he has missed more than 120 days of work — many unpaid — to see the case through from start to finish. Though attending the trial cost him financially, socially and emotionally, he said he did so to support his family and to someday support other families.

“I’ve been here to be a voice for my family to advocate for us and for others that have been put through this and for changing the system,” he said.

And as he sat through the trial, he tried to learn everything he could about how the system works and how it could, maybe, work better.

“I’ve actually considered this a very important learning process for other cases down the road, to understand where the deficiencies are and what improvements can be made,” he said. “If and when it’s time to advocate for change I’ll be informed, I’ll be educated and I’ll be credible.”

Sitting through the trial, as the four-year anniversary of the murders crept up on the calendar, caused Lindquist to “relive the nightmare” all over again. It triggered memories and emotions like anger and grief. But it said he hopes it will also trigger change.

“I’m sure that this whole case will trigger some debates in the legislature and maybe elsewhere about accountability, about what we have as far as justice and whether that’s adequate,” he said.

Although the jury found Correa guilty on most charges and he faces more than life in prison, Lindquist does not feel like justice has been served.

“There’s currently no justice for a case like this in the state of Connecticut,” he said.

Lindquist said he plans to learn more about what life is like in prison for someone like Correa, who will likely face multiple life sentences in a state without the death penalty.

He said prisoners’ access to TV, socialization and the internet concerns him and doesn’t look like justice. Solitary confinement, he said, might be a step closer.

Lindquist said he thinks he has a perspective on violent crimes that many others don’t. He knows what it is like to have his family taken away by homicide. And he also knows what it’s like to be a juror, deciding the fate of a person charged with committing a violent crime.

In 2012, when he was still living at home with his parents and brother, he sat in the same seats, in the same courtroom, as the jurors who convicted Correa. He sat on the jury for the trial of Bruce Gathers, who was charged with killing Sean Hill in Norwich.

“I never could have imagined that nearly 10 years later I’d be on the other side,” he said.

But having that experience helped him understand what the jury in this case was going through, and the gravity of what they were taxed with.

“It’s kind of a unique perspective that not many people have,” he said.

State Sen. Heather Somers, R-18th District, who attended day after day of the trial to show support for the Lindquists, said that Eric Lindquist has become “the face of homicide victims” in southeastern Connecticut and that together they’re planning to work toward making the process of a trial easier for victims. 

Already, she addressed concerns brought up during Correa’s case by speaking to Chief Court Administrator Judge Patrick L. Carroll about the audio issues the Lindquists brought forth in the early days of the trial. She said she felt the court listened to her concerns and helped mitigate the issue.

Throughout Correa’s trial the judge and attorneys continuously asked witnesses, especially Ruth Correa, to speak at a volume everyone in the courtroom could hear. 

Somers said the case brought other issues to her attention, like a general need for more support for victims; from more comfortable spaces for them to gather in between court proceedings, to more time for them to get to the courthouse once a jury reaches a verdict.

In this case, family members only had 20 minutes to arrive at New London Superior Court after the verdict was reached, and most of them live at least 30 minutes away. 

“Attending this trial from the beginning has highlighted some areas within our judicial system that require great attention and reform. I am committed to working with Eric and other victims to address these issues so that no other family must endure the pain, heartbreak and loss the Lindquists’ extended family has,” Somers said in a statement last week. 

She said she plans to introduce legislation that will help provide more support to victims’ advocates, who spent countless hours with the Lindquist family before, during and after this trial to help them understand the process, answer their questions and offer comfort. 

Somers said she saw firsthand how much their program helped the Lindquist family and wants to help enable them to provide even more support. 

She also noticed another support resource — comfort dogs. 

Dogs trained to provide comfort to victims and their families were often brought into the courthouse halls during the trial to interact with victims, family and friends.

Somers said she hopes to expand that program in the state of Connecticut by working on legislation to allow trained dogs into the courtroom itself to sit with victims, especially children and survivors of sexual crimes. 

“That’s one thing I know I’m going to be advocating for. I saw how useful and valuable the comfort dogs were and how much they impacted the victims,” said Somers. “That’s something I wouldn’t have seen if I wasn’t there for this trial.”