Sen. Somers Seeks Legislative Reforms to Address N. Stonington Murder Case Questions

January 23, 2023

For Immediate Release

Sen. Somers Seeks Legislative Reforms to Address N. Stonington Murder Case Questions

With a goal of “providing safeguards for victims and their families,” Sen. Heather Somers has introduced legislation which calls for review and revision of state laws surrounding defendants who are found not competent to stand trial and their early release into the community.

The proposed legislation is a response to the case of James Armstrong, the man charged with murder in the 2017 shooting death of his cousin Ralph Sebastian Sidberry on the Eastern Pequot Reservation in North Stonington. Armstrong was recently released into a voluntary state psychiatric treatment program and could soon be living in supportive housing.

“This situation should ring alarm bells across our criminal justice system and clearly we need to make reforms,” said Somers, who has been working closely with Sidberry’s mother, Katherine Sebastian Dring. “The system is literally allowing an arrested murderer to go free, and that is simply unfathomable. This is a public safety security issue, a mental health issue, as well as a victim’s rights issue. Changes must be made. Loopholes in our laws must be closed.”

Last month, a probate judge in Middletown decided that Armstrong, instead of remaining committed at the Whiting Forensic Institute, could proceed into a voluntary program on the grounds of Whiting and has indicated that full discharge with minimal supervision is imminent.

The bill – Senate Bill 888 – awaits a public hearing in the legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

Somers thanked Dring for her advocacy.

“Kathy deserves answers and her family deserves justice,” Somers said. “I hope that my fellow lawmakers will hear this shocking story, understand how dangerous this situation is, and pass this bill so that these necessary reforms can be made.”

Somers has been a lead voice for systemic policy reforms at Whiting. She represents Groton, Stonington, Sterling, Griswold, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston and Voluntown.