MARLBOROUGH — A man who police say let teens gather on his property for alcohol and drug parties has been arrested on dozens of counts of reckless endangerment and permitting minors to possess liquor after a Hebron teen was killed after leaving a party there.
Paul Sibiga, 50, who police say hosted parties throughout the summer of 2013 on his property, was arraigned Thursday in Superior Court in Manchester. He was released on a promise to appear in court on Jan. 7. Bail was initially set at $200,000.
Paige Houston, 17, who would have been a senior at RHAM High School, was killed in August when the pickup truck she was riding in, driven by a teen who'd been drinking at a party on the property, went out of control and struck a tree on West Street in Hebron, according to the warrant for Sibiga's arrest. The driver of the pickup truck she was riding in was also arrested Thursday.
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66 North Parker Road, Marlborough, CT 06447, USA
Sibiga was charged with 28 counts of reckless endangerment and 28 counts of permitting minors to possess alcohol.
At his arraignment, a bail commissioner recommended releasing Sibiga on a promise to appear in court because he does not have a criminal record and has strong ties to the community. But prosecutor Adam Scott, citing the seriousness of the charges, urged Judge Stanley T. Fuger Jr. to set bail at $100,000.
Sibiga's lawyer, Paul M. Melocowsky, countered that the charges are all misdemeanors. He also told the judge he had arranged for Sibiga to turn himself in once an arrest warrant was signed, but troopers showed up at his home early Thursday to take him into custody.
Sibiga left the courthouse shortly after his arraignment without commenting. Under conditions of his release, he must surrender his passport and cannot allow minors on his property unless they are members of his family.
The 17-year-old driver of the pickup truck in which Houston was riding was also charged Thursday, with first-degree manslaughter, drunken driving, three counts of reckless endangerment, interfering with an officer, making a false statement to police, reckless operation of a motor vehicle and failure to obey a stop sign.
Police did not release his name because of his age, but he was identified at the time of the crash as Connor McKee of Hebron. He was arraigned in Superior Court in Rockville on Thursday and was released after posting bail.
The driver told police he'd been at a party at Sibiga's property, had helped light a fire and was hanging out and drinking with his friends. He told police that night that he'd had 1 1/2 beers. A blood test later showed that his blood alcohol content was 0.11 percent. In Connecticut, the legal limit for people 21 or older is 0.08 percent. For people younger than 21, the limit is 0.02 percent.
Houston also had been drinking, according to the warrant.
Two other people who were in the car at the time of the crash had fled, and police wanted to find them in case they were injured.
Police went to Sibiga's house at 66 N. Parker Road after the crash and said they found 10 to 15 vehicles in the driveway. Police knocked on the door, and Sibiga answered. He said he'd been asleep.
When the trooper asked if anyone else was in the house, Sibiga said no, according to the warrant. "When asked if there was some kind of party at his residence, Paul Sibiga stated that his son was having a party earlier, however no one was in the house at that time," according to the warrant. The troopers said they told Sibiga they were concerned about the two people who'd fled the crash scene.
Another trooper got a tip that there was an ongoing party near Sibiga's house, and at about 2:15 a.m. police returned to talk again with Sibiga. This time, according to the warrant, Sibiga agreed to take the troopers to a piece of property he owns across the Road where his son and others were having a party.
Sibiga led the troopers along a dirt road into a wooded area, where they found Sibiga's son, Tim Sibiga, 17, who told the troopers he and 10 to 15 friends were having a party in the woods. Further into the woods, police found a large white tent, a fire pit, picnic tables and lots of teens hiding behind trees. Police also found the two teens who'd been in the car when it crashed and got them medical treatment.
Police eventually identified 28 teens who'd been at the party and interviewed many of them.
"It was learned through numerous interviews that the outdoor party involved underage drinking and the use of illicit drugs," according to the arrest warrant. The party area, police would later learn, is known as the "White House."
People who attended parties at the Sibiga property, which according to the warrant occurred as frequently as once a week, were not permitted to drive home and had to leave their car keys in Sibiga's house, according to the warrant. "Anyone who was drinking at the property was not allowed to drive home and either camped out at the White House or in the basement of the Sibiga house," according to the warrant.
One person who attended the party told police that he was with Tim Sibiga when Tim asked his father if he could have a party, according to the warrant.
Another person who attended the party told police that when he arrived Aug. 5 for the party he saw Paul Sibiga, who greeted him and asked if he'd driven there. When the witness responded "no," Paul Sibiga said "good."
The witness said he'd attended five or six parties at Sibiga's property and that Ray Sibiga, another son, had told him "keys had to be left at the house, and that this was his parents' rule" and that "it is a rule at these parties that if you are drinking, you have to stay over."
Witnesses told police that none of them saw Paul Sibiga at the party area on Aug. 5-6 until he went there with the state troopers early on Aug. 6, after the crash.
Police said they went to Paul Sibiga's property 16 months before the crash, in April 2012, to investigate a motor vehicle accident during which a minor had been run over by a vehicle at the party site. The teen suffered a dislocated leg.
Police learned there'd been a party and underage drinking and cited two teens, including Ray Sibiga.
The trooper, according to the warrant, also warned Paul Sibiga about the potential liability of hosting teen drinking parties on his property, and "legal proceedings if anyone was injured or left the property after illegally consuming any alcohol or drugs."
The trooper urged Sibiga to put up no-trespassing signs and to install a gate to block access to the dirt road that leads to the party area.
At Sibiga's arraignment, his lawyer described the area where the parties occurred as 34 acres of woods.
Outside court, Melocowski said he thought it was important to describe the property because "what Mr. Sibiga should have known or knew is an issue."
Ryan Barry, the lawyer for Connor McKee, said on Thursday, "Connor is home with his parents. He lost his close friend. He's devastated."
Car crashes claimed the lives of at least six state teens during the spring and summer.
Brooke Wormstedt, 15, of East Windsor, and Matthew Masse, 18, of Vernon, were killed and three others were injured May 25 in South Windsor.
Brothers Robert Swain, 18, of East Hartford, and La'Andrew Evans-Swain, 16, of Manchester, died after a BMW driven by another teen crashed about 4:15 a.m. on July 14 in East Hartford. Another passenger, 20, was seriously injured. The driver, an 18-year-old, was not hurt.
A little more than an hour later, at 5:30 a.m., Jane Modlesky, 17, died when the SUV she was driving hit several trees along Woodhaven Road in Glastonbury. Police said earlier this month that Modlesky's blood-alcohol content was 0.27, more than 13 times the legal limit for someone her age.
Three juvenile boys were charged Dec. 5 in connection with the case, according to Glastonbury police. Their names were not released. Two of them were charged with reckless endangerment for allowing Modlesky to drive drunk, police said.
The girl who allegedly hosted the gathering that Modlesky attended was charged in August with two counts of allowing minors to possess alcohol.
Police said the 17-year-old had hosted two parties in the nights prior to the accident where minors were consuming alcoholic beverages. Police said the property owners were not home for the parties.