and Justin Muszynski
New Britain police have unraveled a 14-year-old Plainville murder case tied to an area religious cult that rose to prominence in the 1970s.
Police allege that Sorek Minery, 42, of Burlington, and Rudy Hannon, 72, a former area resident, killed Paul Sweetman, 70, of Southington, in 2004, dismembered his body and buried the remains in various places in New Britain.
Sweetman was the “Chief Apostle” for the cult known as “Brother Julius,” for Julius Schacknow, who died in 1996. Schacknow ran the religious cult in Central Connecticut more than 30 years ago, according to published reports.
Schacknow, who claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and had at least 200 followers at the height of the cult’s existence in Connecticut. According to a UPI story published in 1987, the cult leader’s “message is of Christian fundamentalism, faith healing, science fiction and occultism.”
Minery and Hannon were charged this week with murder and felony murder in Sweetman’s death. The 70-year-old Sweetman was last seen by his wife on July 21, 2004. She reported him missing to Southington police three days later. New Britain police believe Sweetman was killed in Minery’s construction firm in Plainville shortly after his disappearance, stuffed in a freezer and then dismembered, according to an arrest warrant.
New Britain police found a human leg in August 2004 in the area of Shuttle Meadow Golf Course. They had been investigating the discovery of the body part for more than a decade when the FBI offered information in 2016 obtained from Hannon a decade before that indicated he knew “intimate details” about Sweetman’s death.
Minery told New Britain investigators in 2016 that he and Hannon discussed killing Sweetman because the Southington man had hurt his wife. The three men were part of the same religious group at the time, court papers said. The warrant for Hannon’s arrest does not specify which religious organization the three were involved with.
Hannon claimed that he brought Sweetman to Minery’s Plainville shop, “Blue Ridge Construction,” on Neal Court thinking Minery was going to beat the Southington man. Instead, while he waited outside, Hannon said, Minery killed Sweetman and then the two men put Sweetman’s body in a freezer. Minery later chopped up the body and buried parts in various places in New Britain, according to the warrant.
Based on information provided by Hannon, New Britain police excavated the ground beneath a shed on Leo Street in 2016 and found Sweetman’s torso still wearing the jewelry he had on the day of the murder. Hannon had told police Sweetman was buried with a necklace and ring. Police used DNA from Sweetman’s son to identify the leg and the torso, the warrant said. The Leo Street property was owned by Minery from 2000 to 2005, police determined through city records.
Minery admitted that he used an electric saw to chop Sweetman into pieces, and then he placed the remains in a garbage bag and back into the freezer until he could dispose of them. Minery buried Sweetman’s head and legs in a shallow grave near the New Britain reservoir and then buried the torso and arms beneath his shed on Leo Street, he said. He shared the location of the remains with Hannon, he said. Minery drew police a sketch of his business including the location of the freezer he used to store Sweetman’s body. Sweetman’s head and other leg have not been recovered.
Hannon has an extensive criminal history and has done time in federal prison, bail officials said during Hannon’s arraignment in Bristol Superior Court Tuesday. Minery had no criminal record prior to his arrest on Tuesday. He also made his first appearance in Bristol Superior Court on Wednesday. Like Hannon’s, Minery’s case has been transferred to New Britain Superior Court where the more serious cases are heard. According to Bristol court officials, Minery has lived in Burlington for nearly 20 years. He has a wife and three children, and owns his own carpentry business based out of Burlington called Blue Ridge Woodworks.
Hannon is recovering from cancer and bypass surgery, his attorney, J. Patten Brown, told New Britain officials during his client’s arraignment in the felony court in New Britain Wednesday. Brown said he is waiting to read the arrest warrant and other court papers before commenting on the case. “The only thing I know at this point is what I read in the newspaper,” he said after Hannon’s court appearance.
The arrest warrant in Minery’s case has been sealed, so no additional information about the allegations has been made available. Hannon’s arrest warrant was unsealed after his court appearance Wednesday. A New Britain Superior Court judge ordered that the two men be kept in separate correctional facilities.
Hannon was serving a sentence in Nevada when he was extradited to Connecticut this week. Both men are being held on $2 million bond.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.