First: Actually, you ARE returning an array. Lists are only transient things that exist in expressions. If you can take a reference to it, it's an array.
in reply to Unable to INSERT dereferenced values into db
With that out of the way: That's not how you access array elements, and I think that'll give you a warning about single-element array slicing.
There are two ways you can do your array:
or slightly easier
$sth->execute( $ref->, $ref->, $ref->, $ref->) ;
$sth->execute( @$ref );
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