(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- It has been called the most horrific crime in Connecticut's history. A 2007 home invasion escalated into a triple homicide leaving a mother and her two daughters dead and a father badly beaten and emotionally scarred.
Four years later, the final chapter in this tragic story is about to unfold in a New Haven courtroom as the death penalty trial of 31-year-old Joshua Komisarjevsky, one of two men charged for the crimes that night, gets underway with opening statements Monday.
Komisarjevsky faces 17 charges ranging from murder to abduction and assault. The grisly details of the story are widely known from court documents and testimony in the trial of Komisarjevsky's alleged accomplice Steven Hayes.
On July 23, 2007, for seven hours, Dr. William Petit, his wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit and their daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, were held hostage. The daughters were tied to their beds and one of them was allegedly sexually assaulted by Komisarjevsky.
Hawke-Petit was driven to a bank at gun point, told to withdraw money and taken back to her house, where she was raped and then strangled. The house was doused with gasoline and set on fire. Hayley, Michaela and their mother died, the girls tied to their gasoline splashed beds.
Dr. Petit managed to escape and crawl to a neighbor's house, beaten and bloodied, to call for help.
Komisarjevsky and Hayes were arrested a block away from the Petit family home. Both men had lengthy criminal records. Hayes and Komisarjevsky tried to plead guilty to the crimes in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors refused.
Hayes stood trial for his role in the crimes last year. In court, Hayes seemed subdued. It took the jury just hours to find him guilty. When he was allowed to address the court, Hayes said "death would be a welcome relief." He was sentenced to be executed and is now on death row.
Hayes' trial mesmerized Connecticut and much of the country with reporters lining up each day to enter the courtroom, and sending out minute-by-minute accounts of the testimony over Twitter. When it was over, Dr. Petit even sat down for an interview with Oprah, an indication of just how much the public at large was following this case.
Despite the high stakes nature of the death penalty trial, Hayes' attorney Thomas Ullmann adopted a courtly rather than a confrontational manner in court. And he always maintained a respectful demeanor towards Dr. Petit and his relatives.
But the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky promises to be different. Komisarjevsky's three court-appointed attorneys, Walter Bansley III, Jeremiah Donovan and Todd Bussert have adopted a combative, even confrontational style with Dr. Petit and his family.
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