Entries in Dr. William Petit (11)


'Perfect Storm' of Impairments Impaired Joshua Komisarjevsky

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- A "perfect storm" of drug abuse, childhood sexual abuse and head injuries were at the root of Joshua Komisarjevsky's "poor decision-making" the night he and an accomplice invaded the home of a Connecticut doctor, beat him and killed his family, according to a neuropsychologist testifying in Komisarjevsky's defense.

The accomplice, Steven Hayes, was tried and sentenced to death for his role in the deadly home invasion and is currently serving his sentence on Connecticut's death row.  Komisarjevsky's legal team is attempting to spare their client the same fate for what many believe is the most horrific crime in Connecticut's history.

On July 23, 2007, according to prosecutors, the two men broke into Dr. William Petit's house in Cheshire, Conn.  During the home invasion, they beat Petit about the head with a baseball bat and tied him up.  Hayes raped and strangled Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48.  Their two daughters, Hayley, 17 and Michaela, 11 were tied to their beds for hours and terrorized.

Komisarjevsky has admitted to sexually molesting Michaela.  The two men then poured gasoline throughout the house and set it on fire.

Komisarjevsky's lawyers argue that Hayes was responsible for buying and pouring the gasoline and setting the house on fire.  On Thursday, for the second day in a row, Dr. Leo Shea discussed a neuropsychological evaluation he performed on Komisarjevsky.  The interviews took place on a series of dates in 2010.

In the evaluation, which has been publicly released, Komisarjevsky told Shea that he had been sexually abused by a foster child his parents took in to their home.  Komisarjevsky said he had been raped orally and anally and burned with cigarettes by a 15-year-old boy.

Komisarjevsky's parents attempted to get him help through their church, according to the report, which says the parents "got the elders, to put their hands on me, to cast out sin, to heal me.  I was so scared and felt smothered."  Komisarjevsky also told the doctor that he started self-mutilation when he was 13.

Komisarjevksy also sustained five concussions at a young age -- one of which occurred on Jan. 20, 1990, when his head hit the windshield of the family car.

That accident was so traumatic, according to the report, that Komisarjevky's personality changed and he became "more agitated, frustrated."

Shea performed a number of cognitive tests on Komisarjevsky and summed up his 15-page evaluations this way: "Mr. Komisarjevsky can benefit from extended time to process stimulation, prompting and a reduction of irrelevant and distracting stimuli.  He will be at a disadvantage when he is required to make quick decisions on complex matters."

According to Komisarjevsky's lawyers, these poor decision-making skills were at the root of their clients' inability to stop events from spiraling out of control on July 23, 2007.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Petit Home Invasion Trial: Will Joshua Komisarjevsky Take the Stand?

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Lawyers for Joshua Komisarjevsky are poised to begin the defense of their client in the triple murder case after the prosecution has presented overwhelming and often sickening evidence against him.

To avoid having Komisarjevsky sentenced to death, the defense has taken unusual steps from a combative approach to the victims' family to repeatedly seeking a mistrial.  Several defense experts raise the possibility that Komisarjevsky's defense team could take the even more daring tactic of putting him on the stand.

Komisarjevsky, 31, is on trial for having broken into the home of Dr. William Petit on July 23, 2007 along with accomplice Steven Hayes.  Hayes was convicted last year for his role in the crimes and given the death penalty.  He is currently serving his sentence on Connecticut's death row.

During the home invasion, they beat Dr. Petit about the head with a baseball bat and then tied him up.  They raped and strangled Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48.  Their two daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, were tied to their beds for hours and terrorized.  Komisarjevsky admitted to sexually molesting Michaela Petit.

The house and the girls' bodies were doused with gasoline and the home was set on fire.  Dental records had to be used to identify Hawke-Petit's body.  And experts have testified that the death of the young girls was sure to be agonizing.

The job of Komisarjevsky's legal team -- Jeremiah Donovan, Walter Bansley III and Todd Bussert -- won't be easy.  Their client gave a 90-minute long audio taped statement to police.  He wrote a diary in jail which became part of a book in which he appeared to taunt Dr. Petit, the sole survivor of that night.

Their client is so reviled that the legal trio have referred to themselves as the most hated men in Connecticut.

Attorneys in the case are under a gag order so ABC News talked to several prominent Connecticut defense attorneys on what possible strategy the Komisarjevsky defense team might use.

"They are going to try to hang the jury up on whether or not Komisarjevsky was merely an accessory to the murder of a child or if he had a hand in committing the murders himself.  If he's only an accessory, the defense will say he ought not to be killed," said Norman Pattis, one of the highest profile criminal defense attorneys in Connecticut.

They will blame Hayes for the violence, Pattis said.  It was Hayes who bought the gas, Hayes who poured the gas in the family home and Hayes who lit the house on fire, they will argue.

Donovan is known as bold strategist in the courtroom, said Pattis, and it is possible that he will try something risky on the stand.  "He has nothing to lose," said Pattis.  And that could include putting his client on the stand.

The defense is expected to begin its case on Wednesday.  Closing arguments could come as early as Friday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Petit Trial Judge Denies Mistrial Request

Conecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- The judge presiding over a triple homicide case in Connecticut denied Thursday the alleged killer's request for a mistrial after the victims' family caused a commotion while exiting the courtroom en masse Wednesday.

In full view of jurors, the Petit family filed out of the court just before Connecticut's chief medical examiner, Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, was slated to deliver graphic testimony regarding the autopsy of 11-year-old Michaela Petit.

The bodies of Michaela, mother Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and sister Hayley Petit,17, were found in the charred remains of the Petit's suburban home in Cheshire, Conn., July 23, 2007. Dr. William Petit was the sole survivor.

Attorneys for defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, immediately asked Judge Jon C. Blue for a mistrial after the family walkout. Defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan called the move a "stunt" and said it was highly prejudicial to his client.

Blue denied the motion Thursday morning and said courtroom 6A, like all courtrooms, is a public space where people are free to come and go. This was not the first time Petit family members, including William Petit, have left the courtroom en masse. On Monday, before another medical examiner testified to the manner in which Hayley died, at least 10 family members left the courtroom as well.

With the efforts to declare a mistrial out of the way, Dr. Susan Williams, a Connecticut associate medical examiner, took the stand Thursday morning to discuss her autopsy findings on the body of Hawke-Petit. This time, the Petit family had already left the courtroom.

Dental records were used to identify Hawke-Petit's body, Williams said, because it "had been burned beyond recognition." Cloth was found around Hawke-Petit's neck and her charred jeans and underwear were down around her knees. Some of the clothing has been seared to her body.

Prosecutor Michael Dearington asked Williams whether she could determine the cause of death. Williams said she found fractures in Hawke-Petit's neck and declared the cause of death as "asphyxia from strangulation." Williams could not say whether the fractures were caused manually -- by hands -- or by a ligature, in this case a stocking.

Prosecutor Michael Dearington asked whether Williams could determine how long Hawke-Petit might have been alive during the strangulation and Williams estimated that it was likely she was conscious for a "short while."

Williams also told the jury that Hawke-Petit's death was not accidental and that it could not be attributed to the fire that almost destroyed the family home.

Forensic biologist Joy Reho also testified Thursday about the rape-kit exam she performed on Jennifer Hawke-Petit. The vaginal swab tested positive for semen.

On Michaela Petit, said Reho, an anal swab showed evidence of semen. In his audio taped statement, Komisarjevsky admitted to sexually molesting the young girl, ejaculating on her body and taking naked pictures of her but his lawyers have adamantly denied that.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Petit Murder Trial: Father Walks Out on Details of Daughter's Death

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- The Connecticut dad who was the lone survivor of a 2007 home invasion that ended with his wife and two daughters dead walked out of court Wednesday to avoid hearing the graphic details of how his 11-year-old daughter met a fiery, tortuous end.

Dr. William Petit left the courtroom at the murder trial of one of the home invasion suspects, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, just before a medical examiner described Michaela Petit's death by smoke inhalation.  About a dozen of Petit's family members, who have remained by Dr. Petit's side throughout the ordeal, left the courtroom with him.

The bodies of Michaela Petit, 11, her sister Hayley Petit, 17, and their mother Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, were found in the charred remains of the Petit's suburban home in Cheshire, Conn., on July 23, 2007.  The family had been held hostage and tied up for hours, and Jennifer Hawke-Petit had been raped and strangled.  William Petit was beaten in a basement room, but escaped during the attack and tried to get help.

Komisarjevsky is on trial for the triple murder.  If convicted, he could face the death penalty.  His accomplice, Steven Hayes, was convicted last year and is currently on Connecticut's death row.

Dr. Wayne Carver II, the chief medical examiner for the state of Connecticut who performed the autopsy on Michaela Petit, illustrated his testimony with a large photo of the young victim's trachea projected on a screen in front of the jury.  Carver said the trachea's pink color suggested that poisonous carbon monoxide had entered Michaela's bloodstream and eventually killed her.  Carver used a laser pointer to show the jury black particles -- soot -- that had settled inside Michaela's voice box.

Victims of smoke inhalation often feel nauseous, experience delirium and a significant amount of pain before death, according to testimony heard earlier this week.

Carver told the jury that it was possible Michaela lived for as long as two minutes while breathing in the soot-filled air before she died.  Her body had severe burns on its legs and feet.

In a particularly graphic moment, Carver testified that he found sperm in the area of Michaela Petit's rectum.  In an audiotaped statement, Komisarjevsky admitted to sexually molesting the young girl, ejaculating on her body and taking naked pictures of her.  However, his lawyers have adamantly denied that Komisarjevsky raped her.

Earlier, jurors also viewed photos apparently of Michaela Petit tied to a bed as she lay partly naked with a pillowcase covering her head.

Komisarjevsky began taking the photos at 7:27 a.m. that day and he took the last image at 9:14 a.m., according to John Brunetti, a forensic scientist with the Connecticut State Police.

There were eight images in all.  Six images were of "a young, white girl," Brunetti testified, and two of Komisarjevsky himself.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Petit Murder Trial: Coroner Describes Teen Girl's Death in Fire

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Dr. William Petit and several of his family members walked out of court Monday, some of them in tears, unable to listen to the coroner's testimony describing the final moments of Petit's teenage daughter, who died in a fire set by a pair of robbers.

Hayley Petit, 17, died along with her younger sister, Michaela, on July 23, 2007, tied to their beds in a suburban Connecticut house splashed with gasoline. Their mother, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, was raped and strangled before the house was set ablaze.

Hayley Petit's body was found at the top of the staircase. Her sister's body was found still in her bed.

The gruesome testimony along with graphic photographs were presented Monday in the murder trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, who could face the death penalty if convicted. His accomplice Steven Hayes was convicted in a separate trial last year and awaits execution on Connecticut's death row.

Dr. Petit, who was beaten with a baseball bat, was the only person to survive the attack. He has sat in the front row throughout Hayes' trial and sentencing, and has been a fixture at Komisarjevsky's trial.

But Monday, Dr. Petit was overwhelmed by the testimony of Dr. Malka Shah, who performed the autopsy on Hayley Petit.

Shah said that the cause of death for Hayley Petit was "asphyxia due to smoke inhalation." Prosecutor Michael Dearington asked Shah what the girl likely experienced shortly before her death.

Shah told the court that a victim like Hayley Petit would typically "experience significant pain from breathing in smoke and soot before she died." She also likely felt disorientation, nausea and an inability to breathe shortly before her death.

Jurors were shown photos of Petit's body taken at both the crime scene and during the autopsy. At one point, Shah stood up holding the photograph in front of the jury and described Hayley's injuries.

Dr. Petit's family, who had been weeping and consoling themselves in court, walked out of the courtroom as the grisly slideshow continued, unable to listen to the testimony.

Several canisters of evidence were also shown to the jury, including the burnt boxer shorts Hayley had been wearing when she died.

Earlier, a detective testified that during Komisarjevsky's three-hour-long detailed confession of what happened that night, he never once cried or expressed any remorse. The disclosure came as defense attorney Walter Bansley cross-examined Detective Joe Vitello of the Cheshire, Conn., police department in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky.

The court was shown surveillance photos of Hawke-Petit and her younger daughter Michaela in the Cheshire Stop & Shop on July 22, 2007. Komisarjevsky has admitted to police that he first spotted them as potential robbery victims at the store that day, and later said the pair "looked nice."

Komisarjevsky's legal team has tried to convince the court that it was Hayes who escalated the violence from a robbery to a triple murder in the hopes of avoiding the death penalty.

Throughout Monday morning's testimony Komisarjevsky listened intently, but sat almost casually in his chair, leaning and rocking back in his chair. His father sat in the second row.

The brutal testimony Monday was all the more poignant for the Petit family, as that day would have been Hawke-Petit's 53rd birthday. Family members were late to court Monday as they held a special mass in her honor Monday morning at a Catholic church.

By 10 a.m. Petit family members filled the right-hand side of the courtroom as they have every day for this trial. They wear small pins showing the name of the Petit Family Foundation despite objections by defense counsel.

At the beginning of Monday's session, jurors were admonished by Judge Jon C. Blue because several of them had been chronically late.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Petit Murder Trial Hears Joshua Komisarjevsky's Taped Confession

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Jurors listened Wednesday to an audiotape of Joshua Komisarjevsky describing how plans to rob the home of Dr. William Petit spiraled into a "home invasion gone terribly wrong," leaving Petit's wife and two daughters dead in a burning house.

Komisarjevsky, 31, was heard on the tape saying he beat Petit with a baseball bat until he stopped screaming and that he and his alleged accomplice, Steven Hayes, shook a "confused but calm" Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters awake and tied them up.

Komisarjevsky said that he reassured the women that he would not hurt them.

The audio tape was played as prosecutor Michael Dearington questioned Detective Joe Vitello who talked to Komisarjevsky shortly after he was taken into custody on July 23, 2007, the night of the attack on the Petit family.

Vitello knew Komisarjevsky, a petty thief, from prior arrests and offered him pizza before asking him if he agreed to give a voluntary statement.  It was the first time most courtroom observers had heard Komisarjevsky's voice, and it was emotionless and flat, despite it being just hours removed from leaving the horrific scene which he told Vitello was a "home invasion gone terribly wrong."

Wednesday was the third day of testimony in the trial of Komisarjevsky, who is charged with 17 counts for his alleged role in the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 42, Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela Petit, 11.  Hayes was convicted and sentenced to death last year for his part in the triple murder.  He is currently on Connecticut's death row.

On the tape, Komisarjevsky described the first time he saw Hawke-Petit shopping with one of her daughters for groceries at a Stop 'n Shop.  He noticed she was driving a nice car and trailed her home, noting she lived in a nice house.

Komisarjevsky said on the tape he spent the next few hours with his own daughter and put her to bed.  After that he met up with Hayes and they hatched a plan to rob the Petit house.

After donning masks, the two men entered the house through an unlocked basement door and after some hesitation, according to Komisarjevsky, started to beat Dr. Petit with a baseball bat and then tied him up.  Komisarjevsky said he and Hayes searched the house for money and valuables.  Finding none, they asked Petit's wife to drive to her bank and make a $15,000 withdrawal.

Testimony in Hayes' trial last year said that after Hawke-Petit returned with the money, he raped and strangled her.

On the audio tape, Komisarjevsky said it was Hayes who said they needed gas to burn the house down and kill the Petits because they might be able to identify them. Komisarjevsky said on tape that things between him and Hayes started to get tense. And that it was Hayes who went out to get the gas that would be used to set the house on fire.

In a particularly ugly portion of the audiotape, Komisarjevsky said he sexually assaulted the 11-year-old child at which point the judge abruptly shut off the tape.  Dr. Petit was sitting in the front row where he has been for every day of the Hayes and now the Komisarjevsky trial.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


William Petit Says He Heard His Wife Being Raped, Strangled

Joshua Komisarjevsky.
Connecticut State Police
(NEW HAVEN, Conn) -- Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of the gruesome Connecticut home invasion that left his wife and two daughters dead, took the stand Tuesday and described hearing the loud thumps upstairs -- the sounds of his wife being raped and strangled -- as he lay battered and bound on the basement floor of his suburban home.

Wearing a dark grey suit and purple tie, Petit answered questions from prosecutor Michael Dearington as pictures of his wife and daughters flashed onto a screen in the courtroom.

Petit said he heard one of the intruders upstairs say, "Don't worry, it will all be over soon" shortly before Petit made his escape from the basement to a neighbor's driveway.

It is the second day of testimony in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, who faces the possibility of the death penalty for his role in the 2007 rape and triple murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.

For the first time, Komisarjevsky's father, Benedict Komisarjevsky, showed up in court. Just before court was convened, the Rev. Richard Hawke, Jennifer Hawke-Petit's father, walked over to introduce himself and, according to the Hartford Courant said to the elder Komisarjevsky, "I just wanted to say I'm sorry about what happened….God Bless You." Komisarjevsky nodded.

Komisarjevsky's accomplice, Steven Hayes, was convicted in a trial last year and sentenced to death. Hayes is currently on death row.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Second Petit Murder Trial Starts with Chilling 911 Call

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- A Connecticut jury Monday heard a chilling 911 tape from a Bank of America employee who called police in 2007 when Jennifer Hawke-Petit, walked into the branch asking for $15,000 from her account so she could give it to the men who were holding her husband and children hostage.

Haunting surveillance video was also shown of Jennifer Hawke-Petit leaving the bank and getting into a car with the man who, within hours, would rape and kill her.

It was a grim start to the murder trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, who is charged with invading the Petit's home along with Steven Hayes.  During the seven-hour ordeal, the family was battered, sexually assaulted, and the wife and two daughters killed.

The only survivor of the July 23, 2007 attack was Dr. William Petit, who sat in the first row Monday.

The voice of bank manager Mary Lyons filled the courtroom as the 911 tape was played.

"We have a lady in our bank right now who says her husband and children are being held at their house," Lyons tells police.

She testified that Hawke-Petit only had pictures of her daughters in her wallet instead of the required two forms of ID, but the bank teller gave her the money.  She described Hawke-Petit as calm, despite the harrowing circumstances.

At one point she can be seen leaning over the counter and whispering in an attempt to save her family.

"To me, she was trying to get done what she was sent into the bank to get done, so she could return to her family," Lyons said.

The bank manager said she watched as Hawke-Petit drove away with a man wearing a hoodie.

Shortly after leaving the bank, Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela Petit, 11, would be dead.  Hawke-Petit was raped and strangled and the girls died from smoke inhalation as they were tied to their beds when their house was set ablaze.

Komisarjevsky's lawyer opened the procedings by blaming his client's accomplice for the rape and triple murder in Cheshire, Connecticut.

The attorney admitted it was Komisarjevsky who singled out Hawke-Petit and Michaela in a supermarket, trailed them to their house, and returned later that night with Hayes.  He also admits that it was Komisarjevsky who attacked the father with a bat and that he masturbated in front of the younger daughter.

Nevertheless, defense lawyer Walter C. Bansley III painted his client as a man who was "confused" and easily led but who never meant to kill anyone, so that when the horrific events of that night spiraled out of control, Komisarjevsky was helpless to stop them.

Komisarjevsky had confessed to the crime and offered to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty, an offer the prosecution rejected.  His defense hopes to save him from death by lethal injection.

His accomplice Steven Hayes was convicted in a trial last year that was so graphic the jurors received counseling when the case was over.  Hayes was sentenced to death and is currently on death row.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Triple Murder Suspect Seeks Plea to Avoid Death

Darrin Klimek/Thinkstock (file)(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- A man who faces a possible death penalty when his trial begins Wednesday in the gruesome murder of Dr. William Petit's family is offering to plead guilty if prosecutors will agree to give him life in prison instead.

But prosecutors said that it's not Joshua Komisarjevsky's place to make a plea deal. Connecticut State Attorney Michael Dearington, who is prosecuting Komisarjevsky, makes it clear that "as a general proposition of law, only prosecutors can negotiate plea arrangements."

Komisarjevsky, 30, is the second person to go on trial for the July 2007 killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and her daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. All three were raped. Later, the mother was strangled while the girls, tied to their beds, died in a fire that was allegedly started by the two men.

His alleged accomplice Steven Hayes, 47, was convicted of the home invasion and murders last year and sentenced to death. Hayes also offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors insist he have a jury trial.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dr. William Petit Hopes to Be Reunited With His Family in Heaven

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(PLAINVILLE, Conn.) -- Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor of the deadly home invasion that claimed the lives of his wife and two daughters, said Thursday he did not end his own life because he didn't want to risk not being reunited with them in heaven.

"I thought of the afterlife and if I was going to meet up with my family," said Petit in his first interview since his family's killer, Steven Hayes, was sentenced to death last month. "I thought that [if I killed myself], maybe I would never meet up with them again, and I wasn't willing to take that chance."

Petit, speaking to Oprah Winfrey in his parent's Connecticut home, where he has lived since his own was burned in the 2007 assault on his family, said that his relationship with God is at a "stand off" since his family was killed.

"I believe in God, but I was pretty angry with him for a long time," said Petit. "I've talked to a lot of smart people who have told me it's okay to be angry with God. God can take it."

Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and the couple's two daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, were all killed during a July 2007 home invasion carried out by Hayes and his alleged accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky.

Hayes is awaiting execution on Connecticut's death row and Komisarjevsky's trial is expected to begin in February.

Hayes was convicted of raping and strangling Hawke-Petit. Komisarjevsky is charged with sexually assaulting Michaela. Both Michaela and Hayley died after they were tied to their beds, doused with gasoline and the house was set on fire.

Petit says closure will never be possible and he doesn't consider forgiveness an option, either.

"I don't think you can forgive ultimate evil," he said. "You can forgive someone who stole your car. You can forgive someone who slaps you in the face. You can forgive someone who insulted you. You can forgive someone who caused an accident. I think forgiving the essence of evil is not appropriate."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio