Entries in Petit Murders (21)


Family Massacre Survivor William Petit Engaged to Marry

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor of the deadly home invasion that claimed the lives of his wife and two daughters in 2007, is engaged to be married.

Petit became engaged to photographer Christine Paluf after Christmas, he told The Hartford Courant in an email. Petit, 55, told the paper there is no set date for the wedding.

Paluf, 34, is a professional photographer who specializes in weddings, events and portraits. She also photographs events for the Petit Family Foundation, which works to honor Petit's deceased family by supporting causes including education, victims of violence and those affected by chronic illnesses.

Photos of William Petit at foundation events are part of Paluf's online portfolio. The pair reportedly met through her photography work for his organization.

Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and the couple's two daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, were killed during a July 2007 home invasion carried out by Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky.

The mother was strangled while the girls, tied to their beds, died when the house was set ablaze.

William Petit was the only one to survive. Brutally beaten with a baseball bat and left bound in the basement, he managed to escape to a neighbor's house. Petit sat in the front row throughout the separate murder and sentencing trials of Hayes and Komisarjevsky. Both men were convicted and sentenced to be executed, and are currently on Connecticut's death row.

"There is never complete closure when you lose your wife and family...but the first part is over and we think justice has been served," said Petit after the jury delivered its verdict for Komisarjevsky in a Connecticut courtroom on Dec. 9, 2011.

Paluf attended the Komisarjevsky trial with Petit and his family.

"We want to go forward with the Petit Family Foundation and create good out of evil," he said in December. "I will relax some and try to enjoy the holidays as best we can."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Girl, 9, Tries to Save Dad from Death Row

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- The 9-year-old daughter of convicted killer Joshua Komisarjevsky testified via videotape Wednesday in a bid to save the violent Connecticut home invader from the death penalty.

Jurors in the death penalty phase of Komisarjevsky's trial watched the 20-minute videotape and listened as the girl laughed, and talked about a best friend and how much she loved animals.

She also discussed her father, who she referred to as Josh, not "dad," saying he was a man she used to play with at her grandparents' home. She said he had gone to jail for "something he had done at work."

The girl lived with her grandparents at the time of the 2007 murders. She is not being identified to protect her privacy.

The videotaped testimony was shown over the objection of Komisarjevsky, himself, who addressed the court for the first time during his trial, though his voice was heard previously during a taped confession.

Komisarjevsky, 31, has been convicted of 17 counts including the murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela Petit, 11, during a brutal invasion of the family's Cheshire, Conn., home in 2007.

The verdict included six aggravating factors including that Komisarjevsky and his accomplice Steven Hayes committed the murders in "an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner." The mother was raped and strangled. The girls were tied to their beds and the house and their beds were splashed with gasoline.

Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit, testified that he was bound and badly beaten separately in the home's basement, but managed to escape.

Hayes has already been sentenced to death and is on Connecticut's death row.

Komisarjevsky's daughter was interviewed by Caroline Burry, a social worker, last weekend, but did not know she was being taped.

Burry took the stand after the videotape was played and testified that if Komisarjevsky was executed it could be "very damaging" to the girl, who is currently living with her maternal aunt. Her name has been changed and it is believed that none of her friends knows about her father's crimes.

The girl's testimony has been a point of contention for weeks as an attorney for the girl's guardian sought to prevent the interview, citing the possible psychological repercussions and a fear that her identity could become known.

But Jeremiah Donovan, one of Komisarjevsky's attorneys, said that showing the videotape was important because it would allow the jurors to see his client as a loving father who, records show, has seen his daughter 55 times during his incarceration -- instead of seeing him as just a cold-blooded killer.

But Wednesday, Komisarjevsky went against his own attorney's wishes. He addressed the judge in an attempt to prevent the videotape from being shown to the jury.

Komisarjevsky, who wore a dark suit and tie, read in a low voice from a piece of paper -- a prepared statement that his defense attorneys insisted he prepared on his own.

"Among many other considerations, I have carefully come to the overwhelming opinion that I am not at all comfortable putting my daughter in a position wherein she may feel that she has to explain or justify herself to anyone who perceives her statements to somehow help one of the most hated people in America," Komisarjevsky said.

"She's 9 years old. Had this interview been her decision to make, and she was old enough to understand that decision, that would be one thing. However, that is not the case in this situation. The decision has been made for her," he said.

Komisarjevsky went on to say that his daughter's words had been coached and that her current guardian punishes the girl if she mentions his name.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Petit Murder Trial: Convicted Killer's Daughter May Be Forced to Testify

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- The 9-year-old daughter of convicted murderer Joshua Komisarjevsky may be forced to testify in her father's murder trial to save him from being sentenced to death.

Defense attorneys have filed a subpoena to the girl testify, but prosecutors have fought the motion.

The Connecticut Department of Children and Families has also sent a letter to Judge Jon C. Blue asking that the child be prevented from testifying.  A mental health professional who is familiar with the psychological condition of the girl is also expected to be in court on Thursday to discuss what effects testifying could have on the child.

Lawyer Justine Rakich-Kelly, the executive director of the Children's Law Center, is representing the child.  In April, Rakich-Kelly filed a motion with the judge to have the child referred to only by a pseudonym to protect her privacy because.

Shortly after her father was arrested in 2007 for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Komisarjevsky's daughter, who was 5 at the time, received a threatening letter.  Attorneys and witnesses have so far not referred to her by name in court.

A jury of seven women and five men convicted Komisarjevsky, 32, of the murders of Hawke-Petit, 48, and Hayley Petit, 17, and the sexual assault and murder of Michaela Petit, 11.

Their bodies were found in the charred remains of the house.  The girls were alive and tied to their beds when the fire began; the triple murder has been called the most horrific crime in Connecticut's history.

After her father was arrested for the Petit murders, Komisarjevsky's daughter moved in to the home of his parents Jude and Benedict Komisarjevsky.  She is now living with relatives on her mother's side of the family.

If Blue allows the child to testify, he could stipulate she do so via video conferencing or in a closed courtroom to ease the psychological trauma of the circumstances.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Petit Family Murderer Confesses to Killing 17 Women

Kevin Horan/Stone(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- A death row inmate has written a series of letters bragging that he has killed 17 women, made a snuff film documenting one of his alleged murders, and often kept their shoes as morbid trophies.

The letters were written by Steven Hayes, convicted last year of murdering Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, during a Connecticut home invasion that turned into a gruesome rape and triple murder. The only person to survive the 2007 attack was Dr. William Petit, who was beaten with a baseball bat and tied to a pole in the basement.

The letters came to light when lawyers for Hayes' accomplice Joshua Komisarjevsky argued that the existence of the letters were grounds for a mistrial. Komisarjevsky was convicted earlier this month of taking part in the Petit murders.

Judge Jon C. Blue, who denied the request for a mistrial, has presided over both Hayes' and Komisarjevsky's trials and expressed some skepticism about the veracity of the claims in Hayes letter. If true, they would make Hayes responsible for 17 unsolved murders in New England between the early 1980's and 2007.

The prosecutor's office did not immediately respond to calls from ABC News about the supposed 17 murders.

The letters, written to a woman named Lynn in Wilson, N.C., were intercepted by the Connecticut Department of Corrections in early October and handed over to prosecutors.

In the letters, according to the New Haven Register, Hayes also claimed to have raped dozens of women after using a date-rape drug to knock them out.

Hayes claimed his victims were all between the ages of 14 and 25.

Hayes also claimed to have "trophies" from all of his 17 victims.

It is possible the letters could be heard in court this week during the death penalty phase of Joshua Komisarjevsky's trial which begins Tuesday. The defense has argued that Komisarjevsky does not deserve the death penalty because it was Hayes who was responsible for the grisly crimes.

If sentenced to death, Komisarjevsky would join Hayes on Connecticut's death row.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Petit Home Invasion Trial: Joshua Komisarjevsky Is Guilty

Dr. William Petit, flanked by his father in law and sister in law, outside the courthouse in New Haven after the guilty verdict was pronounced. ABC News(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- A Connecticut jury on Thursday found Joshua Komisarjevsky guilty of taking part in the murders of Dr. William Petit's wife and two daughters in a brutal home invasion that ended with his daughters tied to their gasoline splashed beds and the house on fire.

Komisarjevsky, 31, was found guilty on a battery of 17 counts that included murder, burglary, kidnapping, sexual assault and arson.

Several of the counts make him eligible for the death penalty including causing someone's death during a kidnapping and causing a death during the commission of a sexual assault.

The jury began deliberations on Wednesday morning and it took them about nine hours to return a verdict of guilty on charges he murdered Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela Petit, 11.

He will now undergo a death penalty hearing to determine if he spends the rest of his life in prison or is condemned to execution by lethal injection.

Komisarjevsky's accomplice, Steven Hayes, was convicted last year for his role in the July 23, 2007 home invasion, murder and torture of the Petit family. He was sentenced to death and is currently on Connecticut's death row.

If sentenced to die, Komisarjevsky will join 10 other men who are currently on Connecticut's death row, including Hayes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'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 Suspect Abused as Child

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- A neuropsychologist testified Wednesday that Joshua Komisarjevsky, on trial for the murder of a Connecticut woman and her two daughters, was sexually abused, burned and beaten as a child, impairing his ability to make quick decisions under stress.

"He's just too damn slow," said Dr. Leo Shea, who took the stand as a witness for the defense.

Shea said Komisarjevsky also suffered as many as five concussions which could have had an impact on his brain function.

The testimony was delivered on the first day of defense arguments in Komisarjevsky's capital murder trial in an attempt to save him from being sentenced to death.

He is accused of having broken into the home of Dr. William Petit on July 23, 2007 along with his accomplice Steven Hayes. 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, sexually assaulted and terrorized.

Komisarjevsky has admitted to sexually molesting Michaela.

Gasoline was poured throughout the house, as well as in the girls' bedrooms, and the home was set ablaze. Both girls died of smoke inhalation as their family home burned around them.

Komisarjevsky's defense team is attempting to convince the jury that Hayes had the idea to kill the girls and burn the house, that Hayes bought the gasoline and set the house on fire.

Hayes was convicted and sentenced to be executed last year for his role in the deadly home invasion and is currently on Connecticut's death row.

Shea administered a battery of brain tests to Komisarjevsky and that he scored in the bottom 2-4 percentile on many of them. Shea said the results indicated Komisarjevsly is a good talker, but a poor writer and speller. While he did score better in his "verbal comprehension," Shea said that if a situation got complex -- like a home invasion gone wrong -- Komisarjevsky would not be able to think straight.

Shea also testified that Komisarjevsky abused many drugs including ecstasy, crystal meth, LSD, and marijuana for several years when he was in his 20's.  

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

ABC News Radio