Entries in Petit Trial (18)


Petit Home Invasion Sentence: Death

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- A Connecticut jury sentenced Joshua Komisarjevsky to death Friday after deliberating for five days.

Komisarjevsky, 31, was found guilty on Oct. 13 of sexually assaulting and killing 11-year-old Michaela Petit and murdering 17-year-old Hayley Petit and Jennifer Hawke-Petit. In all, Komisarjevsky was convicted of six capital offenses.

His accomplice, Steven Hayes, was sentenced to death last year. He is currently on Connecticut's death row.

For six weeks, in the penalty phase of his trial, Komisarjevsky's defense lawyers, Jeremiah Donovan, Water C. Bansley III and Todd Bussert argued that Komisarjevsky was "doomed from birth" and that his difficult childhood was marred by sexual abuse, addiction and a series of head injuries that created a "perfect storm" of psychological issues that caused Komisarjevsky to turn to a life of crime.

The 12-member jury began deliberations on Monday afternoon with a lengthy charge from Judge Jon C. Blue, who has presided over both the Komisarjevsky and Hayes trials. Blue told the jury, "You must now decide whether he lives or dies. This simple statement is enough to suggest the solemnity of the occasion which brings us together."

Prosecutors argued that there were aggravating factors in the Komisarjevsky case that should require a sentence of death. "Each murder was committed in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner" and he, "inflicted extreme physical or psychological pain, suffering, or torture" on his victims, prosecutors argued.

Komisarjevsky will now head to the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Conn. This level five maximum security institution houses Connecticut's death row.

Only one individual has been executed in Connecticut since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. That execution occurred in 2005 and was of serial killer Michael Ross, also known as the Roadside Strangler.

Komisarjevsky will now join 10 other inmates on death row including his accomplice Steven Hayes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Petit Murder Trial: Jury Told Convicted Killer 'Doomed from Birth'

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- A man convicted of killing a mother and her two daughters was described in court Tuesday as "doomed from birth," who was adopted by an austere family, was sexually molested as a boy and suffered a head injury in a car crash.

Joshua Komisarjevsky's difficult childhood was detailed in an attempt to convince a Connecticut jury to spare him from the death penalty.

Prosecutors arguing to have Komisarjevsky, 31, put to death showed the jury an 18-page history of Komisarjevsky's criminal record.

Earlier this month, Komisarjevsky was 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 before the house was set afire.

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

Adopted as a baby, Komisarjevsky was raised by Ben and Jude Komisarjevsky. Komisarjevsky's grandparents were wealthy and cultured. His grandmother was a dancer and his grandfather was a theater impresario. His Russian uncle was head of a large and successful public relations firm.

But Komisarjevsky's adoptive father was not financially well-off and held down a series of odd jobs to support the family. The adoptive parents were evangelical Christians who were known to attend church as often as four times a week. The couple also took in a series of foster children, one of whom, a 15-year-old boy, allegedly sexually abused Komisarjevsky when he was just 5 and burned him with cigarettes, according to his lawyer Jeremiah Donovan.

From a young age, Komisarjevsky lived in "a state of fear in a house full of secrets," said Donovan. He often sought refuge in the woods behind his house because "he felt safer there," Donovan told the jury.

His adoptive parents did not believe in psychiatrists, preferring to seek help through prayer and their church, and that left Joshua Komisarjevsky's mental issues and emotional scars untreated, the lawyer said. In addition the young Komisarjevsky was involved in a serious car crash in which he sustained a head injury "that left his personality changed," said Donovan.

His first contact with law enforcement came at the age of 15 when he burned down a gas station in Cheshire, Conn. He was sent to a psychiatric hospital, but his parents moved him to a church-run retreat. At one point, Komisarjevsky joined the Army National Guard, but had to leave because of his criminal activity.

Prosecutors argue that Komisarjevsky's prior record in addition to the aggravating factors in these crimes should lead to a death sentence.

It was while he was in a halfway house after being released for some of these crimes that Komisarjevsky met up Hayes. A short time later the two planned the home invasion of the Petit home.

The penalty phase of Komisarjevsky's trial could be complicated by letters written by Hayes from death row in which he bragged that he had killed 17 people and claimed he took their shoes as trophies.

Komisarjevsky's lawyers claimed the letters were grounds for a mistrial, but may seek to introduce them in the penalty phase to bolster their argument that it was Hayes who was responsible for the murders.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Petit Home Invasion Trial Hit with New Mistrial Request

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Lawyers have asked for another mistrial in the death penalty trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky because a supporter of Komisarjevsky's alleged victims approached a juror.

Komisarjevsky, 31, faces 17 counts in the gruesome home invasion case that left the wife and two daughters of Dr. William Petit dead in the smoldering remains of their suburban Connecticut home.

A juror told Judge Jon C. Blue Monday morning that a Petit family supporter talked to him in the security line last week and said "Thank you for what you're doing" as they entered court.

The juror told Blue that the encounter did not have an impact on his ability to serve or to be impartial, but the defense immediately called for a mistrial.

Blue denied their request, but did issue a warning to courtroom spectators that they could not approach jurors for any reason.

Walter C. Bansley, a defense attorney, said that he did not believe Komisarjevsky could get a fair trial. Bansley called the spectator's actions part of a "pattern of intimidation" by Petit supporters.

It's the third time that Komisarjevsky's legal team has asked the court to declare a mistrial. They made the request last week after the Petit family arose en masse and walked out of court before the coroner gave detailed testimony of the autopsy of Petit's 11-year-old daughter Michaela.

It was the second time that the Petit family left the courtroom together before gruesome testimony began.

Defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan called the move a "stunt" last week and said it was highly prejudicial to his client. The judge rejected the request last week.

Blue also rejected a mistrial request last month when the judge stopped playing Komisarjevsky's recorded and very detailed confession of what happened in the Petit house because a juror appeared to be having trouble handling the gruesome details.

Komisarjevsky and his accomplice broke into the Petit family home in Cheshire, Conn., in the early morning hours of July 23, 2007.

According to prosecutors and testimony in Hayes' trial, they beat Dr. Petit with a baseball bat and tied him up. They raped and strangled Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48. The two daughters Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela were tied to their beds for hours and terrorized. Komisarjevsky also admitted to sexually molesting Michaela Petit.

The house was doused with gasoline, including the girl's beds, and the home was set on fire. Dental records had to be used to identify Hawke-Petit's body. Experts have testified that the death of the young girls was likely agonizing. Pictures of the attractive, smiling family torn apart by this vicious crime have saturated Connecticut media for years.

Hayes was convicted last year for his role in the murders and given the death penalty. He is currently on Connecticut's death row.

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 Home Invasion Evidence Shows Gas Led to Girls' Beds

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Remnants of the torn and scorched shorts and shirt that 11-year-old Michaela Petit was wearing when she died were shown to a Connecticut jury Tuesday as prosecutors detailed how gasoline poured in the house was meant to lead an arson fire right to her bed.

The grim testimony and pictures were presented in the triple murder trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky.

The evidence of arson was discovered in the aftermath of the rape and strangulation of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters, Michaela and her older sister, 17-year-old Hayley.

Their bodies were found in the charred remains of the Petits' suburban home in Cheshire, Conn., July 23, 2007. Komisarjevsky, 31, could be ordered executed if convicted. His accomplice, Steven Hayes, was found guilty last year and sentenced to death. Hayes is currently on Connecticut's death row.

Gabianelli testified that specially trained dogs were brought to the scene in the three days after the murders as police and fire officials combed the house for evidence. The dogs identified the use of an accelerant throughout the house. Gasoline was identified on the stairs leading up the second floor, in the second-floor hallway, and in the bedrooms of both girls, who were left tied to their beds, Gabianellli said.

Photographs of the girl's bedrooms flashed on the screen showing heavy fire damage and charred mattresses. Gabianelli also testified that nylon pantyhose was still lashed to the posts on Hayley Petit's bed. "A portion of nylon that was consistent with pantyhose was found," she said.

The nylons had been used to tie Hayley Petit to her bed, according to testimony in Hayes' trial. Rope restraints were discovered on Michaela Petit's bed.

Gabianelli said that the scissors used to cut Michaela's clothing off her body were found on the floor of her bedroom. "We seized a cotton bra…and it was obvious from looking at the straps that the straps had been cut," the investigator said.

In his audiotaped confession Komisarjevsky, 31, said he used scissors to cut off her top and shorts before he molested the girl. Michaela Petit's body was found still tied to her bed. She had succumbed to smoke inhalation.

Hayley Petit's body was found at the top of the stairs just outside of her bedroom. Gabianelli identified an article of clothing found at the scene that belonged to the teenager. "The plaid shorts that Hayley Petit was wearing had melted into the carpet itself," said Gabianelli.

Although both rooms sustained heavy damage in the fire, there were still heart-wrenching flashes that identified them as girl's bedrooms. Some purple carpeting amidst the burned furniture can be seen in one area and a pink bag is hanging from a bed post. Colorful postcards were attached to one wall in Hayley Petit's bedroom.

There was also significant evidence that Komisarjevsky and Hayes had ransacked the house looking for money and jewelry, said Gabianelli. Drawers in the master bedroom were torn out and clothing was strewn about the floor. "They looked like they had been gone through," said Gabianelli.

Komisarjevsky's lawyers, in an attempt to save him from the death penalty, are trying to show that it was Hayes -- not Komisarjevsky -- who poured the gasoline and started the fire.

Komisarjevsky appears to be taking an active role in his defense. He is alert and often talks to his lawyers. When photographs are posted to the giant video screen next to his head, he seems to stare at them intently.

During a recent break, Komisarjevsky seemed relaxed, almost jovial after he walked out of one room and offered a smile to a court clerk.

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 Confession: Girls Didn't Deserve to Die

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- The man on trial for the death of a mother and her two daughters was heard on a taped confession Thursday saying he argued with his accomplice that the girls -- tied to their beds -- should be allowed to live. However, he also admitted he did nothing to save them as he raced out of the house after it was set ablaze.

For a second day in a row the family of Dr. William Petit -- the sole survivor of the horrific crime -- endured the excruciating confession of Joshua Komisarjevsky who was captured by police as he tried to flee from the burning house on July 23, 2007.

The home invasion by Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes left Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, raped and strangled. Her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, died in the fire.

Dr. William Petit was beaten with a bat and tied up in the basement. He escaped and went to a neighbor's house for help.

On the tape, Komisarjevsky admits to beating Dr. Petit and sexually assaulting Michaela, after cutting off some of her clothes with scissors, but denies killing the mother or starting the fire that killed Hayley and Michaela.

He blames Hayes for those deaths. Hayes was convicted and sentenced to death last year. He is currently on Connecticut's death row.

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

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