Cheshire, Connecticut, home invasion murders
|Cheshire, Connecticut home invasion murders|
The location of Cheshire within New Haven County, Connecticut
|Date||July 23, 2007|
|Home invasion, kidnapping, sexual assault, arson, murder|
The Cheshire, Connecticut home invasion murders occurred on July 23, 2007. Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters were raped and murdered, while her husband, Dr. William Petit, was injured during a home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut. The Hartford Courant referred to the case as "possibly the most widely publicized crime in the state's history". In 2010, Steven Hayes was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death. His accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky, was found guilty on October 13, 2011, and sentenced to death on January 27, 2012. In August 2015, the state of Connecticut abolished the death penalty. Therefore, those sentenced before this date will have their death sentences turned into life sentences.
Late in the afternoon of Sunday, July 22, 2007, 48-year-old Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her 11-year-old daughter Michaela Petit went to a local grocery store in Cheshire, Connecticut. They picked up food for Jennifer's pre-birthday meal that Michaela planned to prepare for her. During their trip to the grocery store, they attracted the attention of Joshua Komisarjevsky, who followed them home.
Steven Hayes messaged Komisarjevsky: "I'm chomping at the bit to get started. Need a margarita soon." Hayes then texted, "We still on?" Komisarjevsky replied, "Yes." Hayes' next text asked, "Soon?", to which Komisarjevsky replied: "I'm putting the kid to bed hold your horses". Hayes then wrote: "Dude, the horses want to get loose. LOL."
According to Hayes' confession, the two men had planned to rob the Petit house under cover of darkness leaving the family bound, but unharmed. Hayes attributed the outcome to a change of plan. Upon their arrival in the early hours of July 23, they found William Petit sleeping on a couch on the porch. Komisarjevsky struck William on the head with a baseball bat found in the yard and then tied him up at gunpoint in the basement. The children and their mother were then bound and locked in their respective rooms. Hayes said that he and Komisarjevsky were not satisfied with their haul, and that a bankbook was found which showed an available balance.
A gas station's video surveillance shows Hayes purchasing $10 worth of gasoline in two cans he had taken from the Petit home. After returning to the house, and unloading the gas, he took Jennifer to the bank. The prosecution later claimed that this was evidence of premeditated murder. Hayes convinced Jennifer to withdraw $15,000 from her line of credit when the bank opened. Bank surveillance cameras captured the transaction which shows Jennifer Hawke-Petit, on the morning of July 23, as she informed the teller of her situation. The bank manager then called 911 and reported the details to police while Jennifer was still with the teller. The manager reported to the 911 dispatcher, in real time, as Jennifer left the bank and was picked up by Hayes, describing his clothing as he drove away with her. The manager stated that Jennifer had indicated the assailants were "being nice", and she believed they only wanted money.
The Cheshire police response to the bank's "urgent bid" began with assessing the situation and setting up a vehicle perimeter. The police dawdled for more than half an hour, taking these preliminary measures, while the assailants were raping and murdering the women inside the house. The police made no effort to make the assailants aware of their presence.
During this time, Hayes and Komisarjevsky escalated the aggravated nature of their crimes: Komisarjevsky raped the 11-year-old Michaela. Komisarjevsky, who had photographed the sexual assault of the girl on his cell phone, then provoked Hayes into raping Jennifer. While Hayes was raping her on the floor of the living room, Komisarjevsky entered the room and announced that William Petit had escaped. Hayes then strangled Jennifer, doused her lifeless body and parts of the house, including the daughters' rooms, with gasoline. While tied to their beds, both daughters had been doused with gasoline; each had her head covered with a pillowcase. A fire was started, and Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the scene. Hayley and Michaela both died of smoke inhalation.
William Petit had been able to free himself, escape his confines, and call to a neighbor for help. The neighbor indicated that he did not recognize him due to the severity of Petit's injuries. In court testimony, William Petit stated that he felt a "jolt of adrenaline" coupled with a need to escape upon hearing one of the perpetrators state: "Don't worry, it's going to be all over in a couple of minutes." Petit then told the jury, "I thought, it's now or never because in my mind at that moment, I thought they were going to shoot all of us."
Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the scene using the Petit family car. They were immediately spotted by police surveillance, pursued, and arrested one block away. The whole invasion lasted seven hours.
The scenario was revealed in a confession by Hayes just hours after the killings. Detectives testified that Hayes smelled strongly of gasoline throughout the interrogation. Each perpetrator blamed or implicated the other as the mastermind and driving force behind the spree. There were even attempts to blame William Petit as an accomplice. Komisarjevsky later kept a diary, entered into evidence, in which he chose to call Petit a "coward" and claimed that he could have stopped the murders had he wanted to.
Jennifer Hawke-Petit (born September 26, 1958) was a nurse and co-director of the health center at Cheshire Academy, a private boarding school. She met her husband, William Petit, in 1985 on a pediatric rotation at Children's Hospital when he was a third-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh and she was a new nurse. Their eldest daughter Hayley (born October 15, 1989) had just graduated from Miss Porter's School and was scheduled to attend Dartmouth College. Hayley had been an active fundraiser for multiple sclerosis research, following Jennifer's diagnosis with that disease. Daughter Michaela (born November 17, 1995) attended the Chase Collegiate School before her death.
William Petit, the sole survivor of the home invasion, is an endocrinologist in Cheshire. He survived when he escaped via a direct external exit from the basement despite his injuries. He has not returned to his medical practice since the murders, stating his desire to be active in the foundations set up to honor the memory of his deceased family. He contemplated running for Congress as a Republican, but later decided against it.
|Steven J. Hayes|
May 30, 1963 |
Homestead, Florida, U.S.
|Criminal penalty||Six consecutive death sentences plus 106 years|
|Criminal status||Convicted on 16 counts; sentenced to death on six counts of capital felony|
|Children||One son and one daughter|
|Conviction(s)||Capital felony, murder, sexual assault|
|Joshua A. Komisarjevsky|
|Born||August 10, 1980|
|Criminal penalty||Six consecutive death sentences plus 140 years|
|Criminal status||Convicted of 17 out of 17 charges, including six capital felonies|
|Conviction(s)||Capital felony, sexual assault, murder, kidnapping, and arson|
Steven J. Hayes (born May 30, 1963, in Homestead, Florida) was found guilty on 16 of 17 counts related to the home invasion murders on October 5, 2010. On November 8, 2010, the jury returned with a recommendation for him to be executed. He was formally sentenced to death by Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue on December 2, 2010.
Hayes is an inmate of the Connecticut Department of Correction. His criminal history shows him sentenced for his first offense at the age of 16. Subsequent to sentencing and up until August 16, 2016 (when he was transferred to a correctional facility in Pennsylvania as part of an interstate corrections compact), he was incarcerated in the Northern Correctional Institution, which houses the state's death row for men, in Somers, Connecticut. The method of execution employed by Connecticut was lethal injection, and the state execution chamber was located in the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers. This sentence became an automatic life sentence when Connecticut abolished the death penalty in 2015.
Joshua A. Komisarjevsky (born August 10, 1980) was Hayes' co-conspirator in the home invasion and murders. He was born in 1980 to a 16-year-old girl impregnated by a 20-year-old mechanic  and was adopted by Benedict Komisarjevsky, the son of theatrical director Theodore Komisarjevsky and dancer Ernestine Stodelle, and his wife Jude (née Motkya). Komisarjevsky remained incarcerated at the Walker Reception Center in lieu of a $15 million bond until his conviction. His trial began on September 19, 2011, and on October 13, 2011, he was convicted on all 17 counts. On December 9, 2011, the jury recommended the death penalty. On January 27, 2012 Judge Jon Blue sentenced Komisarjevsky to death by lethal injection. His sentence also became an automatic life sentence when Connecticut abolished the death penalty in 2015.
As of August 16, 2016, both Hayes and Komisarjevsky were transferred to separate prison facilities in Pennsylvania to serve their sentences. According to Connecticut state prison officials, the transfer was done as part of an interstate corrections compact due to reasons pertaining to safety and security.
The jury in Hayes' case was composed of seven women and five men. Following the completion of the trial, the jury deliberated for about four hours to reach its guilty verdicts.
The second phase of the trial began on October 18, 2010, during which the jurors had to decide if Hayes should be executed or imprisoned for life. The second day of these deliberations began on November 6, 2010. Attorney Thomas Ullman told the jury that a sentence of life in prison would be the harshest possible punishment for his client Hayes, because he was so tormented by his crimes and would be isolated in prison. "Life in prison without the possibility of release is the harshest penalty," Ullman said. "It is a fate worse than death. If you want to end his misery, put him to death," he added. "If you want him to suffer and carry that burden forever, the guilt, shame, and humiliation, sentence him to life without the possibility of release."
On November 8, 2010, the jury returned with a recommendation that Hayes be executed. The jury recommended a death sentence on each of the six capital felony counts for which Hayes was convicted. In the sentencing phase, the jury had deliberated for about 17 hours, over the course of three and a half days, before reaching a decision.
Hayes had attempted to negotiate a life sentence in a plea bargain. After the verdict, his defense attorney stated: "Hayes smiled upon hearing the jury's recommendation of a death sentence." He then added: "He is thrilled. He's very happy with the verdict. That's what he's wanted all along."
For the first time in state history, the Connecticut state judicial branch offered post-traumatic stress assistance to jurors, who served for two months on the triple-murder trial, because they had been required to look at disturbing images and hear grisly testimony.
On December 2, 2010, Hayes apologized for the pain and suffering he had caused the Petit family and added that: "Death for me will be a welcome relief and I hope it will bring some peace and comfort to those who I have hurt so much." Judge Jon Blue formally imposed six death sentences, one for each of the capital charges; Blue then added a sentence of 106 years for other crimes Hayes committed during the home invasion, including kidnapping, burglary, and assault, before finishing with, "This is a terrible sentence, but is, in truth, a sentence you wrote for yourself in flames. May God have mercy on your soul." The judge also gave Hayes an official execution date of May 27, 2011; Blue said that this date was a formality, because if Hayes appealed his case, his execution could be delayed for decades. His death sentence became a life sentence in August 2015 when the state abolished the death penalty.
Komisarjevsky was found guilty on October 13, 2011. On December 9, 2011, the jury recommended the death penalty. On January 27, 2012, Komisarjevsky was sentenced to death by lethal injection. During the hearing, Komisarjevsky insisted that he did not intend to kill anyone and spoke about the shame, hurt and disappointment he had caused: "I will never find peace within. My life will be a continuation of the hurt I caused. The clock is now ticking and I owe a debt I cannot repay." He said that forgiveness was not his to have, "and he needs to forgive his worst enemy – himself." Blue set July 20, 2012, as Komisarjevsky's execution date. As with Hayes, Komisarjevsky's death sentence was turned into a life sentence in August 2015.
Subsequent developments in Connecticut capital punishment law
In 2009, the Connecticut General Assembly sent legislation to abolish the state's death penalty to Governor M. Jodi Rell ostensibly to be signed into law. However, on June 5, 2009, Rell vetoed the bill instead and cited the Cheshire murders as an exemplary reason for doing so. On November 8, 2010, Rell issued the following statement regarding the jury's recommendation of a sentence of death for Hayes:
The crimes that were committed on that brutal July night were so far out of the range of normal understanding that now, more than three years later, we still find it difficult to accept that they happened in one of our communities. I have long believed that there are certain crimes so heinous, so depraved, that society is best served by imposing the ultimate sanction on the criminal. Steven Hayes stands convicted of such crimes – and today the jury has recommended that he should be subjected to the death penalty. I agree.
On April 11, 2012, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted to repeal capital punishment for future cases (leaving past death sentences in place). The Connecticut Senate had already voted for the bill, and on April 25 Governor Dan Malloy signed the bill into law. In August 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court declared all capital punishment inconsistent with the state constitution, effectively commuting the killers' sentences to life imprisonment.
In 2007, John Carpenter, an employee of the Chase Collegiate School, ran the New York City Marathon, raising $8,554 for the "Miles for Michaela" campaign - a scholarship benefit. The same year, William Petit established the Michaela Rose Petit '14 Scholarship Fund of the Chase Collegiate School. He also established the Hayley's Hope & Michaela's Miracle MS Memorial Fund.
On January 6, 2008, over 130,000 luminaria candles were lit in front of thousands of homes across Cheshire in "Cheshire Lights of Hope", a fundraiser for multiple sclerosis and a tribute to the Petit family. Founded by a local couple, Don and Jenifer Walsh, the event raised over $100,000 for Hayley's Hope and Michaela's Miracle Memorial funds.
The murder, and its aftermath, were featured on the news magazine show Dateline NBC, in a segment entitled "The Family on Sorghum Mill Drive", and on December 9, 2010, William Petit appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in a full-hour episode about the murders of his family and the work of the Petit Family Foundation.
HBO broadcast a documentary by filmmaker David Heilbroner called The Cheshire Murders about the murders on July 22, 2013. On August 1, 2013, Petit told station WFSB that he and Paluf were expecting a child together. The baby who was revealed to be a boy and named William Petit III was born on November 23, 2013. In October 2013, Petit announced that he was considering running for Congress for the Republican Party after being approached by the National Republican Congressional Committee, who had asked him if he would be interested in running. Petit ultimately decided not to be a candidate.
Petit condemned the state's decision to abolish the death penalty in August 2015, saying he believed the court had overstepped its powers and urging it to give greater consideration to the "emotional impact, particularly on victims and their loved ones" that death penalty cases generate.
- Gardner, David. "'Things got out of control': Chilling confession of Connecticut massacre 'killer'." The Daily Mail. September 23, 2010. Retrieved on April 6, 2011.
- Kauffman, Matthew. "Fair Trial Seen Likely For Other Cheshire Defendant." Hartford Courant. November 9, 2010. Retrieved on November 11, 2010.
- Death sentence in Connecticut home invasion, CNN, January 27, 2012
- Pete Williams. "Connecticut Supreme Court Overturns Death Penalty in State". NBC News. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
- Mark Berman (August 13, 2015). "Connecticut Supreme Court says the death penalty is unconstitutional and bans executions for inmates on death row". Washington Post. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
- "Second Defendant Is Convicted in Connecticut Triple Murder". The New York Times. Associated Press. October 13, 2011. Retrieved September 22, 2015.
- Tears and Reminiscences for Three Murder Victims, The New York Times, July 29, 2007
- Accused Killers Sent Joking Texts Before Conn. Home Invasion, CBS NewYork.com, September 23, 2010, retrieved April 6, 2011
- Italiano, Laura (September 24, 2010), Twisted texts of a killer Conn. fiend to cohort: 'Get loose! LOL', New York Post, retrieved April 6, 2011
- Martinez, Edecio (September 23, 2010). "Petit Family Murder Trial: New Evidence, Testimony Paints Graphic Picture of Conn. Home Invasion". CBS News.
- "Man gets death in triple-killing home invasion." The Hartford Courant at The Pittsburgh Tribune. Tuesday November 9, 2010.
- Evidence too graphic for Dr. Petit NEWS 8 wthn.com, Annie Rourke, September 22, 2010
- Italiano, Laura. "Teller's urgent bid to save lives." The New York Post. September 16, 2010. Retrieved on January 18, 2013.
- Killer in Connecticut home invasion slay says William Petit was 'coward' who could have saved family, NYDailyNews.com, October 20, 2010
- "Jury in Komisarjevsky trial hears autopsy results of Michaela Petit". Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- "Steven Hayes Smiles When Sentenced to Death for the Deadly Home Invasion". ABC News. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- "2nd Suspect Looms Large In Hayes Trial". Hartford Courant. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- Conn. home invasion break-in 'got out of control', boston.com, September 22, 2010
- Otis, Ginger Adams (July 13, 2008). "Ghost of a House: Grieving dad razes site of triple slay'". New York Post.
- "Connecticut Man Could Face Death After Jury Convicts Him in Deadly Home Invasion – FoxNews.com". Fox News. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- Survivor of Connecticut Home Invasion Murders Takes the Stand, FoxNews.com, September 14, 2010
- "Petit Home Invasion: Hayes Verdict – Courant.com". Courant.com. October 6, 2010. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- Hayes Sentenced To Death, courant.com, November 8, 2010
- excerpts from the Komisarjevsky journal, ABC News
- Wool, Hillary. "Petit remembered as an athlete, role model." The Dartmouth. Friday July 27, 2007. Retrieved on November 9, 2010.
- "Hayley's Hope and Michaela's Miracle MS Memorial Fund." National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Retrieved on November 9, 2010.
- "School Head Runs 'Miles for Michaela'." Good Morning America. November 5, 2007. Retrieved on November 9, 2010.
- Cowan, Alison Leigh and Christine Stuart. "Suspect in Connecticut Killings Left Long Trail of Lawbreaking." The New York Times. August 4, 2007. Retrieved on November 9, 2010.
- Christoffersen, John. "Dr. William Petit 50-50 on Congressional Run". NBC Connecticut. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
- Altimari, Daniela. "William Petit Decides Against Run For Congress". The Hartford Courant. The Hartford Courant. Retrieved September 7, 2014.
- Randall, Beach (July 26, 2016). "Joshua Komisarjevsky, once sentenced to death in Cheshire triple murders, resentenced to 6 life terms". New Haven Register. New Haven Register. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
- "Steven Hayes Sentenced to Death for the Deadly Conn. Home Invasion". ABC News. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- "Conn. man condemned to die for fatal home invasion". AOL.com. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- "Hayes, Steven Joseph." Connecticut Department of Correction. Retrieved on November 10, 2010.
- "Northern Correctional Institution." Connecticut Department of Correction. Retrieved on August 16, 2010.
- Death Penalty For Rape And Murder Of Family, Sky News, September 17, 2014
- "Administration of Capital Punishment Directive Number 6.15." Connecticut Department of Correction. October 19, 2004. 1/9. Retrieved on August 16, 2010. "Execution Area. A series of four (4) contiguous rooms in the Osborn Correctional Institution comprised of the..."
- Tracy Connor. "William Petit, Dad of Murdered Family, Reacts to Connecticut Death Penalty Ruling". NBC News. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
- Kovner, Josh (October 26, 2011). Komisarjevsky's Father: 'A Miracle' Baby, 'Satanic Activities'. courant.com. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
- Path to Parole Becomes Issue in Murder Case
- (August 7, 2007). When Horror Came to a Connecticut Family. nytimes.com. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
- "Komisarjevsky, Joshua A." Connecticut Department of Correction. Retrieved on November 10, 2010.
- Two arrests announced in Cheshire arson/homicide, Connecticut Department of Public Safety, July 24, 2007
- Griffin, Alaine (September 19, 2011). "Tense Events Detailed As Second Cheshire Home Invasion Case Begins". Hartford Courant. Retrieved September 20, 2011.
- "Jury recommends death in Connecticut home invasion case". CNN. December 9, 2011. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
- "Cheshire home invasion killers Komisarjevsky, Hayes moved to Pennsylvania" 16 August 2016.
- "Deliberations to resume Sunday in Connecticut home invasion case". CNN. November 6, 2010.
- ABC News. "Jury Begins Day Two of Deliberations in Steven Hayes Trial - ABC News". ABC News. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
- "Conn. Man Condemned to Die for Fatal Home Invasion". AOL.com. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- "Killer of mom, 2 daughters gets death sentence". msnbc.com. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- "Conn. judicial branch offers Hayes jurors post-trauma assistance". Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- "Steven Hayes' Statement". Hartford Courant. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- Aliyah Shahid (December 2, 2010). "Steven Hayes sentenced to death in Connecticut home invasion, murders of mom, daughters of Dr. Petit". New York: NYDailyNews.com.
- Alaine Griffin (December 2, 2010). "Steven Hayes Sentenced to Death". Courant.com.
- CNN Wire Staff. "Death sentence handed down in Petit home invasion case." CNN. December 2, 2010. Retrieved on December 22, 2010. "Blue gave Hayes an official execution date of May 27, 2011. However, that date is a formality, he acknowledged. In reality, unless Hayes chooses to waive some or all of his appeals, it could be decades before he is put to death."
- "Second Conn. home invasion killer is sentenced to death". U.S. News on MSNBC.com. January 27, 2012. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
- Griffin, Alaine (January 27, 2012). "Judge Sentences Komisarjevsky To Death". Courant.com. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
- Governor Rell Vetoes HB 6578, An Act Concerning the Penalty for a Capital Felony, CT.gov State of Connecticut, June 5, 2009
- Petit Family Killings, The New York Times, November 8, 2010
- Death Penalty For Hayes For Petit Murders; Gov. Rell's Statement, 17 September 2014
- Applebome, Peter. "Death Penalty Repeal Goes to Connecticut Governor." New York Times. April 11, 2012.
- "Find out more about Miles for Michaela." ABC News. November 2, 2007. Retrieved on November 9, 2010.
- "Endowed Funds at Chase Collegiate School Archived July 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.." Chase Collegiate School. Retrieved on November 9, 2010.
- "NBC Connecticut Local News". NBC Connecticut. Archived from the original on September 7, 2008. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- Inside Dateline (August 13, 2015). "Oct. 8: 'The Mystery of Horseshoe Drive' and revisiting 'The Family on Sorghum Mill Drive'". NBC News. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
- Harpo Productions, Inc. "In his first interview: Grieving husband and father Dr. William Petit on the unspeakable tragedy in Connecticut." The Oprah Winfrey Show. December 9, 2010. Retrieved on May 18, 2011.
- "Daughter of Steven Hayes speaks out". Daily Mail. June 18, 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
- "Dr. William Petit, victim of Cheshire home invasion, remarries". The New Haven Register. August 6, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
- Amarante, Joe (July 11, 2013). "Cheshire to relive painful time in HBO film". The New Haven Register. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
- "HBO's The Cheshire Murders Explores the Shades of Gray in an Open-Shut Case, review by Hank Stuever, The Washington Post, July 21, 2013". Washington Post. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- "Video Landing Page - WFSB 3 Connecticut". Wfsb.com. January 2, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
- Fields, Liz (November 28, 2013). "Home Invasion Survivor William Petit Welcomes Baby in Time for Thanksgiving - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
- "First picture of baby boy born to doctor 6 years after his wife, daughters were murdered". NY Daily News. November 28, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
- "Dr. William Petit Approached By GOP Officials To Run For Congress « CBS New York". Newyork.cbslocal.com. October 11, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
- "Dr. William Petit and politics: Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of the Cheshire home invasion in 2007 in which his wife and two daughters were killed, is being wooed by Republican leaders to run for Congress in the 5th District. - Hartford Courant". Articles.courant.com. October 10, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
- Swift, Jennifer (February 5, 2014). Dr. William Petit Won't Run For Congress. connecticutmag.com. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
- Casey, Nicholas (August 14, 2015) Connecticut Death Penalty Ruling Stirs Painful Memories for 3 Grisly Killings. The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2015
|Photograph of Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky|
|Photograph of Petit family|
|Photo of burned bedroom|