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Doctor recounts attack that killed wife, daughters

Trial underway for 2d defendant

Joshua Komisarjevsky may face the death penalty if convicted. Joshua Komisarjevsky may face the death penalty if convicted.
By John Christoffersen
Associated Press / September 21, 2011

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NEW HAVEN - A doctor whose wife and two daughters were killed in a home invasion told jurors yesterday that he was attacked with a baseball bat in the middle of the night , then described how he fell, crawled, and rolled in his frantic escape to a neighbor’s house.

It was the second time Dr. William Petit had to talk a jury through the 2007 ordeal that left his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their two daughters, Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17, dead.

Petit testified in New Haven Superior Court in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, a 31-year-old former convict who faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

The physician also testified at the trial of Komisarjevsky’s codefendant, Steven Hayes, who was convicted and sentenced to death last year.

Petit told the jury he awoke to a warm liquid running down his face and initially was not sure if it was a dream. He said he saw two people, one of whom said, “If he moves put a bullet in him.’’

Petit, who had blood in one of his eyes, said he was tied up and later moved to the basement. He held onto the rails with his fingertips so that he would not fall. He was tied to a pole.

At one point, he testified, he heard loud thumping sounds on the floor and his wife’s moans. Then he said he heard someone say, “Don’t worry, everything will be over in a couple of minutes.’’

“It sounded much more serious, much more sinister,’’ Petit said of the voice.

Petit said he struggled for hours to free himself, but the ties got tighter.

“I think there were times I would fade a bit and slump against the pole,’’ he said.

As he slumped, Petit said, his weight apparently loosened the ropes, and he was able to free himself.

Petit said he was not sure of the intentions of the men. He noted there were two of them. One of the men had a gun and Petit’s feet were bound, so fighting back wasn’t an option.

“I didn’t think it would be a good match,’’ he said.

Petit said he hopped up some stairs to a basement door. He said he fell down, crawled, and rolled across a lawn to a neighbor’s house.

Petit said it felt like his heart was going to explode out of his chest.

Authorities say that Komisarjevsky and Hayes, two paroled burglars, broke into the family’s Cheshire home in July 2007 in a robbery attempt.

Hayes forced Hawke-Petit to withdraw money from a bank before he raped and strangled her in the family’s home.

The girls, who had pillowcases placed over their heads, died of smoke inhalation after the house was doused with gasoline and set on fire.