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Suspect struggles to explain deadly Conn. home invasion

Jury continues to hear tape of his confession

Joshua Komisarjevsky said he didn’t want anyone to die but couldn’t say why he didn’t untie two girls who burned to death. Joshua Komisarjevsky said he didn’t want anyone to die but couldn’t say why he didn’t untie two girls who burned to death.
By John Christoffersen
Associated Press / September 23, 2011

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NEW HAVEN - In his confession to police, a Connecticut man on trial in a brutal home invasion could not explain why he did not untie two girls left to die in a fire.

In a recording that was played for jurors yesterday, Joshua Komisarjevsky said he closed the bedroom doors where the girls were and could not believe that his codefendant was considering burning the girls alive. But, he said, “it just didn’t cross my mind’’ to untie them before the house was doused with gas and set on fire.

Komisarjevsky called the plan to set the house on fire “unconscionable’’ and said he closed the bedroom doors “to buy them time.’’

“I, I, I can’t imagine anyone being burned alive,’’ he said. “I got myself in this horrible position, but you know they did every, they did what they were supposed to do. There was no reason for them to die.’’

Komisarjevsky’s ongoing trial is the second in the triple slaying that shook the small town of Cheshire in 2007. His codefendant, Steven Hayes, was convicted last year of strangling Jennifer Hawke-Petit and killing her two daughters. Hayes was sentenced to death, and Komisarjevsky could join him on death row if he is convicted.

Authorities say Komisarjevsky and Hayes broke into the house, beat Dr. William Petit with a bat, then tied him, his wife, and two daughters up as they looked for money. Hayes later drove Hawke-Petit to a bank so she could make a withdrawal, police said.

When he returned to the house, Hayes raped and strangled Hawke-Petit, authorities said. The girls - Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17 - died of smoke inhalation.

The two men have blamed each other for escalating the violence, but prosecutors say both men are equally responsible.

Komisarjevsky told police he undressed Michaela, molested her, and took explicit pictures.

He also blamed Hayes for the gasoline-fueled fire, but his answers were at times confusing.

In the recording, he insists Hayes poured the gas. At one point, he said, “We didn’t pour any gasoline, or he didn’t pour any gasoline in the office.’’

At another point, a detective asked Komisarjevsky if Hayes poured gas where Hawke-Petit was found. He replied: “Yeah, he’d, I maybe did. I didn’t see him pour gasoline on her, but there was certainly gasoline there, because it definitely reeked.’’

Komisarjevsky asserts that it was Hayes’s plan to kill the family because he was worried about leaving DNA evidence behind. He said he didn’t want to kill anyone and was not worried about his DNA evidence because Michaela had taken a shower.

Hayes paced around the house with a stocking, talking about strangling the family, Komisarjevsky said. He said he did not see Hayes kill Hawke-Petit.

The men fled in the family’s car and crashed into police cruisers blocking the road.

Komisarjevsky said he saw police pointing guns at him. “I was like, ‘I’m going to die today,’ ’’ he said. “Either they’re going, or I’m going away for the rest of my life, or I’m going to die.’’

Komisarjevsky’s attorneys showed the jury photos of the house where he lived with his parents and young daughter, showing a room with toys. They repeatedly mentioned that Komisarjevsky has a young daughter after jurors heard him insisting he didn’t want the girls to die.

Jurors had begun listening to the confession Wednesday. New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon Blue at one point stopped the recording Wednesday, saying a juror was having a tough time.

That prompted a motion for a mistrial yesterday by Komisarjevsky’s attorney, who said Blue should not have made the comment in front of other jurors. Blue denied the motion, saying he chose his words carefully.

Komisarjevsky’s attorneys also objected to Petit’s sister wearing a shirt in memory of the victims. She covered it up, but Blue warned the family not to wear anything that could be considered inflammatory.

The trial resumes Monday.