Conn. home invasion break-in 'got out of control'
NEW HAVEN, Conn.—A man charged in the 2007 home invasion killings of a woman and her two daughters was devoid of emotion as he told authorities how he sexually assaulted the mother after his co-defendant told him he had to -- to "square things up" -- because the other man already had sexually assaulted one of the girls, a detective testified Wednesday.
State police Detective Anthony Buglione said that Steven Hayes, one of two suspects charged with murder, sexual assault and other crimes in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters on July 23, 2007, told authorities the original plan was to break into a home, tie the people up, steal their money and flee but things got out of hand.
The men were caught fleeing the scene after they set the house on fire, authorities say.
The sole survivor, Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit, hung his head during the testimony in New Haven Superior Court. Petit and other family members left the courthouse as a medical examiner described a painful smoke inhalation death suffered by 11-year-old Michaela.
Jurors looked at autopsy photos, and some stared at Hayes, who looked forward at the judge.
Buglione testified that he interviewed Hayes the day of the crime and that an emotionless Hayes, who smelled of gasoline, told him in detail what happened at the home in Cheshire, an affluent community in suburban New Haven. He testified Hayes, a paroled burglar, said he was financially desperate at the time.
The detective said Hayes and his co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, who had met 18 months prior at a halfway house where they had attended alcohol and drug abuse meetings, hatched a plan to rob a home.
The men ended up in a neighborhood in Cheshire, and the house they picked had a light on the rear porch, he said.
Police say Hayes told them they saw a man sleeping on a couch on the porch and Komisarjevsky hit him four or five times with a baseball bat they found at the home.
"He said the man started screaming and there was a lot of blood," Buglione testified.
Buglione said Hayes gave him this account: Hayes and Komisarjevsky told the beaten man to be quiet and they were only there for the money. But when they didn't find as much money as they had hoped, they went for more upstairs, where they found a woman and two girls. They tied them up and put pillow cases over their heads. It's at that point the plan changed.
The men found a bank book with $20,000 to $30,000 in the account and decided to take the mother to the bank and have her withdraw some of it, and Hayes went to a gas station to fill some gas containers they found at the house, police say Hayes told them.
Hayes said while he took the mother to the bank, Komisarjevsky was supposed to put the family members in a car and then they would burn the house to destroy any evidence, they say.
Hayes said that when he got back, Komisarjevsky implied he had had sex with the younger girl and told Hayes to have sex with the mother to "square things up," which Hayes did, police say.
Hayes said Komisarjevsky went into the living room, where Hayes had had sex with the mother, and told him Petit had escaped and the police were coming, the detective testified.
"Things got out of control," the detective quoted Hayes as saying.
Hayes said he smelled gasoline and the men grabbed some jewelry and the money and were apprehended as they fled, police say.
Komisarjevsky had photos of Michaela on his cell phone, according to testimony by state forensic science examiner John Brunetti, who revealed that under cross-examination by Hayes' attorneys.
Connecticut's medical examiner, Wayne Carver, described a painful and panic-stricken smoke inhalation death likely suffered by Michaela. He said her death likely took several minutes, as soot in her lungs and air passages showed she breathed smoke after the men set fire to her home.
Petit left the courtroom as Carver prepared to take the stand. A week ago, he sobbed when jurors were shown photos of his daughters' bodies. After court on Wednesday he called it "another tough day."
Sgt. Karen Gabianelli testified earlier Wednesday that some of the victims' belongings were found with the suspects.
Hayes and Komisarjevsky, who's awaiting trial, have tried to blame each other for escalating the crime. Both defendants had offered to plead guilty in exchange for life sentences, but prosecutors pushed for death penalty trials, defense attorneys have said.
Hayes' trial resumed Wednesday after being delayed early this week because the judge was hospitalized. Carver is expected to continue testifying Thursday.