Tuesday, July 24, 2007


It began around 3 am July 23 2007 and by 9:30 am the police had been alerted in Cheshire CT. When the fire was finally extinguished on the 300 block of Sorgum Mill Dr, three bodies were recovered and the fourth resident had been taken to the hospital for treatment.

Dr William Petit Jr, 50, a prominent endrocrinologist and the medical director of the Joslin Diabetes Center at The Hospital of Central Connecticut is in serious but stable condition at St Mary's Hospital in Waterbury. His wife of 22 years, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, a nurse at Cheshire Academy and his daughters, Hayley, 17 and Michaela, 11, were found dead in their home.

Police have stated that they believe two suspects entered the Petit home around 3 am and waited until early morning, holding the family hostage, until one of them could take Jennifer to a branch of the Bank of America when it opened for business. While she was there making a withdrawal, Jennifer managed to tell one of the tellers that she and her family were being held hostage in their home. It was the teller who alerted police by calling 911 with that information.

When police arrived at the Petit home, they observed two suspects leave the home, which was already on fire. They attempted to flee in the Petit family car and after hitting the first police car, the following police cars blocked the road and they failed to escape when they rammed into those. Both suspects were apprehended without incident and likely to be charged before their appearance on Tuesday in court in Meridan.

Hayley recently had graduated from Miss Porter's School in Farmington and was planning to attend Dartmouth College, her father's alma mater. While at Miss Porter's, Hayley was the co-editor in chief of her school newspaper, co-captain of her crew team and a member of the cross country and basketball teams. She also began in 2000 at 10 years-old as the team captain of Hayley's Hope MS walk team when her mother was first diagnosed with MS. Her aunt in North Carolina decided to raise money in honor of Jennifer, her sister, in Chapel Hill and it was after that first experience, that Hayley decided to take over the reins of the family fundraising.

She walked in the MS Walk, fundraised and took part in the MS junior ambassador program and personally raised almost $55,000 in the fight against MS, an amount that placed her among the top ten MS fundraisers in CT. Hayley had mentored her younger sister Michaela, who was ready to take over the reins of the family MS fundraising. She had said that her younger sister was excited to have a chance to run the show herself and had planned to rename the team, Hayley's Hope and Michaela's Miracle.

The alumni of Miss Porter's were notified by e-mail that Hayley, Michaela and Jennifer had died. That e-mail stated that she had been loved by all students and teachers and that her family was exceptionally involved, wonderful members of the Miss Porter's community. All of Dr Petit's co workers at the hospital are also stunned by the tragic events.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr Petit as he attempts to recover from this unfathomable occurrence. We cannot express the depth of out sorrow," stated Laurence A Tanner, president of the Hospital at Central Connecticut.

Tuesday morning will reveal more as to who the suspects being held since Monday morning are, what they will be charged with and possible, more of why such a brutal crime targeted a family that has been described as " unusually wonderful people." The quiet town of Cheshire has lost three wonderful individuals, people who gave so much of themselves to the community and I hope that the community can find the way to help William through whatever terrible times he may now face in the future.

For the complete 2007 speech made by Hayley for MS, go here.

Special thanks to Muldoon Photography for the photo of the Petit family, left to right: Hayley, Michaela, Jennifer and William Jr, at the Hartford Medical Assoc annual meeting 2006.

Update: posted 6 am

It is believed that the two suspects are a 25 year-old Cheshire man and a 40 year-old man from the Naugatuck Valley.

Dr Petit was found outside of his home and is being treated in the hospital for head injuries.

Update: suspects charged

This morning, the two suspects were charged and remain in custody. Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26 , of Cheshire and Steve Hayes, 44 , of Winsted are charged with first degree sexual assault, arson, kidnapping, risk of injury to a minor and robbery. Komisarjevsky is additionally charged with assault and both men may face additional charges in the near future.

Both men have been arrested and convicted more than a dozen times on larceny and burglary charges and both were sentenced in 2002 to five years in prison. They were both out on parole when they were arrested and it has been said that they had recently both been staying at the same halfway house.

Their cases have been transfered to New Haven court and their next appearance is on August 7. Hayes is said to be currently on suicide watch and both remain in custody after a judge confirmed their bonds at $15 million each.

Update: complete charges as of July 24

The church that the Petit family attended is schedualed to open it's doors from 3 pm until 8 pm Tuesday through Thursday for a community mourning in the sanctuary of the church.

Cheshire United Methodist Church
205 Academy Rd
Cheshire CT 3-8 pm July 24-26

Charges against Joshua Komisarjevsky per the state police as of July 24:

One count each of the following: first-degree assault, first degree aggravated sexual assault, first-degree burglary, first-degree arson, first-degree consipiracy to commit arson, first-degree robbery, risk of injury to a child.
Two counts of first-degree larceny and four counts of first-degree kidnapping.

Charges against Steven Hayes per the state police as of July 24:

One count each of the following: first-degree aggravated assault, first-degree burglary, first-degree arson, first-degree robbery, risk of injury to a child.
Two counts of first-degree larceny and four counts of first-degree kidnapping.

According to police records, both men had extensive criminal records. Komisarjevsky had 18 convictions, mostly for burglary and his last known address was not too far from the Petit home. Hayes had 26 convictions for burglary, larceny, drugs and bad checks. His last known address was the residence of his mother and he had been reportedly in and out of the home in recent weeks. Both men were on supervised probation at the time of this crime because their previous convictions had been deemed as non-violent.

The state police are still combing the Petit home for evidence and are awaiting the results of the autopsy reports before they move forward with any murder charges against the two suspects.

Update: posted 11pm July 24

The CT state medical examiner confirmed tonight that Jennifer was strangled and her daughters Hayley and Michaela died of smoke inhalation. All three of their deaths have been ruled a homicide.

Both suspects had been sentenced to five years in prison in 2002 and had met while they stayed in the same halfway house according to reports. At the time of this horrendous crime, Komisarjevshy was living two miles from the Petit home. He also has been involved in an ongoing custody dispute with Jennifer Norton, of Hamden since April 2005. Last year, she had filed against him in court seeking child support and at this time, it is unclear which adult has custody of the child.

At least one state senator in CT has called for a review of the parole system that evidently felt these two suspects were acceptable for release on parole only a couple of months ago.

State police expect that more charges will be filed against both men by tomorrow, now that they have the autopsy results.

William Petit's pastor, the Rev Stephen Volpe has visited with him in the hospital and said that he is doing ok physically but emotionally, he is devastated and still worried about others. He also added that William's relatives have been keeping certain details of the case from him at this time.

Update: posted July 25

More details of the horrific home invasion trickle out almost hourly. Jennifer Hawke-Petit alerted a teller at the bank when she was being forced to withdraw money and that teller called police with her information. Sadly, by the time that police arrived at the Petit home, it was already on fire and the suspects tried to escape.

William had been found outside the home, after being tied and badly beaten and managing to escape from the basement it has been reported. Jennifer was strangled and found on the first floor, Hayley was found at the top of the stairs and Michaela was found tied to her bed. Both of the Petit children had died of smoke inhalation and all three have been ruled as a homicide. Both suspects now face additional charges that will probably include some degree of a murder charge. A charge of capital murder is possible if there is evidence of other mitigating factors.

"I know the public consensus is that they should be fried tomorrow," stated State's Attorney Michael Dearington.

Dearington has said that he wants to make sure that all the evidence is in place before deciding whether to pursue capital felony charges, which carry only two possible penelties - lethal injection or life in prison without parole. The two men allegedly broke into the home and tied up the family, holding them hostage until one took Jennifer to the bank. Police have not released yet, which of the two suspects took her to the bank to force her to withdraw money.

Helayne Lightstone, spokeswoman for The Hosiptal of Central Connecticut, stated that there would be an employee prayer service for Dr Petit Friday, July 27 at noon. It is not open to the public.

Update: posted July 26

Police now believe that the two suspects were watching the Petit family's white Mercedes-Benz in the parking lot of a nearby Stop & Shop when Jennifer and Michaela bought groceries around 7:30 pm. They followed the Petit's back to their home and returned again, around 3 am.

Between the time they followed the Petit's home and returning, the suspects went to a local Wal-Mart store and purchased rope and an air rifle. They then parked their car about a mile away from the Petit home and entered the home through the cellar bulkhead door. William Petit was most probably unconscious for most of the family ordeal . He had confronted the men and was beaten with a baseball bat, thrown down the cellar stairs, tied and left for dead there.

It is alleged that Hayes left the Petit home at around 5 am or 6 am to fill up four containers with gasoline. He got lost returning to the Petit home and had to call Komisarjevsky at the home for directions back. At around 9 am, Hayes drove Jennifer to the Bank of America in Maplecroft Plaza, the same plaza where she had gone the night before to shop and withdrew $15,000.

The girls, sources said, were both tied to their beds and raped, then left to burn after gasoline was poured around their beds and ignited. Jennifer had been raped and strangled on the first floor and gasoline was poured on her body as well. Sources also say that William woke up to hear his wife screaming and pleading for her life and when the flames started, he managed to hop out of the basement, where he was found by arriving officers.

Det Dennis Boucher was the first Cheshire police officer to arrive on the scene and he stated that he heard at least one of the Petit girls screaming from inside the house. Shortly after he had arrived, the house was said to have exploded in flames, aided by the gallons of gasoline that had spread around the girls and their mother's body.

Hayes is being held at Northern Correctional Institute in Somers while Komisarjevsky is at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institute in Suffield. Both men are being held seperate from the general population. While on parole, both men had been reporting weekly to their parole officers and had gotten jobs. Hayes was reported to have been working for a Farmington Valley landscaping company and police are investigating if they may have done work at the Petit home.

Robert Farr, chairman of the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parole, said that they board may have decided differently about Komisarjevsky's parole in April if it had all the facts about him then. Hayes had been paroled in May and Komisarjevshy had served three years of a nine years sentence when he was paroled.

Inmate files are supposed to have at a minimum, a police report, a summary of the case, the sentencing transcript and the defense attorney's version of the events and circumstances. Komisarjevsky's file was missing the sentencing transcript, so the parole board had no idea that a Superior Court judge had called him a "cold, calculating predator" when he was sentenced for a string of burglaries in 2002. They also were not aware of news reports that he had worn night vision goggles while he had slashed the screens in those burglaries in the Bristol and Cheshire area. Farr stated that the parole board routinely doesn't get full sentencing transcripts in inmate files.

While both suspects were ruled acceptable for parole, it may have been their meeting that led to the horrific crime. Dr James Monahan, a professor of criminal justice, believes that it may be revealed that drugs could have played a part in the crimes. He also said that the age difference between the two suspects is significant and may be similar to the case of the Washington D C snipers. There as well, neither man was much of a criminal until they paired up and became super-violent.

Komisarjevsky is believed to be the grandson of Theodore Komisarjevsky, a leading 20th century Russian theater director and designer who once oversaw the Bolshoi theater. His grandmother is Ernestine Stodelle, an internationally known author, dancer and dance critic. She has a dance studio in Cheshire and was married to the late author and columnist John Chamberline.

Komisarjevsky began buglarizing homes at age 14, was granted parole in April after being released to a halfway house in June 2006, according to state Dept of Corrections records. Hayes first entered prison in 1980 and was disciplined more than two dozen times while there at various times. He was sentenced to five years in prison in 2003 for burglary, was released to a halfway house in June 2006 and returned in November 2006 for using illegal drugs before his parole May 3 2007.

As more facts come to light in this case, the more brutal this crime is. To rape two young girls, one who was only 11 and then, in hopes of covering their horrific tracks, light the house on fire with them still alive..... I think the death penalty is too kind for these two.

Update: Memorials and new charges. posted July 27

A memorial service will be held at Central Connecticut State College
Welte Hall at 11 am

The Bailey Funeral Home in Plainville is in the process of making funeral arrangements.

Memorial Funds have been established as such:

The Jennifer Hawke-Petit Scholarship at Cheshire Academy

The Hayley Elizabeth Petit Scholarship at Miss Porter's School

The Micheala Rose Petit Scholarship at Chase Colligiate School.

On Thursday, July 26, New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington said that he will seek the death penalty for both suspects in the Petit home invasion. Hayes and Komisarjevsky were charged with six counts of capital felony murder. Hayes was charged with the sexual assault of Jennifer and Komisarjevsky with the sexual assault of Michaela. Both men are also now suspects in two break-ins of nearby homes the night before they broke into the Petit home.

Stephen Hayes now has been charged with:

One count each of: first-degree agrravated sexual assault ( of Hawke-Petit), first-degree burglary, first-degree arson, first-degree conspriracy to commit arson, first-degree robbery, risk of injury to a minor, first-degree aiding and abetting assault and first-degree robbery.

Six counts of First-degree kidnapping.

Six counts of Capital felony murder:
murder of two or more persons at the same time and in the course of a single transaction. murder of a person under 16 ( Michaela)
one count each of murder of a kidnapped person for Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela
murder of a person during a first-degree sexual assault ( Hawke-Petit)

Joshua Komisarjevsky now has been charged with:

One count each of: first-degree assault ( William ), first-degree aggravated sexual assault, first-degree burglary, first-degree arson, first-degree conspiracy to commit arson, first-degree robbery, first-degree larceny.

Two counts of risk of injury to a minor.

Six counts of First-degree kidnapping.

Six counts of Capital felony murder:
murder of two or more persons at the same time and in the course of a single transaction.
murder of a person under 16 ( Michaela)
one count each of murder of a kidnapped person for Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela
murder of a person during a first-degree sexual assault (Michaela)

Komisarjevsky's criminal record shows that he first entered the system on March 11, 2002 when he was 21 years-old. He was arrested on charges linked to 10 burglaries in Bristol. He was also charged with two burglaries in burlington in March, six in Cheshire in May and one in Farmington in November. It has been learned that he once had burglarized the home of a state trooper, which he had chosen by random and stole the officer's shirts and hat, only to give them away later.

He was caught after he pawned several of the stolen items locally and after his arrest in November, state and local authorities found similarities in the other cases he would end up charged with. On January 3 2003, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for second-degree burglary, with six years special probation for the burglaries he carried out using night vision goggles and entered the homes why the occupents slept.

Komisarjevsky had been adopted by Ben and Jude Komisarjevsky, described as a very religious couple but he had become estranged from them during his five years in prison. His uncle Chris released a statement saying that they could not condone anything his nephew has done and asked that justice needs to take place.

Update: July 27

Dr William Petit Jr has been released from St Mary's Hospital today and his family is holding a private funeral for his wife and two daughters today.

The public is invited to attend a memorial sevice for Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela schedualed for Saturday, July 28 on the campus of Central Connecticut State University inside Welte Hall, beginning at 11 am. All those who want to share their grief are invited.

Gov Jodi Rell has ordered an assessment of all the procedures that relate to how suspects are charged, sentenced and released. She has appointed a panel to review key steps in the justice system.

While this is probably a very good move for the state, it may not solve the mystery of how two men that were deemed to be fairly non-violent, teamed up and carried out a crime this terrible. As for the ongoing question of why the police response seemed to be so slow, it hasn't been released yet, how soon after the 911 call from a teller at the bank that the police arrived at the Petit home. It also has not been released yet, what that call entailed, so for the moment, I will reserve any judgement as to the speed or lack of that the police responded with.

Update: posted July 28

The public service for Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela began with thousands streaming onto the campus of Central Connecticut University today. Welte Hall holds approximately 1,850 seats but the university had made arrangements for overflow in an area outside the auditorium. From the reports of the attendence numbers for the two hour service, their plan was needed.

The memorial today, followed a private funeral held yesterday for the three. Many friends and family members spoke during the memorial as well as William Jr. The three memorial funds that have been established will be used to fund scholarships at those institutions that they hope will provide other talented, socially concious young women, the opportunity to lead lives of similar promise and make their own contributions to a better society.

The Petit family said that they were moved by the sight of people standing along the route to the cemetary with their hands over their hearts on Friday. A second public memorial for Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela will be held Monday, at 7pm. The location has not yet been posted.

"No one ever wants their faith tested, particularly by events such as these. When there is no ability to control your life events and you are required to deal with such a tragedy and loss, however, your faith is all the more necessary," Petit family.

For the complete Petit family statement, go here.
For my post in regards to the public memorial service held July 28 2007, go here. For newer posts, go here, here and here.


Patricia said...

I'm really curious as to why it took the police so long to get to the house...What happened that the Mom could have been brought back to the house, killed along with her daughters and the house set on fire before the police arrived at the house? That's the remaining mystery to this tragic story.

Mia said...

I agree with you patricia. That's the question I kept asking myself as well. What took them so long to get there?

Kate said...

I'm curious as well, why it took the police so long to arrive. Though, we dont know how much the teller actually knew, or what she told the 911 operator.

As for those two monsters, I believe in an eye for an eye. I think they should be put to death like the inocent, sweet people they killed.

Ram a sharp pole up their butts, then let them burn alive. The electric chair is too kind for them. Let the @#@%#$#@ burn!

I hope those evil monsters burn in hell for eternity!

troy said...

This is such a tragic incident, but lets all slow down before you start putting the blame on law enforcement. There’s not a police officer out there who doesn’t hesitate to put his/her life on the line every day to protect the citizens. First of all at this point it’s not even known if the police had a slow response from the time it was dispatched or what information was passed about the developing situation. Even if you know you have a hostage situation, that’s not something you rush right into as a single patrol officer. In most cases that action in it self would most likely turn a bad situation worse. I’m sure every police officer in that area wishes he had the magical crystal ball to know exactly what was really going on in this situation and I’m sure not one of them would have hesitated even a second to put their life on the line to save this family!!!

The sad reality is that on the face of the facts of this tragic incident as it was developing it would appear that this was a wealthy family being held hostage while one was taken to withdraw money, once the money was obtained the scum-bag criminals would then flee with the money leaving the family bound behind. If that was the only intent of the criminals and an Officer was to just rush into the scene without a plan and turn the situation into a standoff of desperate career criminals holding hostages who would rather kill and get killed then go back to prison, the public would again point blame at the police. It’s a no win situation.

I would hope that any fair minded person with any tactical sense and only the limited information that was available at the time realizes that law enforcement will always act as fast as they possibly can, but you have to have a plan of attack and make life and death decisions in a split second, always placing the citizens/victims safety first. I find it hard to believe that anyone would actually think that Law enforcement would receive this call and hesitate to respond. It’s hard enough to go home at night with what we see first hand and wish we could have stopped from happening even if it meant giving our own lives to do it!!!!

I hope these two fry for what they have done and for the Parole Board who says they didn’t have all the information at the time of the decision to parole, well I guess they should have sent them back to their cells until all the information was together, not back into the public…