Monday, October 29, 2007

Winding path to evil

On July 20 2007, he should have been celebrating at the barbeque his friends had organized to celebrate the end of his four year sentence for burglary. The state probation officers had removed the electronic bracelet from his ankle less than 24 hours before. While his friends enjoyed the party at his Cheshire home, Joshua Komisarjevsky sat aside, brooding and burying himself in a bottle of whiskey.

As time has moved on, more has to light about both Hayes and Komisarjevsky, their differing pasts and what may have played a part in their path to the horrific crime they are now charged with. The friends of Komisarkevsky state that he was heartbroken that his 18 year old girlfriend had recently moved to Arkansas with her family and all he talked about was saving money to bring her back and get their own place. Hayes, who was absent from the barbeque, was home dealing with his own sudden problems with his mother.

On the day of the July 20 party, probation officials had visited the Hayes family home in Winsted after his mother had told them it was time for him to go. His mother and brother suspected that he was again using drugs after they found that the money he had been saving for a new truck had vanished. It has been reported that she had wanted him out of the house by the following Monday, the day of the killings.

When state officials released Steven Hayes from prison and placed him in a halfway house, even he was surprised. He had already had 26 seperate prison stints and a history of disciplinary problems but he wasn't going to say no to their decision. He and Komisarjevsky shared a room on the secong floor of the Stillman House on Retreat Ave, Hartford CT.

While the two evidently got along very well, others in the house were baffled as to why. Josh was described by fellow residents as quiet, timid, weird and murders even shied away from him. Steve was described as outgoing, spontanious and a little perverted, someone who spent his free time cruising Wethersfield Ave in Hartford looking for hookers. Steve was said to be a hard worker, funny, always laughing and a little arogant while Josh was a "punk" the guy everyone in prison could steal from and he couldn't do anything about it but sit in a corner and fume.

Both men were working, Komisarjevski for a local roofing company, Hartford Restoration Services and fighting to gain custody of his then 5 year-old daughter Jayda. Hayes was a part-time short order cook in the VIP tent at the Dodge Music Center in Hartford and it is reported that he turned down a job offer from a member of Cheryl Crow's road crew. He also worked part time for a Torrington home contractor and both men had teamed up to start their own contracting business. They had already landed a job for a deck and were pursueing other jobs though Komisarkevsky's cash needs tripled the estimate of a garage renovation job they bid on and probably cost them the $7,000 job.

What is known is that Komisarjevsky liked his girlfriends young, the mother of his child was 15 when she got pregnant and he was 21. The recent girlfriend was 17 when they began flirting on the phone while he was in prison at age 26. He wasted no time in escalating the relationship when he got out. taking the bus every Thursday to the Buckland Mall in Manchester CT to meet her. When they could, they would sneak into the family restroom there and have sex which he sometimes recorded with photos he took with his cellphone.

The girl, a younger sister of Claire Semchenko, 26, an Ellington CT friend of Komisarjevsky from a religeous camp in Maine, is the daughter of an Ellington minister. It is reported that he was not pleased that his daughter was dating an ex-con but they all found him to be respectful though a bit sad. Semchenko described her family as loving and close and stated that she has always wondered what fascinated Josh about their family even though her father didn't like him.

There has been some of Komisarjevsky's youth reported before but more has been released. His troubles with the law began in 1995 when he was 14. Sealed court records do back up the report that he had been raped by a foster child his family had taken into their home then. His family initially tried to help him through religeous outings and spiritual retreats before seeking psychiatric help for him. He spent a short time at Elmcrest psychiatric hospital in Portland CT but refused the drugs he had been perscibed for fear that he would try to end his life with them.

Cheshire police arrested him in August 1995 and charged him with setting an abandoned car dealership on fire. People who knew him well though stated that he blamed his troubles on girls jilting him and that he was what they considered, a chronic liar. They also described him as a chameleon, showing people the face he wanted them to see.

There is less still known about the early life of Steven Hayes. He was born in Florida and dropped out of Canton High School in canton CT when he was 16. He later earned his GED and a certificate as a cook while at Cheshire Correctional Institution. According to his parole records, he had worked cooking at well known restaurants such as the White Hart Inn in Salisbury CT and Apricots in Farmington CT. His parents had divorced in 1979 and when he was out of prison, he lived in Winsted with his mother Diana. His father is listed as being remarried. The records show that Hayes began drinking at 11 and used cocaine by 19 and had a girlfriend, Rosalie Olivieri with who he has two teenage children.

Police officers who had frequently arrested Hayes describe him as a petty criminal who didn't confess his crimes but who would steal anything of value. They all seem to find it difficult to believe that Hayes would be capable of the level of violence used in the Petit murders.

More has surfaced as to the events immediately leading up to the Petit killings. Police believe that both men were desperate for money. They believe that the two broke into two homes in Cheshire on Saturday, July 21 2007 and stole a wallet, credit cards and petty cash. They also believe that Komisarjevsky had spotted Hawke-Petit and Michaela in the Stop & Shop parking lot early Sunday evening and followed them home, targeting them as their next victims. At about 10:30 pm, he called his girlfriend in Arkansas and then headed out of the house after 11 pm dressed in dark clothes.

They now state that they believe Hayes met Komisarjevsky in the Stop & Shop parking lot, left Hayes pickup parked there and went out for a few drinks. Sometime after 3 am Komisarjevsky jimmied the lock on the bulkhead door and both men crept in wearing dark hooded sweatshirts, homemade masks and latex gloves under thicker cotton work gloves. Officials add that Hayes was carrying an air pistol with the orange tip filed off as well as the electrical ties both carried.

They attacked William Petit as he lay on the couch with a bat then took him to the basement where they tied him and placed a plastic bag over his head. Hawke-Petit and the girls were tied to their beds with a combination of electrical ties, ropes and scarves, the house phones were unplugged and the cellphones were collected and placed on the bed in the master bedroom.

At one point during the night, Komisarjevsky raped Michaela and forced her to take a shower. His love for picture taking continued as he used his cellphone to take pictures of Michaela, much the same as he had done with his girlfriend. At dawn, Hayes went out with gas cans from the Petit home and it is believed that he stopped at his truck as well to stash items including wallets, jewelry and Haley's knapsack that contained loose change.

Shortly after 9 am that morning, Hayes drove Hawke-Petit to the bank where she withdrew $15,000, five thousand more than they had demanded, possibly in hopes of saving the family. What happened in the house is a bit more clear now but it will probaly have to wait until the trial to sort out the conflicting statements. What can be verified is that the suspects poured gas from where Hawke-Petit was killed, up the stairs to the girls rooms and then lit the trail of gas.

A police source stated that the pair lit the fire in the first floor sunroom and then exited the house laughing. Komisarjevsky drove the two from the house in the Petit family Chrysler Pacifica and tried to crash through two Cheshire police cruisers that blocked the road. The cruisers were spun apart by the force of impact but the car was heavily damaged and linped to the curb. Under the drawn guns of police, the men were taken into custody, both still wearing latex gloves and Komisarjevsky, wearing Haley's Miss Porter's School crew hat.

What is left now are still numerous unanswered questions and two young girls who now flank their mother's grave, facing the woods at the rear of Plainville's West Cemetery. Personal tokens from friends rest on the the graves: a small sand dollar and a set of wooden rosary beads rest among the flowers on Hawke-Petit's grave, in tribute to her spritual nature, on Haley's grave there is a baseball cap from Miss Porter's School and a baskeball inscribed with lyrics from her favorites songs and on Michaela's, there is a small striped stuffed fish along with a plaster angel who carries a small frying pan on her wings.

For my other posts including the memorial services and police response times, go here, here, here and here.

Update: posted October 30

"There are many tactical reasons to waive the hearing," stated defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan.

Joshua Komisarjevski appeared before a New Haven CT judge today, October 30 2007 and waived his right to a hearing of the evidence against him. He then pleaded not guilty to the charges related to the July 23 killings. His next schedualed court appearance is on November 27.

The defense also agreed with a request by the prosecution that William Petit have evidence returned to him that included his wallet and the $15,000 in cash his wife had withdrawn from the bank. Hayes is schedualed for a similar hearing on Thursday and is expected to waive his as well then.

Judge Richard Damiani also rejected a request today by The Courant to release a memorandum that would explain his decision to edit details out of search warrent affidavits he recently made public. The Courant argued that the judge's reasoning behind the edits should be made public and releasing his reasons could be done without releasing details that had been edited out.

Thomas Ullman, defense attorney for Hayes had argued against the release stating that he believed that The Courant was trying to get additional information from the warrents released.


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