Saturday, June 21, 2014
Beyond the evil.........
It began late in the evening of July 22, 2007 and ended tragically on the morning of July 23 2007. In less than 24 hours, William Petit lost his family and two daughters lost their fathers. The trial for Steven Hayes, one of the alleged killers began on Sept 13 2010 and on Oct 5 2010, he had been found guilty of 16 of the 17 charges he had faced. Hayes had offered to plead guilty in exchange for life without parole before the trial had begun but that plea had been denied. Instead, Hayes was sentenced to death. Joshua Komisarjevsky went on trial on Sept 19 2011 and on Oct 13 2011, he was found guilty of all 17 charges he had faced. Komisarjevsky had also tried to plead in exchange for life without parole before trial, which was denied and he also was sentenced to death.
The Petit home invasion and murders was a brutal crime and the two trials only served to expose the brutality that had been perpetrated upon the Petit family. William was the only one to have survived the horror of the pair and it had to be terrible to learn through the trials, just what had happened to his family both before and after he had managed to escape his burning home that day.
"To this day I don't know why it happened. I just wanted money. That's all I was looking for," stated Steven Hayes in an interview with the New Haven Register in 2013.
Hayes states that both he and Komisarjevsky had planned to just leave the house after he had returned with Jennifer Hawke-Petit, William's wife and the $15,000 he had forced her to withdraw from the bank. When he returned, Komisarjevsky told him that he had sexually assaulted 11 year old Michaela, the Petit's younger daughter. He then claimed that he started to lose it, which was then made worse by his spotting an unmarked police car outside the house. That is when he states that he snapped.
Hayes states that he doesn't know he was thinking and what he did after he "snapped" was very unlike him. He has not wanted to discuss the actual crime but had admitted to sexually assaulting Jennifer. Both Hayes and Komisarjevsky blame each other for the escalation that culminated with them setting the house on fire and escaping only to crash into police cars parked nearby. Hayes has expressed his remorse for the horrific crimes and has stated that he wishes that the sentence was carried out quickly. Unfortunately, Connecticut has only managed to execute Michael Ross in 2005, the first since 1960. Connecticut currently has only 10 people on death row at the Northern Correctional Institute in Somers, including Robert Breton who has been there since Oct 27 1989.
Komisarjevsky evidently did not have the misgivings or remorse that Haynes now claims. When his trial began, William and other family members were prepared for some of the grisly testimony that would be presented and chose to leave the courtroom rather than listen to it again. His confession to police was even more shocking to listen to as his describes the details without pausing or mumbling with his monotone voice.
He began by giving a very detailed description of what he had done to William Petit. He told the police how they had gone into the basement and gotten a baseball bat which he would use on William. Komisarjevsky then stood behind Petit for 15-29 minutes, not wanting to hit him while Hayes watched out the window and kept motioning for him to hit Wtlliam and get it over with. He went on to describe finally hitting him and when he heard William scream, hit just kept hitting him until he backed off near the couch and quieted down.
Throughout his confession, Komisarjevsky blamed Hayes for instigating the mounting horror. He claimed that he was stunned and perplexed by Hayes's suggestion that they take all the occupants of the house with them in their cars and leave the house burning behind them. Shortly afterwards, he claims that Hayes started ranting and raving about DNA and his using Hayes's name in front of the victims. Komisarjevsky stated that he didn't understand what Hayes's problem was about DNA since he himself had been wearing gloves the whole time. He went on to explain that Hayes had decided that they had to kill everyone and burn the house, a plan that he didn't agree with. Komisarjevsky stated that he was only there for the money and he was not a killer. He tried to make it sound as though he was trying to stick up for the Petit family even though he had already beaten William and had tied Michaela to her bed, taken partially nude pictures of her and assaulted her by then.
Whatever he may claim he felt about killing the family, it didn't stop him from participating with Hayes in setting the house on fire before they both fled. Both Michaela and Hayley had been left alive and tied to their beds while Jennifer had been killed and left on the first floor. Both girls died of smoke inhalation, Michaela in her bed and Hayley had managed to free herself and was found at the top of the stairs. He doesn't mention if they knew that William had freed himself and run from the basement for help. They were quickly captured after they crashed the Petit family car into police cars further down the block.
Hayes and Komisarjevsky both have left daughters behind while they sit on death row. Hayes's daughter, Alicia was 15 years old when her mother told her about the horrific crime her father had just been arrested for. She had just returned from summer camp when her mother broke the news of her father's arrest and she explained everything he was accused of doing then. Alicia's parents had divorced when she was very young but she had continued to see her father every week for ice cream and movies. In 2013 she was serving in the Air Force overseas and she chose to participate in an HBO documentary "The Cheshire Murders" about the crime. She spoke about being bullied in school because of her father's crime and that she had blamed herself for his actions for many years. She is currently working as a dialysis technician and studying to become a nurse. Alicia stated that she wishes she could tell William how sorry she is for her father's actions.
Komisarjevski also has left a daughter behind while he sits on death row, as well as a long history of contact with the Connecticut legal systems. He had been on the DCF records from his childhood when both he and his sister were abused by Scott, an older foster brother in the home. He in turn, abused his sister for several years until she was 10 years old but she had testified in court that he was not a violent person. It was further stated that his mother Jude believed that her son could pray his illness away. Jude withdrew her son from Norton Elementary School in the fifth grade after he began throwing desks at a teacher he did not get along with. She felt the teacher was too strict with her son and decided to home school him.
Jude and Benedict had adopted Komisarjevsky when he was two weeks old and testimony in court had explained that there was a history of mental illness in his birth parents family history. His mother Jude claims that she did not know of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his brother Scott until he had been sentenced in 2002 for a string of burglaries. Whatever the case may be, Komisarjevski was already a troubled young man, a victim of abuse and a sexual predator. The string of burglaries that he was arrested for were not just simple break-ins. He stated that he enjoyed the rush he received from breaking in and creeping around people's homes with night vision goggles, while they were sleeping inside. It was noted when he was sentenced to 9 years in prison and followed by 6 years of special probation for the 12 break-ins, that he was a criminal who was seeking a confrontation and a cold blooded predator.
Hayes on the other hand, had a long criminal history. He had a drug problem and had been arrested 26 times since 1980 and spent most of his adult life in and out of jail. His convictions though for burglary, larceny, narcotics and weapons possession don't show an interest in violence. Hayes did have a problem with drugs and being able to complete community release, which he had failed all five times he had received it. His last arrest came in 1996 for breaking into a car to steal a purse in search of more money for crack. He was sentenced to five years in prison and he didn't expect to be released an earlier than 2008. Evidently, someone felt that he should be released early and he ended up in the same halfway house as Komisarjevsky. There, while others scratched their heads wondering, the two became close friends.
Before his arrest on the burglaries, Komisarjevski, then 21, had gotten his 15 year old girlfriend pregnant. He pleaded with the judge during his sentencing that he had turned his life around following the birth of his daughter Jayda and along with his parents plea for a placement in a two year faith based program, he tried for leniency. He was released early for good behavior and had his ankle bracelet removed only one week before the Petit murders.
Komisarjevsky's sister testified on her brother's behalf during the sentencing portion of his trial, in an effort to have him avoid the death penalty. She stated that her parents had not sought psychological treatment for her brother or her after the abuse was exposed because they were afraid that the state would break up the family. She had no response though when the prosecution asked her how she had grown up in the same situation as her brother and still has lived a successful life. His parents both testified about his difficulties growing up which included shooting windows out with a BB gun, burglaries and setting a gas station on fire, which led to an arrest and a hospitalization. His father testified that he had even tried moving the family to New Hampshire to escape the bad influences on his son.
The defense went as far as having a taped interview with his daughter Jayden shown to the jury in hopes of avoiding the death penalty. It showed a bright 9 year old girl who didn't really know her father, calling him Josh, who only knew that he had done something bad at work. Komisarjevsky had fought the tape being made because he felt that it would put too much pressure on her in the future. The current reports are that his daughter is now living with a maternal aunt and does not go by his last name.
It would seem that the Connecticut courts had failed on several fronts and the failures put two men together who may not have ever committed a crime so violent if they had not met. The courts also failed Komisarjevsky's girlfriend and daughter during all of this. When he was sentenced in 2002 to jail he had additional conditions added which included having no contact with his victims, attending school, undergo a mental health evaluation with treatment and pay child support for his new daughter. He was ordered to pay child support even though the state had no proof of paternity, though he did rectify that in August of 2003 by signing a paternity acknowledgment in his jail cell. The state also did not make sure that he had taken care of the mental health part of his conditions or if he had violated the statutory rape laws.
His girlfriend Jennifer had stated that she did not want Komisarjevsky around her daughter and would not bring her to prison to visit him. It was in 2005 that he finally started filing petitions from jail for custody and visitation of his daughter and since he was locked up, he had all the low cost assistance he needed. Jennifer did not have that luxury. She lost sole custody of her daughter in Sept 2005 when a judge decided that even while he was in prison and had abused his sister, he could share custody of Jayda. This meant that she had to drop her daughter off every other weekend with Komisarjevsky's parents for semi-supervised visits with him.
Komisarjevsky was now working a construction job, had a new young girlfriend and was having his paycheck garnished for the child support payments. In 2007, he incresed his legal efforts to gain sole custody of his child. His parole officers seemed to ignore his past crimes and troubles and began encouraging him to sue for custody. They even went so far as to offer referrals to add to his family court case as a reward for good behavior. He raised the issue that her drug use was affecting the care she could give the girl and when she missed a hearing due to being hospitalized, she lost custody.
The courts gave sole custody of Jayda to him even though he himself had drug problems in the past, admitted sexually abusing his younger sister, blamed his situation on the upbringing he had with his parents and had been branded as a cold blooded predator. At the time, he was living with his parents and this was the home the little girl would be moved to. Jennifer signed an agreement for joint custody afterwards that would allow her visitation with the daughter she had raised and it required the girl to alternate nights between their homes. Oddly, the courts were more interested in Jennifer's possible drug abuse than any of Kamisarjevsky's criminal background.
What then of William Petit? The house he and his family lived in at 300 Sorghum Mill Dr was heavily damaged by the fire that had been set and the decision was made to demolish it. A memorial park has been built on the site of the former home but William does not visit it.
William no longer practices medicine and states that the nightmares of that attack still haunt him. In 2012, he married Christine Paluf, 36 and on Nov 23 2013, they welcomed William Petit III into their new family. Not long after their wedding, the couple moved into a new home along the Farmington River in CT and while William still keeps certain lights on all night in the house, they have found the setting very peaceful and calming.
William dedicates all of his time now to his foundation, The Petit Family Foundation, as well as answering all the mail that he continues to receive through the years. The foundation accepts donations and uses them to foster the education of young people, especially women in sciences, improve the lives of those affected by chronic illness and to protect and support those people who have been affected by violence. People can donate money, volunteer time and participate in events that it promotes as a way of helping the foundation. The website for the foundation can be found at: http://www.petitfamilyfoundation.org/
The Petit family murder is a horrific crime and touched many more lives than just those directly involved. It may also be a very blatant warning to the legal system that overlooking some things can lead to such damaging results. It is good to hear that William Petit has found the support and courage to continue to live each day with an uplifting outlook and I hope that he enjoys many more good years in the future.
All related Petit stories on this blog:
Update Sept 6 2014:
The lawyers for Joshua Komisarjevsky have asked the Connecticut Supreme Court to hold an evidentiary hearing, reverse his sentence and order a new trial for him, Attorneys John Holdridge and Moira Buckley are seeking the new trial based on claims that the non emergency police phone line recordings were not given to the defense team for his trial. They state in their motion that these recordings would prove their theory that the police response was inadequate and calls into question the credibility of some of the officers. The attorneys feel that this would have impacted the guilt-innocence phase of the trial.
They state that the tapes would not be used to blame the police but they would be used to prove the bias, motive, self interest and prejudice against their client. Walter Bansley III, one of his original trial lawyers stated that those tapes had relevance to the trial and would have been used. He added that they would have been central to their defense theme of the failure of the police response team.
State's Attorney Michael Dearington stated that those tapes had been turned over to the defense team and that he did not see that they created any meaningful issue. It seems as though this new motion is somehow supposed to "prove" that Komisarjevsky would not have committed the horrendous crimes that he did............ if the police response teams had acted much more quickly in preventing them from carrying out what they had planned to do when they returned to the Petit home.
Let's be serious here......... they were caught driving the victims car on the same street as the crime scene, after they ran out of the burning house. How many ways can you say guilty?
The police did not force either Komisarjevsky or Hayes to do what they did. No amount of "I had a tough life" and whining that the police could have been quicker and stopped us makes either of them any less guilty. The motion almost seems to be another waste of the court's time.