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Jurors: Connecticut man deserves to die for home invasion horror

December 9, 2011 |  3:02 pm

Defense attorneys for a parolee conceded that their client committed unspeakable acts during a deadly 2007 home invasion robbery that shocked the nation with its violence and cruelty. But they nonetheless pleaded with jurors to spare the life of Joshua Komisarjevsky. 

But in the end, jurors decided Komisarjevsky deserved as much mercy as he showed the Petit family: None.

The New Haven Superior Court jury on Friday sentenced Komisarjevsky to death for his role in the July 2007 night of horror that began when he and his accomplice, Steven Hayes, 48, burst through the Petits' front door and overpowered them.

The key witness in the case was Dr. William Petit. He told jurors he was beaten with a baseball bat and then tied up in the basement of their Cheshire home. His wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, was forced to go to a bank and withdraw money before Hayes raped and strangled her.

The girls, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, were tied up in their bedrooms and there was evidence that Komisarjevsky masturbated in the presence of the younger girl. The children died of smoke inhalation after gasoline was used to set the house on fire in an apparent bid to destroy evidence.

Meanwhile, a bloodied and battered Petit managed to free himself and crawl out a window to run for help. But help arrived too late.

The men were on parole for burglary at the time of the killings, and were ultimately tried separately. They each tried to pin blame on the other, but jurors found them equally culpable. Hayes, who had been convicted earlier, is already on Connecticut's death row. The men repeatedly suggested that Dr. Petit also bore some responsibility in the case, intimating that he did not do enough to protect his family.

Jurors deliberated over the course of five days before making their decision against Komisarjevsky.

The Associated Press reported that Komisarjevsky stood rigidly with his arms behind his back and had no visible reaction to the jury's decision. Petit, who was also in the courtroom, appeared calm as the verdict was pronounced, his eyes blinking rapidly and his hand clenched in a fist on the seat in front of him. He later bowed his head and closed his eyes, the news service reported.

Since recovering from his injuries, Petit has made it his life's mission to ensure that the culprits pay with their lives. And in fact, the attack, which drew comparisons to the crime described in Truman Capote's acclaimed classic "In Cold Blood," led to the defeat of a bill to outlaw the death penalty in Connecticut, and tougher sentencing for repeat offenders and home invasions. Petit has maintained a steadfast and constant vigil at all the court hearings. He is expected to address the local media this afternoon.

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--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

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