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Closing arguments set in Connecticut home-invasion trial

October 11, 2011 |  6:10 am


Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Tuesday in the trial of a man charged in a deadly home invasion in suburban Connecticut after the defense ended its case with a report alleging that the accused suffered sexual and other abuse as a child.

The abuse claims were contained in a psychologist's report presented to jurors on the final day of testimony in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky.

Komisarjevsky, 31, is the second defendant to be tried in the 2007 home invasion, sexual assaults and killings that left a Cheshire, Conn., mother and her two daughters dead. The victims' house was doused with gasoline and set ablaze as Komisarjevsky and co-defendant Steven Hayes fled.

His lawyers have portrayed Komisarjevsky as a reluctant participant who tried to talk Hayes into letting the victims live after they had forced the mother to withdraw $15,000 in cash for them.

Hayes' lawyers claimed that Komisarjevsky was the ring-leader in the violence, which included the sexual assaults of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her youngest daughter, Michaela, 11. Michaela and her 17-year-old sister, Hayley, died in the fire that engulfed the home. Their mother was strangled and was dead before the fire started.

The last witness to testify for the defense was Dr. Leo Shea III, a psychologist, who quoted Komisarjevsky as saying that he had been abused by a 15-year-old foster child that his parents had taken into their home when Komisarjevsky was a boy. 

Shea's 15-page report on Komisarjevsky included details of a troubled childhood with episodes of self-mutilation; sneaking out at night to spy on neighbors' homes; and experimentation with drugs including LSD and crystal meth.

Shea also said that Komisarjevsky suffered at least five concussions in his lifetime, caused by traffic accidents, schoolyard falls, and a tumble down a flight of stairs. The head injuries, combined with drug use and sexual abuse, could make someone more likely to commit crimes, Shea testified.

Only William Petit Jr., the husband of the slain woman and the girls' father, survived the attack after being beaten with a bat. He was one of the first witnesses to testify for the prosecution when the trial opened last month. 

Hayes was convicted last month and sentenced to death. Komisarjevsky, who did not testify on his own behalf, could also face the death penalty if convicted.


What happened to Baby Lisa?

Prosecutors wrap up home invasion case

Home-invasion trial set to resume after chilling testimony

-- Tina Susman in New York

Photo: Joshua Komisarjevsky. Credit: Connecticut State Police