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'Most hated' man in America gets death for home invasion horror

January 27, 2012 | 12:49 pm

Two men are now on death row for a deadly 2007 home invasion robbery in suburban Connecticut that shocked the nation with its violence and cruelty, and claimed the lives of a mother and two daughters.

But the sole survivor of the attack said that the sentence handed down Friday provides scant justice -- his loss will forever be his "personal holocaust."

"I lost my family and my home," Dr. William Petit said during Friday's sentencing hearing for one of the killers. "They were three special people. Your children are your jewels."

A New Haven Superior Court judge sentenced Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, to death for his role in the home invasion robbery, even though Komisarjevsky tried again to shift blame to his accomplice.

"I know my responsibilities, but what I cannot do is carry the responsibilities of the actions of another," he said during the hearing, which was covered by the Associated Press. "I did not want those innocent women to die."

The sentence brings to a close a night of horror that began in July 2007 when he and his accomplice, Steven Hayes, 48 -- both on parole at the time for burglary -- burst through the Petits' front door and overpowered them.

Petit was beaten with a baseball bat and tied up in the basement of his 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 Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted 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 ultimately tried separately. They each tried to pin blame on the other. But Komisarjevsky admitted in an audiotaped confession to starting it all: He said he spotted Hawke-Petit and Michaela at a supermarket and followed them to their house, and then corralled Hayes into joining him to loot the house.

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.

In the end, jurors found the men equally culpable.

In an effort to evade the death penalty, Komisarjevsky's attorney pleaded for mercy, arguing that the defendant was sexually abused as a child and never received help for the subsequent emotional problems.

At one point, Komisarjevsky was at odds with his attorney, who overruled his client and submitted into evidence a videotaped interview with the defendant's 9-year-old daughter.

Komisarjevsky, who did not testify at trial, had complained that he didn't want his daughter pulled into a case involving "one of the most hated people in America."

The crime was so heinous that it is credited with halting an effort to overturn the death penalty in Connecticut.

With Friday's sentencing, Komisarjevsky joins Hayes on death row. It is uncertain when the men will face death. The state's last execution took place in 2005, and it was the first once since 1960.

The attack led to tougher state laws for repeat offenders and home invasions, according to the Associated Press.


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--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Dr. William Petit Jr., the sole survivor of a 2007 home invasion robbery that left his wife and two daughters dead, leaves court Friday following sentencing. Credit: Jessica Hill / Associated Press