Connecticut Man Sentenced To Death In Deadly Home Invasion
A jury condemned a Connecticut man to death Friday for killing a woman and her two daughters during a night of terror in their suburban home, a crime that evoked comparisons to Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” with its gruesome details and halted momentum to abolish the death penalty in the state.
The jury took five days to deliberate defense attorneys’ request to spare the life of Joshua Komisarjevsky in light of abuse he suffered as a boy. Komisarjevsky, who will join his accomplice Steven Hayes on Connecticut’s death row, stood rigidly with his arms behind his back and had no visible reaction.
The two paroled burglars tormented a family of four in the affluent New Haven suburb of Cheshire before killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and leaving her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, to die in a fire.
The only survivor, Dr. William Petit, was beaten with a baseball bat and tied up but managed to escape. He 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 sentencing verdict concluded two long trials that subjected jurors to grim evidence including charred beds, rope used to tie up the family and autopsy photos. The attack in 2007 led to the defeat of a bill to outlaw the death penalty in Connecticut, sparked tougher state laws for repeat offenders and home invasions, and drew comparisons the crime described in “In Cold Blood,” which documented the brutal murders of a Kansas farmer and his family.
In closing arguments, a prosecutor said the two men created “the ultimate house of horrors” by inflicting extreme psychological and physical pain on the victims that amounted to torture.
“It was shockingly brutal. It was evil. It was vicious,” prosecutor Gary Nicholson said.
Before the verdict was announced, defense attorney Walter Bansley said his client was prepared for a death sentence.
“He’s very accepting,” Bansley said. “He’s been realistic from the beginning, and he understood that public sentiment is very much against him.”
Komisarjevsky will join 10 other men on Connecticut’s death row. The state has executed only one man since 1960, and the 31-year-old Komisarjevsky will likely spend years, if not decades, in prison.