Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Monday, July 23, 2012

IN MEMORY OF THE PETIT FAMILY (23 July 2007) ~ Cheshire, Connecticut, home invasion murders

        Five years ago on this day, Jennifer Hawke-Petit with her two daughters, Hayley and Michaela Petit were murdered were murdered during a home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut. I took the information from Wikipedia, so do read on more about this case before I will give my comment about it. Remember the victims!

When they were whole: A June, 2007 photo shows Dr William Petit, left, with his daughters Michaela, front, Hayley, centre rear, and his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts
The Cheshire, Connecticut, home invasion murders occurred on July 23, 2007, when a mother and her two daughters were murdered during a home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut. The Hartford Courant referred to the case as "possibly the most widely publicized crime in the state's history". In 2010, Steven Hayes was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death. His accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky, was found guilty on October 13, 2011, and sentenced to death on January 27, 2012.
In the late afternoon of July 22, 2007, Jennifer Petit and her daughter Michaela went to a local grocery store in Cheshire. They picked up food for the evening meal which would be prepared by Michaela. They, along with Jennifer's other daughter Hayley, would be killed several hours later in a home invasion.

Home invasion
As Jennifer Hawke-Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit shopped at a local supermarket, unbeknownst to them, they had been targeted by Komisarjevsky, who followed them home, and planned to later rob the family by home invasion. Anticipating their deeds, Hayes and Komisarjevsky exchanged text messages that were later introduced in court. Hayes first messaged Komisarjevsky: "I'm chomping at the bit to get started. Need a margarita soon". Hayes then texts: "We still on?" Komisarjevsky replies "Yes". Hayes' next text asks, "Soon?", to which Komisarjevsky replied with "I'm putting the kid to bed hold your horses". Hayes then asserts "Dude, the horses want to get loose. LOL." 

According to Hayes' confession, the two men planned to rob the house and flee the scene with the family bound and unharmed. Hayes attributed the outcome of the spree to a change in their plan. Upon their early morning arrival, they found William Petit sleeping on a couch on the porch. With a bat Komisarjevsky had found in the yard, he bludgeoned William and then restrained him in the basement at gun point. The children and their mother were each bound and locked in their respective rooms. Hayes says he and Komisarjevsky were not satisfied with their haul, and that a bankbook was found which had an available balance. Hayes convinced Jennifer to withdraw $15,000 from her line of credit. A gas station's video surveillance shows Hayes purchasing $10 worth of gasoline in two cans he had taken from the Petit home. After returning to the house, and unloading the gas, he took her to the bank. The prosecution later entered this as evidence of premeditation.

The bank surveillance cameras captured the transaction which shows Hawke-Petit in the morning of July 23 as she informed the teller of her situation. The teller then called 911 and reported the details to police. Hawke-Petit left the bank, was picked up by Hayes, who had escorted her there, and drove away. These actions were reported to the 911 dispatcher and recorded in real time. The teller stated that Hawke-Petit had indicated the assailants were "being nice", and she believed they only wanted money.

Last images: CCTV from a bank shows Jennifer Hawke-Petit attempting to plead with the clerk after she had been sent in by her assailants to withdraw $15,000

The Cheshire police response to the bank tellers' "urgent bid" began with assessing the situation and setting up a vehicle perimeter. These preliminary measures employed by the police exhausted more than half an hour and provided the time used by the assailants to conclude their modified plan. 

During this time, Hayes and Komisarjevsky escalated the aggravated nature of their crimes. Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted the 11-year-old daughter, Michaela. Komisarjevsky, who had photographed the sexual assault of the youth on his cell phone, then provoked Hayes to rape Hawke-Petit. While Hayes was raping Hawke-Petit on the floor of her living room, Komisarjevsky entered the room announcing that William Petit had escaped. Hayes then strangled Hawke-Petit, doused her lifeless body and parts of the house including the daughters' rooms with gasoline. The daughters, while tied to their beds, had both been doused with gasoline; each had her head covered with a pillowcase. A fire was then ignited, and Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the scene. 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela both died from smoke inhalation. 

William Petit had been able to free himself, escape his confines, and call to a neighbor for help. The neighbor indicated that he did not recognize Petit, due to the severity of Petit's injuries. In court testimony, William Petit stated that he felt a "jolt of adrenaline" coupled with a need to escape upon hearing one of the perpetrators state: "Don't worry, it's going to be all over in a couple of minutes." Petit then told the jury, "I thought, it's now or never because in my mind at that moment, I thought they were going to shoot all of us."

Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the scene using the Petit family car. They were immediately spotted by police surveillance, pursued by police, apprehended, and arrested one block away. The whole invasion lasted seven hours.

The scenario was revealed in a confession by Hayes just hours after the killings. Detectives testified that Hayes exuded a strong stench of gasoline throughout the interrogation. Each perpetrator was said to have blamed or implicated the other as the mastermind and driving force behind the spree. There were even attempts to blame William Petit as an accomplice. A diary kept by Komisarjevsky was entered into evidence which also blamed William. This account called him a "coward" and claimed he could have stopped the murders had he wanted to.


  • Jennifer Hawke-Petit, age 48, was a nurse and co-director of the health center at Cheshire Academy, a private boarding school. She met her husband, William Petit, in 1985 on a pediatric rotation at Children's Hospital when he was a third-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh and she was a new nurse.

  • Hayley Petit, age 17, had just graduated from Miss Porter's School and was scheduled to attend Dartmouth College.

  • Michaela Petit, age 11, attended the Chase Collegiate School before her death.

  • William Petit, the sole survivor of the home invasion, is an endocrinologist in Cheshire. He survived when he escaped to a neighbor's house, despite his injuries. He has not returned to his medical practice since the murders, stating his desire to be active in the foundations set up to honor the memory of his deceased family.



Steven J. Hayes

May 30, 1963 (age 49)
Homestead, Florida, U.S.
Capital felony, murder, sexual assault
Six consecutive death sentences plus 106 years
Convicted on 16 counts; sentenced to death on six counts of capital felony
A son and a daughter

Steven J. Hayes (born May 30, 1963, in Homestead, Florida) was found guilty on 16 out of 17 counts related to the home invasion murders on October 5, 2010. On November 8, 2010, the jury returned with a recommendation for Hayes to be executed by the State. He was formally sentenced to death by Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue on December 2, 2010.

Hayes is an inmate of the Connecticut Department of Correction. His criminal history shows him sentenced for his first offense at the age of 16. He is incarcerated in the Northern Correctional Institution, which houses the state's death row for men, in Somers. The method of execution currently employed by Connecticut is lethal injection, and the state execution chamber is located in the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers.

Trial of Hayes
The jury in Hayes' case was composed of seven women and five men. In the guilt phase of the Hayes trial, the jury deliberated for about four hours to arrive at its guilty verdicts.

The second phase of the trial began on October 18, 2010, in which the jurors who found Hayes guilty decided if Hayes should be executed or face life imprisonment. The second day of jury deliberations started on November 6, 2010. Hayes' attorney Thomas Ullman told the jury that a sentence of life in prison would be the harshest possible punishment for Hayes, because he is so tormented by his crimes and would be isolated in prison. "Life in prison without the possibility of release is the harshest penalty," Ullman said. "It is a fate worse than death. If you want to end his misery, put him to death," he added. "If you want him to suffer and carry that burden forever, the guilt, shame, and humiliation, sentence him to life without the possibility of release." 

On November 8, 2010, the jury returned with a recommendation for Steven Hayes to be executed by the State. The jury recommended a death sentence on each of the six capital felony counts for which Hayes was convicted. In the sentencing phase portion of the trial, the jury deliberated for about 17 hours over the course of 3½ days before arriving at its decision.

Hayes had previously attempted to receive a life sentence in a plea bargain. After the verdict, Hayes' defense attorney stated: "Hayes smiled upon hearing the jury's recommendation of a death sentence." He then added: "He is thrilled. He's very happy with the verdict. That's what he's wanted all along."

The Connecticut state judicial branch, for the first time in state history, offered post-traumatic stress assistance to jurors who served in the triple-murder trial. Because the jurors were required to look at disturbing images and hear grisly testimony, during the two-month trial, their service necessitated these actions. A spokesperson confirmed that such post-traumatic assistance has never been done before by the state’s judicial branch. 

On December 2, 2010, after Hayes apologized for the pain and suffering he had caused to the Petit family and added that "Death for me will be a welcome relief and I hope it will bring some peace and comfort to those who I have hurt so much,"  presiding Judge Jon Blue formally imposed six death sentences, one for each of the capital charges Hayes was convicted of; Blue then added a sentence of 106 years for other crimes Hayes committed during the home invasion, including kidnapping, burglary, and assault, before finishing with, "This is a terrible sentence, but is, in truth, a sentence you wrote for yourself in flames. May God have mercy on your soul." The judge also gave Hayes an official execution date of May 27, 2011; Blue said that this date was a formality, because if Hayes appeals his case, his execution could be delayed for decades.

 Joshua A. Komisarjevsky

August 10, 1980 (age 31)
Capital felony, sexual assault, murder, kidnapping, and arson.
Death sentence
Convicted of 17 out of 17 charges, including 6 Capital Felonies.

Joshua A. Komisarjevsky (born August 10, 1980) was Hayes' accomplice in the home invasion and murder of William Petit's wife and two daughters. He was born in 1980 and adopted by the son of playwright Theodore Komisarjevsky. Komisarjevsky remained incarcerated at the Walker Reception Center in lieu of a $15 million bond until his conviction. His trial began September 19, 2011, and on October 13, 2011, he was convicted on all 17 counts. On December 9, 2011, the jury recommended the death penalty. On January 27, 2012 Judge Jon Blue sentenced Komisarjevsky to death by lethal injection.

Trial of Komisarjevsky

Komisarjevsky was found guilty on October 13, 2011. On December 9, 2011, the jury recommended the death penalty. On January 27, 2012, Komisarjevsky was sentenced to death by lethal injection. During the hearing, Komisarjevsky insisted he did not intend to kill anyone and spoke about the shame, hurt and disappointment he had caused: "I will never find peace within. My life will be a continuation of the hurt I caused. The clock is now ticking and I owe a debt I cannot repay." He said that forgiveness was not his to have, "and he needs to forgive his worst enemy - himself." Judge Blue set July 20, 2012, as Komisarjevsky's execution date.

Capital punishment in Connecticut

In 2009, the Connecticut General Assembly sent legislation to abolish the state's death penalty to Governor M. Jodi Rell ostensibly to be signed into law. However, on June 5, 2009, Rell vetoed the bill instead and cited the Cheshire murders as an exemplary reason for doing so. On November 8, 2010, Rell issued the following statement regarding the jury's recommendation of a sentence of death for Hayes:

The crimes that were committed on that brutal July night were so far out of the range of normal understanding that now, more than three years later, we still find it difficult to accept that they happened in one of our communities. I have long believed that there are certain crimes so heinous, so depraved, that society is best served by imposing the ultimate sanction on the criminal. Steven Hayes stands convicted of such crimes – and today the jury has recommended that he should be subjected to the death penalty. I agree.


In 2007 John Carpenter, an employee of the Chase Collegiate School, ran the New York City Marathon, raising $8,554 for the "Miles for Michaela" campaign, a scholarship benefit. 
In 2007 William Petit established the Michaela Rose Petit '14 Scholarship Fund of the Chase Collegiate School. He also established the Hayley's Hope & Michaela's Miracle MS Memorial Fund. 
On January 6, 2008 over 130,000 luminaria candles were lit in front of thousands of homes across Cheshire in "Cheshire Lights of Hope", a fundraiser for multiple sclerosis and a tribute to the Petit family. Founded by local couple, Don and Jenifer Walsh, the event raised over $100,000 for Hayley's Hope and Michaela's Miracle Memorial funds. 
On October 5, 2010 the murder and its aftermath were featured on the news magazine show Dateline NBC, in a segment entitled "The Family on Sorghum Mill Drive".
On December 9, 2010 William Petit appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in a full hour episode about the murders of his family and the work of the Petit Family Foundation established.

Quotes by the victims’ families:

Every murder destroys a portion of society. Those murdered can never grow and contribute to humankind; the realization of their potential will never be achieved. I support the death penalty not as a deterrent or for revenge or closure, but because it is just and because it prevents murderers from ever harming again. By intentionally, unlawfully taking the life of another, a murderer breaks a sacrosanct law of society and forfeits his own right to live. [Dr. William A. Pettit Jr.: Death Penalty Is Justice For Murderers 31 May 2009 Posted: The Courant

Dr. William Petit said Tuesday July 27 2010 that lawmakers who voted last year to abolish the death penalty do not represent the will of the majority. He cited a Quinnipiac University poll showing strong support for capital punishment in the state.

“I hope the people of Connecticut get out and vote,” Petit said. “I don’t want the people of Connecticut to be the silent majority.”

Prosecutor Michael Dearington said there was no legal basis to grant the defense motions.

Petit, who was beaten during the home invasion, called the arguments frivolous.

“I’m just annoyed when the defense gets up and talks about decency when they’re defending two people who strangled a woman with multiple sclerosis and tied a 17-year-old and 11-year-old to their beds and set the house on fire,” said Petit, who was a longtime staff member at the Hospital of Central Connecticut New Britain General campus and comes from a well-known Plainville family.

“This is not about revenge,” said Petit, who remained composed during the somber press conference. “This is about justice. We need to have some rules in a civilized society.”

“Fortunately, justice delayed wasn’t justice denied,” he said at another point. “But it was many, many sleepless nights and a lot of worry, a lot of agitation, a lot of tears.”

“Michaela was an 11-year-old tortured and killed in her room among her stuffed animals,” Petit said. “Hayley had a great future. Jennifer helped so many kids.”

“This is a verdict for justice,” Dr. Petit said afterward. “The defendant faces far more serious punishment from the Lord than he can ever face from mankind.” 

"Vengeance belongs to the Lord. This is about justice. We need to have some rules in a civilized society."

"If you allow murderers to live you are giving them more regard, more value, than many people who have been murdered in this state including these women who never hurt a soul."

“Both Hayes and Komisarjevsky are desperate to avoid the death penalty, and argued that their desire to spend life in prison proves it a fate better, not worse, than death.”

Dr. William Petit, whose family loss still haunts us today, supports the death penalty. Dr Petit responded to Gov. Rell's vetoing a bill abolishing the death penalty: “I want to thank Gov. Rell for her moral courage and clarity to stand up for what is right and just with her veto of the bill to abolish the death penalty. The death penalty is the appropriate just and moral societal response to those who commit capital felonies." Dr. Petit also said in another statement: "For certain murders and other crimes there is no other penalty that will serve justice other than the death penalty".

Thursday 5 April 2012 - Eleven people are currently on death row in Connecticut, including Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, who both were sentenced for their roles in the 2007 murders of the Petit family in Cheshire, Connecticut.

The high-profile case drew national attention and sparked conversations about home security and capital punishment.

Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor in that attack, has remained a staunch critic of repeal efforts.
"We believe in the death penalty because we believe it is really the only true, just punishment for certain heinous and depraved murders," Petit told CNN affiliate WFSB.

"One thing you never hear the abolitionists talk about is the victims, almost never. The forgotten people. The people who died and can't be here to speak for themselves."

To read Johanna Petit Chapman's full written statement, see below:

My name is Johanna Petit Chapman and I am here today to voice my opposition to S.B 280, An Act Revising the Penalty for Capitol Felonies. I very much appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today.

As a result of this proposed bill, those who are currently on death row, including the two defendants who savagely murdered my sister-in law and two nieces, will still be executed. Before he was elected, I listened with interest to Governor Malloy when he spoke on this subject. He said that he was in favor of the death penalty for the two defendants in our case, if that was the penalty given. He also said that he is not in favor of the death penalty and would sign a bill abolishing the death penalty if the bill passed. I find this line of reasoning to be...at the very minimum...flawed. Actually, I find it to be disingenuous.

Therein, lies a major problem with this bill. It is a lie. If this body truly wants to abolish the death penalty even though it is not what the majority of the citizens of Connecticut wants, at least be honest about it and change the language. There is no such thing as the prospective abolition of the death penalty. I spoke directly with many of you last year and that was one of the common threads in our conversations. In private conversation many of you admitted that a prospective bill made no sense and would only create a slew of appeals from those inmates currently on death row and that the outcome would essentially void their death sentences.

Connecticut needs to keep the death penalty on the books for the most heinous of murders. Because we have the death penalty in Connecticut, just last month, Leslie Williams plead guilty to capitol felony, assault, attempted escape from custody and other charges in return for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release. Back in 2008, Mr. Williams invaded a home, left one woman for dead and raped and murdered another and then dumped her body. This occurred just four short weeks after he had served eight years for the rape of a five year old girl. Williams would never had plead to a sentence with no release had the other option not been death. You see, vicious murderers such as Williams, Komisarjevsky and Hayes are bold when they are taunting and murdering their victims, yet, afraid when facing death themselves.

The argument that we must abolish the death penalty because of the risk of executing an innocent does not The argument that we must abolish the death penalty because of the risk of executing an innocent does not hold truth, particularly in Connecticut. No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in the United States criminal law. Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed. None of the men currently on death row are innocent nor have we ever executed an innocent man in Connecticut.

The argument that life imprisonment is a worse fate than death is also flawed. What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea deal for death? It doesn't happen because death is feared and life is preferred. The high cost of life imprisonment and geriatric care is just one justification for reducing sentences. Other examples that prove life in prison does not necessarily mean life in prison are commutation and pardon. Surely, we are all aware of Haley Barbour's recent pardons. He granted full pardons or clemency to about 200 people, including convicted shoplifters, rapists, burglars, and embezzlers---plus fourteen murderers. Mr. Barbour said that he did this out of mercy. “The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote,” Barbour said. Where is the mercy and justice for the victims? Similarly, here in Connecticut, a vote for repeal is a vote for criminals and a vote against victims.

Pope John Paul II declared in his March 25, 1995 encyclical, The Gospel of Life, that “execution is appropriate to defend society”. Please do the honorable thing and defend society. Send the criminals the message that Connecticut is not soft on crime. Repair Connecticut's death penalty, do not repeal it.

Rev. Richard Hawke father of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, a mother together with her two daughters were killed in a home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut on 23 July 2007.

Hawke-Petit’s father, Rev. Richard Hawke, spoke first.

“Justice is being served,” he said. “Our society has spoken.”

Rev. Hawke invoked the Ten Commandments as the “basis of our law.” The first of those commandments is “thou shalt not kill,” he noted.

“There are some people who just do not deserve to live,” he said.

            I thank God that the repeal of Connecticut’s death penalty does not apply to those 11 on death row. I hope everybody can remember William Petit and his slain family in your prayers. His family members were murdered five years ago, please remember this date every year. Do remember to donate money to the Petit Family Foundation.


  1. How grotesque can an anti death penalty person be?
    Dudley Sharp

    Defense attorney Thomas Ullmann defended Steven Hayes in the capital murder trial of the three rape/torture/murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, who was raped and strangled to death, along with her two daughters, 17-year-old Haley and 11-year-old Michaela. Michaela was sexually assaulted. Both girls were burned alive and died of smoke inhalation. Dr. Bill Petit was beaten with a baseball bat, suffers permanent injuries, but survived. He is the sole survivor from his immediate family.

    When the day came for sentencing Hayes to death, what did Ullman say?

    "Today when the court sentences Steven Hayes to death everyone becomes a killer. We all become Steven Hayes." (1)

    Ullman said that with Bill Petit and the extended Hawke/Petit family, loved ones and friends in the courtroom. Ullman called all of them Steven Hayes, as well as all others who find the death penalty a just and appropriate punishment for horrendous crimes.

    The moral decay of Ullman's statement is hard to fathom, as is the profound cruelty of when and where he voiced it.

    Even Steven Hayes voiced knowing the moral differences between guilty murderer and innocent victims, the punishment of the guilty and the violation of the innocent.

    (1) "Connecticut man gets the death penalty for home invasion killings",

    1. At first, I thought abolitionist were right to show poetic sympathy for killers but now I realized that they fooled the public all along.