U.S. man sentenced to death in home invasion killings

A man who said he was “tormented” by his crimes was sentenced to death on Thursday for the killings of a woman and her two daughters in a gruesome 2007 home invasion.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A man who said he was “tormented” by his crimes was sentenced to death on Thursday for the killings of a woman and her two daughters in a gruesome 2007 home invasion.

Steven Hayes apologized just before New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon Blue pronounced the sentence that had been recommended last month by a jury that convicted him.

“I am deeply sorry for what I have done and the pain I have caused,” Hayes said. “My actions have hurt so many people, affected so many lives, caused so much pain. I am tormented and have nightmares about what happened in that house.”

Hayes sexually assaulted and strangled Jennifer Hawke-Petit. Authorities say he and co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky tied the girls to their beds, poured gasoline on or around them and set fire to their home in Cheshire. Komisarjevsky goes on trial next year.

“This is a terrible sentence, but is, in truth, a sentence you wrote for yourself in flames,” the judge told Hayes.

The killings, which drew comparisons to the 1959 slayings portrayed in Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood, were so unsettling that they became a key issue in the death penalty debate in Connecticut’s governor’s race and led to tougher state laws for repeat offenders and home invasions.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell cited the case when she vetoed a bill that would have abolished the death penalty in the northeastern state.

Before the sentence was pronounced, Dr. William Petit, who was severely beaten but survived the attack on his family, told the court he had seriously considered suicide after the deaths of his wife, whom he called his best friend, and their two young daughters. Petit fought back tears as he talked about his family.

“I miss my entire family, my home, everything we had together. They were three special people,” he said.

Hayes will join nine other men on Connecticut’s death row. The state has only executed one man since 1960, so the 47-year-old Hayes will likely spend years, if not decades, in prison.

Defence attorney Thomas Ullmann has said Hayes, who had attempted suicide while incarcerated, had wanted a death sentence.

Hayes’ attorneys had tried to persuade jurors to spare him the death penalty by portraying him as a clumsy, drug-addicted thief who never committed violence until the home invasion in Cheshire, a wealthy New Haven suburb. They called Komisarjevsky the mastermind and said he escalated the violence.

But prosecutors said both men were equally responsible and that the crime cried out for the death penalty, saying the family was tormented for seven hours before being killed.

Authorities said Hayes and Komisarjevsky broke into the house, beat William Petit with a baseball bat and forced his wife to withdraw money from a bank while the rest of her family remained under hostage at home. Hayes then sexually assaulted and strangled her, authorities said.

Komisarjevsky is charged with sexually assaulting their 11-year-old daughter, Michaela. He has blamed Hayes for escalating the crime.

The girls died of smoke inhalation.

During the trial, jurors heard eight days of gruesome testimony and saw photos of the victims, charred beds, rope, ripped clothing and ransacked rooms.

Several of the jurors attended Thursday’s sentencing, though they were not required to be there.

Paula Calzetta said she went because she wanted to follow through to the very end. Joel Zemke, the jury foreman for the guilt phase, says he feels he’s part of “something bigger.”

Some jurors say they took advantage of counselling that was offered to them.

Ian Cassell, the foreman for the penalty phase, said the counselling helped him deal with the aftereffects.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

House sales remain hot in central Alberta with first-quarter sales nearly double last year’s numbers. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Central Alberta real estate market hot in 2021

Residential sales nearly double 2020 in first quarter

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer gave an update on Olymel's COVID-19 situation on Wednesday. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Veer addresses rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

Red Deer has added nearly 200 cases of active COVID-19 cases in past week

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
RCMP investigate culturally insensitive graffiti at Sylvan Lake school

Sylvan Lake RCMP is investigating a vandalism incident. On April 17 around… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Tanner Pearson, right, celebrates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie David Rittich during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP)
Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Lionel Desmond (front row, far right) was part of the 2nd battalion, of the Royal Canadian Regiment, based at CFB Gagetown and shown in this 2007 handout photo taken in Panjwai district in between patrol base Wilson and Masum Ghar in Afghanistan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Facebook-Trev Bungay MANDATORY CREDIT
Desmond inquiry: Veterans Affairs submits internal review after initial refusal

Desmond inquiry: Veterans Affairs submits internal review after initial refusal

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2021 file photo State representatives gather at the Capitol, in Phoenix. Two years after Arizona lawmakers repealed a law barring any instruction on HIV or AIDS that that "promotes a homosexual lifestyle," they are close to enacting a broad remake of the state's sex education laws with a particular focus on LGBTQ issues. (AP Photo/Matt York,File)
Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

Most Read