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Sole Survivor Of Cheshire Home Invasion Testifies

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From left: Hayley, Michaela, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, & Dr. William Petit (Handout)

From left: Hayley, Michaela, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, & Dr. William Petit (Handout)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (1010 WINS/AP/ WCBS 880/CBS 2) – Three years after surviving a horrific home invasion, Dr. William Petit finally told his story to a jury. He talked about how the house he shared with his wife and two daughters became the scene of rape and murder that cost him his entire family.

He described a sudden explosion of violence as two men roused him from his sleep, beat him and lead him to the basement.

Petit, whose wife and two daughters were killed in the July 23, 2007, home invasion, took the witness stand in New Haven Superior Court on the second day of the trial of Steven Hayes, one of two suspects.

Dr. Petit’s voice was steady and clear in the courtroom as he began by talking about his wife’s job as a school nurse at Cheshire Academy, his oldest daughter’s acceptance into Dartmouth College, and how his youngest daughter loved brownies.

LISTEN: WCBS 880 CT Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reports
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Questioned in detail by prosecutor Michael Dearington, Petit offered chilling testimony in an even, matter-of-fact style.

“It was very strange, Petit told the court,  I remember thinking or feeling ow, ow ow, the next thing I knew I was seated on the sofa,” Petit said.

He said he spent that Sunday playing golf with his father and later eating dinner with his wife and daughters. He said he fell asleep on his couch, waking in the dark with the sensation of blood running down his face. Two people were standing near the couch, one holding a gun, he said.

“If he moves, put two bullets in him,” Petit said one of the assailants said.

Petit said his wrists and ankles were bound and he was eventually taken to his basement, where he was tied to a post.

Dizzy and light-headed from the blood loss, Petit said one intruder asked him for the location of a safe. “If you give us what we want we won’t hurt you,” Petit remembered being told.

He was calm even as he described realizing they were killing his wife and daughters.  He said he heard “some moaning.”  from upstairs and noises, CBS 2’s Lou Young reported.

He said he grew more desperate when he heard one of the assailants upstairs say, in a sinister tone, “Don’t worry. It’s going to be over in a couple of minutes.”

“It’s now or never,” Petit said of his thoughts at the time. “In my mind at that moment I thought they were going to shoot all of us.”

Hayes and another man, Joshua Komisarjevsky, are charged with murder, sexual assault and other crimes in the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, at their Cheshire home.

Both defendants face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted. Komisarjevsky is awaiting trial.

Petit said he did not know the fate of his wife and daughters, but said he heard his wife in the kitchen tell one of the attackers she needed to change clothes and get a checkbook. He said his wife also called in sick for him at his practice. She soon went to a local bank early Monday and withdrew $15,000 demanded by Hayes and Komisarjevsky, prosecutors say.

Petit said he freed his hands, but not his ankles so he hopped up the stairs, but fell.

“I felt my heart was going to explode out of my chest,” he said.

He could not walk or run so he crawled, but that was inefficient, he said, as he continued to weaken due to what doctors said later was his loss of as much as seven pints of blood after being beaten with a baseball bat, which was entered into evidence Tuesday. Petit said he then rolled on the ground to a neighbor’s house, pounded on his garage door and got assistance.

Also Tuesday, another juror was dismissed after he complained that he was confused by the prosecution’s case.  He accused prosecutors of not being prepared and expecting jurors to have prior knowledge of the case.

After the juror insisted he couldn’t fulfill his duties, the judge eventually dismissed him saying he was concerned about contamination of the jury and a mistrial.

Tuesday’s developments come after three jurors were dismissed on Monday for various reasons.  The jury now stands at 12 with three alternates.

A bank teller testified Monday that Jennifer Hawke-Petit arrived at a local bank to withdraw $15,000 after informing the teller that her family was being held hostage. The bank called police who arrived shortly after Petit sought help from his neighbor, he said.

Petit said he was immediately taken to a hospital, not knowing the fate of his wife and daughters. He said he remained in the hospital for five days when he was released and attended his family’s funerals.

Hayes and Komisarjevsky have tried to blame each other for escalating the crime. Both defendants had offered to plead guilty in exchange for life sentences, but prosecutors pushed for death penalty trials, defense attorneys have said.

Authorities say a chance encounter at a local supermarket led to the home invasion.

Komisarjevsky spotted Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters at the store and followed them home, then returned later with Hayes, authorities said.

Hayes is accused of sexually assaulting and strangling Hawke-Petit. Komisarjevsky is charged with sexually assaulting
11-year-old Michaela. The two then allegedly tied the girl and her sister, 17-year-old Hayley, to their beds, poured gasoline on and around them and set the house on fire.

Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the burning home in the family’s car, but were caught a short time later when they rammed several police cruisers, authorities said. Hayes was wearing Hayley’s high school cap, police say.

(TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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