NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP/CBS 2/1010 WINS) — A Connecticut man was condemned to death Monday for a night of terror inside a suburban home in which a woman was strangled and her two daughters tied to their beds, doused in gasoline and left to die in a fire.

Jurors in New Haven Superior Court voted unanimously to send Steven Hayes to death row after deliberating over the span of four days. Judge Jon Blue will impose the sentence on Dec. 2.

1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan reports

“You have been exposed to images of depravity and horror that no human being should have to see,” Blue said in thanking the jurors for their service.

Dr. William A. Petit Jr., right, and his father William Petit, left, react to the sentence given to Steven Hayes, not pictured, following jury deliberations Monday, Nov. 8, 2010, at the New Haven, Conn., County Courthouse. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Dr. William Petit, the husband and father of the victims, said the verdict was not about revenge.

“Vengeance belongs to the Lord,” Petit said. “This is about justice. We need to have some rules in a civilized society.”

He also said it wouldn’t bring closure, saying whoever came up with the concept was “an imbecile.”

“It’s a hole with jagged edges,” he said. “Over time the edges may smooth out a little bit, but the hole in your heart, the hole in your soul is always there.”

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 2007 home invasion with a fellow paroled burglar. They called the co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, the mastermind and said he escalated the violence. They also said Hayes was remorseful and actually wanted a death sentence.

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 they were killed.

Petit and his extended family were especially grateful that the state’s prosecutor saw the case as they did, CBS 2’s Lou Young reported.

“He came to my house in 2007 and said if there is any case that deserves the death penalty it is this,” Petit told reporters.

“We are grateful that we have been part of a society that feels that there are just some people who do not deserve to live in God’s world,” Hawke-Petit’s father Rev. Richard Hawke said.

Defense attorney Tom Ullmann said Hayes, who had attempted suicide while incarcerated, smiled at the verdict.

“He is thrilled with the verdict. That’s what he wanted all along,” Ullmann said.

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

Komisarjevsky will be tried next year.

FILE - This June 2007 photo provided by Dr. William Petit Jr., shows Dr. Petit, left, with his daughters Michaela, front, Hayley, center rear, and his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, on Cape Cod, Mass. (AP Photo/William Petit, File)

Authorities said Hayes and Komisarjevsky broke into the house, beat William Petit, and forced his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 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, who will be tried next year, is charged with sexually assaulting their 11-year-old daughter, Michaela.

Michaela and her 17-year-old sister, Hayley, were tied to their beds and doused in gasoline before the men set the house on fire, according to testimony. The girls died of smoke inhalation.

The crime was so unsettling that it became a key issue in the death penalty debate in the governor’s race and led to tougher Connecticut 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.

To determine Hayes’ punishment, the jury weighed so-called aggravating factors cited by prosecutors, including the heinous and cruel nature of the deaths, against mitigating factors argued by Hayes’ attorneys.

The jurors were individually polled after the verdict Monday. One woman was crying and confirmed her verdict in a hoarse voice while a male juror said “yes” loudly and with conviction when asked to confirm his. Hayes was alternately looking straight ahead and to the opposite side of the courtroom from jury. His attorney, Tom Ullmann, sat somewhat slumped in his chair.

Petit said he cried at the verdict, ‘thinking of the tremendous loss.”

“Michaela was an 11-year-old little girl tortured and killed in her own bedroom, surrounded by stuffed animals,” he said, his voice cracking. He said his older daughter, Hayley, had a great future, and his wife, a nurse, had helped many children at the hospitals where she worked.

Ullmann had suggested prison would be more harsh than death for Hayes. Hayes told a psychiatrist he had repeatedly tried to kill himself after the crime because he felt guilty and remorseful and feared isolation in prison the rest of his life.

Hayes’ attorneys focused heavily on Komisarjevsky, even calling a witness who said his “completely dead eyes” made him look like the devil. They cited his writings in which he described how his “dark shadow was let loose” as he beat the doctor and the pleasure he got from terrorizing the man’s wife and two daughters.

Komisarjevsky’s writings, however, also blamed Hayes for escalating the violence by strangling Hawke-Petit.

Prosecutors said it was Hayes who initiated the crime, citing his confession to police in which he said he called Komisarjevsky shortly before the crime because he was financially desperate. They also noted that Hayes took Hawke-Petit to the bank to withdraw money, raped and strangled her, bought the gasoline and poured it in the house.

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

Johanna Petit Chapman, William Petit’s sister, said the family sympathized with the jurors for the emotional pain the case inflicted on them as they viewed pictures of the crime scene and heard details of the deaths.

“I was crying on the inside knowing what they were looking at,” she said. “I can’t say enough how badly I feel for them that they got thrust into this because of two people’s decision to go in and just destroy life like that.”

Hayes was convicted of six capital felony charges, three murder counts and two charges of sexually assaulting Hawke-Petit. The capital offenses were for killing two or more people, the killing of a person under 16, murder in the course of a sexual assault and three counts of intentionally causing a death during a kidnapping. He was sentenced to death for all six.

Ullmann and co-counsel Patrick Culligan said the case was treated differently because the victims were white and from the suburbs, and that crimes just as horrific involving minorities haven’t garnered the same media and public attention.

“To my way of thinking, that’s all that these verdicts prove today, that is just how arbitrary and capricious the death penalty is — it varies from case to case and person to person and jury to jury,” Culligan said.

(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.)

Comments (33)
  1. Arlene Goldman says:

    Problem is he won’t get executed quick enough. I had no way of contacting 880 am but I was in shock the other day when I had the station on in my car and they were interviewing Governor – Elect Dan Malloy. When he approached the topic of death penalty he stated that he will not interfere with the jury’s decision. He also made mention of how long these things take BUT, are you ready for this? He had the audacity of saying if this GENTLEMAN (referring to Steven Hayes) wants to be executed, he will be. DAN MALLOY referred to STEVEN HAYES as a GENTLEMAN. How disgusting is that!




    “RICK ISAAK”…you are a complete moron, not only for being up @ 4 am making ridiculous comments but to suggest he had something to do with it. GET A LIFE YOU WATCH TOO MUCH TV !!!

  4. tony says:

    His body should be dismembered in a medical school

  5. Rick says:

    Why was the husband only beaten and the rest were killed? I remember the Jeffery McDonald case in the 70’s which his wife and kids were brutally murdered by beating and stabbed several times with an icepick while he just sustained a singular wound. I think the husband had something to do with it too.

    1. Rick Isaak says:

      Maybe I’ve been watching too much N.C.I.S but c’mon, does anyone else find that strange?

      1. Rick Isaak says:

        Hypothetically speaking, thinking like a sicko(only thinking, mind you), I would have quickly dispatched the husband, had my way with the rest of the family, and left no trace, NO witnesses……how or why, was this man spared?

      2. fatkat357 says:

        No I don;t find it strange. It’s not like we have the father as the sole survivor known to anyone – we have 2 perps apprehended against whom all the evidence points directly and exclusively of anybody else. The problem w/conspiracy theorists isn’t their idiotic theories – it’s that they don’t have to back up their nutty ideas w/logic. Just what scheme do you think the dad was up to? Some plan to have his wife and daughters brutalized and grusomely murdered and his house burned down? Is that you’re idea of the perfect crime?

  6. Ray Ramos says:

    These two men are dogs and they should be put down like dog. These people, especially the daughters experienced horrendous fear and pain before they died. It’s more than I can say for these animals. When their day comes for executions, it will be quick and painless….something their victims did not get.

  7. Edmund Barry says:

    How quick we jump to the yes answer of execution which actually costs the tax payer more. Who are we to say who should die? The crime itself will fester in those who did it. You guys just don’t get it, do ya?????????

  8. sammy G says:

    have no fear you liberal democrat garbage, your new governor will eliminate death row in your state and everything will be alright.
    i think he has a better chance to be killed by a fellow inmate in general population. if i was the father and husband of those who were savagely murdered, i’d offer $1 million to the family of the inmate that gets both of them!

  9. RODIN says:


  10. OK says:

    @Michael H..I think Bill meant IF it was NY
    this is a rough group

  11. pat says:

    Personally this creature should not be put to death. I feel that an animal like this should be placed in a cage like the animal he is and the people should be allowed to lline up and throw dog biscuits, whtch him deficate in his pen and urinate on himself then live with it.

    1. yvette says:

      thank god we dont have people like you making decisions for this country . Dog Biscuits??? are you serious do you even know what he did . God forbid this never happens to anyone in your family , he deserves exactly what he got only they dont need to waste tax payers money and keep him on death row for 10 years before they decide to kill him, he deserves better than that , he needs to leave this earth now for what he did to that innocent family , an 11 yr old girl raped and burned give me a break.

  12. C.J. says:

    Kudos to the jurors.

  13. Mwamba Deogratius-Zambia says:

    What a hell they experienced on Earth before they died.may their sauls rest in extreme peace.Why could tou do that to your fellow human being.Not even execution is best for them but God Almight will pass the best judgement on those vicious animals.

  14. Bill says:

    unfortunately these monsters will be appealing for the next 50 years and die in prison. the punishment will never firt the crime. Death penalty in New York is in name only. what a disgrace

    1. badman says:

      Connecticut, Billy, not NY. Now go back to your 2nd grade lessons/

    2. Michael H. says:

      What part of “New Haven, Connecticut” did you not understand?

  15. No Excuse says:

    Anyone that would even think about burning kids alive should be skinned then dismembered in a public forum.

  16. MikeG says:

    This type of crime was unusually cruel. I have no compassion for people like that. The fact that drugs may have been involved is no excuse. Pity the punishment won’t fit the crime. How did the doctor survive though?

    1. yvette says:

      mike, he survived by the grace of god . It wasnt his time

  17. Jim says:

    @ S. Fruit, You should share his needle. This animal needs to be put down NOW !!!! It should not be allowed to languish in prison on our dime. My only hope is that it will be a victim of prison “justice” I hope they both burn in HELL for what they did !!!!!!

  18. Devenio says:

    Good riddance to bad rubbish!

  19. MRS I UNDERSTAND says:


  20. AngelEyes says:

    Sigmund Fruit: Your problem a psycho killing murderer yourself & you shouldve been the one burning tied in that bed.

  21. fatkat357 says:

    Speaking of “what took them so long”, doea anybody have an idea of how long this guy can expect to spend on death row before he’s actually executed?

  22. Ronnie says:

    Sigmund Fruit…I hope that is a joke. The man deserves to die tomorrow.

  23. MRS I UNDERSTAND says:

    Hey “FRUIT” head hopefully you’re facetiously speaking. ANYWAY, WELL IT’S ABOUT TIME. WHAT TOOK THEM SO LONG ?

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