NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The doctor whose wife and two daughters were killed in the Cheshire home invasion told jurors Tuesday that he was attacked with a baseball bat in the middle of the night and described how he fell, crawled and rolled in his frantic escape to a neighbor’s house.
It’s the second time Dr. William Petit has had to talk a jury through the 2007 ordeal that left his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their two daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, dead.
Petit testified Tuesday in New Haven Superior Court in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, a 31-year-old ex-con who faces a possible death sentence if convicted.
The physician also testified at the trial of Komisarjevsky’s co-defendant, Steven Hayes, who was convicted and sentenced to death last year.
Petit was not cross-examined in the first trial but faced 20 minutes of questioning from the defense on Tuesday.
He told the jury that he awoke to a warm liquid running down his face and initially wasn’t sure if it was a dream. He says he saw two people, one of whom said “if he moves put a bullet in him.”
Petit, who had blood in one of his eyes, said he was tied up and later moved to the basement, saying he held onto the rails with his fingertips so he didn’t fall. He was tied to a pole.
He said at one point that he heard loud thumping sounds on the floor and his wife moaning. Then he said he heard a voice say, “Don’t worry everything will be over in a couple of minutes.”
“It sounded much more serious, much more sinister,” Petit said of the voice.
Petit said he had struggled for hours to free himself, but the ties got tighter. “I think there were times I would fade a bit and slump against the pole,” he said.
As he slumped, Petit said his weight apparently loosened the ropes and he was able to free himself.
Petit said he wasn’t sure of the intentions of the men. He noted that there were two of them, that one of the men had a gun and that his feet were bound, so fighting back wasn’t an option.
“I didn’t think it would be a good match,” he said.
Petit said he hopped up some stairs to a basement door. He said he fell down, crawled and rolled across a lawn to a neighbor’s house.
Petit said it felt like his heart was going to explode out of his chest.
Authorities say Komisarjevsky and Hayes, two paroled burglars, broke into the family’s home in July 2007 in a robbery attempt.
Hayes forced Hawke-Petit to withdraw money from a bank before he raped and strangled her in the family’s home. The girls, who had pillowcases placed over their heads, died of smoke inhalation after the house was doused with gasoline and set on fire.
Both men have blamed each other for escalating the crime. Prosecutors say they’re both responsible.
Komisarjesky’s attorney, Jeremiah Donovan, cross-examined Petit for about 20 minutes. Donovan, who had sought unsuccessfully to keep Petit off the witness stand, asked Petit how much he really remembered and how much he was trying to put together what happened based on what he heard from other witnesses and evidence he has since seen.
“I believe what I testified is the best of my own recollection,” Petit said.
Donovan pressed Petit on some pieces of his testimony and how they compared with what he had told police.
The attorney asked, for example, why Petit didn’t mention to the jury that he had thought he was being videotaped based on a bag he saw in the basement, as he told police. Donovan noted that the bag was not in photos Petit has since seen. Petit said he was not asked about the bag.
Donovan also questioned why Petit testified that he heard his wife call into his office the day of the crime to say he would not be in work, but made no mention of that to police.
“Maybe your mind is playing tricks on you,” Donovan said.
Petit stood by his testimony.
Petit said he did not see who poured the gas and set the house on fire. He said he heard one voice during the ordeal, but couldn’t make out whose it was.
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