NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Connecticut jury condemned a man to death Friday for killing a woman and her two daughters during a night of terror inside their Cheshire home, rejecting defense attorneys’ request to spare his life in light of the abuse he suffered as a boy.

The jury deliberated over the span of five days before returning the verdict against Joshua Komisarjevsky, who will join his accomplice Steven Hayes on Connecticut’s death row. Komisarjevsky had no visible reaction.

The two paroled burglars tormented a family of four in the New Haven suburb before killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and leaving her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, to die in a fire.

The only survivor, Dr. William Petit, was beaten with a baseball bat and tied up but managed to escape. He appeared calm as the verdict was pronounced, his eyes blinking rapidly and his hand clenched in a fist on the seat in front of him. He later bowed his head and closed his eyes.

The sentencing verdict concluded two lengthy trials that subjected jurors to grim evidence including charred beds, rope used to tie up the family and autopsy photos. The crime in the affluent suburb in 2007 drew comparisons to the one described in Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” led to the defeat of a bill to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut and sparked tougher state laws for repeat offenders and home invasions.

In closing arguments, a prosecutor said the two men created “the ultimate house of horrors” by inflicting extreme psychological and physical pain on the victims that amounted to torture.

“It was shockingly brutal. It was evil. It was vicious,” prosecutor Gary Nicholson said.

Before the verdict was announced, defense attorney Walter Bansley said his client was prepared for a death sentence.

“He’s very accepting,” Bansley said. “He’s been realistic from the beginning and he understood that public sentiment is very much against him.”

Komisarjevsky will join 10 other men on Connecticut’s death row. The state has executed only one man since 1960, and the 31-year-old Komisarjevsky will likely spend years, if not decades, in prison.

The same jury that convicted Komisarjevsky heard 20 days of testimony from defense witnesses including psychologists, his parents and his sister. In arguing for a life sentence, his lawyers said his ultra-religious family never got Komisarjevsky proper psychological help after he was repeatedly sexually abused as a child by his foster brother.

“The only option he ever had was to go through life damaged,” Bansley said in his closing argument.

Hayes was convicted last year of raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and killing the girls. The girls died of smoke inhalation after they were tied to their beds and doused in gasoline before the house was set ablaze. Komisarjevsky was convicted Oct. 13 of the killings and of sexually assaulting Michaela.

Komisarjevsky admitted in an audiotaped confession played for the jury that he spotted Hawke-Petit and 11-year-old Michaela at a supermarket and followed them home. After putting his daughter to bed, he and Hayes returned to the Petit house in the middle of the night to rob it.

In the morning, Hayes brought Hawke-Petit to a bank to withdraw money, promising her no one would be hurt if she complied. Komisarjevsky took cellphone pictures of Michaela while she and Hayes were out.

The men, who blamed each other for escalating the crime, were caught fleeing in the family’s car.

Komisarjevsky did not testify during his trial but objected unsuccessfully to an effort by his attorneys to play a videotaped interview of his 9-year-old daughter. Speaking outside the presence of the jury, he said he didn’t want his daughter to feel compelled to help “one of the most hated people in America.”

The defense focused heavily on the family’s evangelical Christian religion and on Komisarjevsky’s mental health. The family’s church believed that the end of the world was near and that outsiders were potential agents of the devil, according to testimony.

Komisarjevsky told a defense psychologist that he was repeatedly sexually abused by his foster brother from ages 4 to 6 and burned with a cigarette. He also said he was raped as a teenager by someone he trusted.

Prosecutors said those claims emerged years later when he faced prison time for 19 nighttime residential burglaries committed a decade ago.

Komisarjevsky was hospitalized when he was 15 after setting a vacant gas station on fire. He was having homicidal thoughts about his father and had upside-down crosses on his arms and a marking declaring Jesus is dead, according to a hospital evaluation. The hospital wanted to put him on Prozac and other treatment, but his parents were uncomfortable with medication and sent him to a religion-based treatment program in Vermont, where he claimed to hear voices telling him to kill himself.

Komisarjevsky also claimed as a teenager to have seen a demon with glowing eyes in his room. His mother called church leaders to intervene and pray to remove the demon.

Komisarjevsky’s sister testified that he sexually abused her for years.

He suffered from a mood disorder since he was about 9 that included bouts of profound depression, according to a defense psychiatrist.

Prosecutors emphasized that Komisarjevsky’s parents provided him a good home, mentors, vacations, values and mechanical skills he would later use in the construction trade. They said Komisarjevsky’s rape claims emerged years later when he faced prison time for 19 nighttime residential burglaries he committed a decade ago.

Jurors were flooded with photos of Komisarjevsky as a baby, young boy and with his daughter. Prosecutors objected and at one point Judge Jon Blue suggested it was “overkill.”

The defense tried to show that Komisarjevsky has redeeming qualities, noting he won custody of his daughter when he was briefly out of prison, did well at a construction job and was known to volunteer to help others as a teen who toured with a Christian singing group.

His family and other witnesses described him as remorseful and in shock over his role in the crime. Prosecutors tried to raise doubts about his remorse, noting he blamed Petit, the only survivor, for not doing more to help his family even though Komisarjevsky had beaten him with a bat and tied him up.

Do you think he deserved the death penalty? Sound off in the comments section below!

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 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 (34)
  1. gotacomment says:

    Okay, so the parents didn’t deal witih his problems appropriately. There was nothing to prevent him from seeking counseling on his own once he became an adult. Since he wanted the $15K to visit a girlfriend whose family had moved to Colorado (i think), among other reasons, to get her away from him, his thoughts of his daughter don’t really ring true. In any event, a devoted father wouldn’t commit such outrages agains another man’s wife and children. Unfortunately, he’ll die of old age before he ever gets near a needle


    Turn him into Soylent Green

    1. Special Gift for the needy says:

      Or, maybe they should just harvest all his organs, Chrismas is comming…. oh what fun…..

      1. harvest all his organs says:

        Hey, I could use the liver….burp….

  3. Dan Goodwith says:

    Kill him, revive him,.. kill him a few more times.

  4. Meme Meyagi says:

    what is done about 7 million mooslime terrorists living in usa?

  5. liz says:


  6. steve says:

    he should be tortured four times a day!!!!!

  7. JAY says:

    How in a world killing will solve a problem of another killing. He may be killed these people for somereason. He must be crazy. But more civilize people like us how we do the same to him. He killed that whole family. But by killing him will that heel the wounds of the family of the victims. It is a human life. Human life is so precious to vaste like this. no matter what wrong he did there will be a day he will pay for it. we humans cannot decide that. His Bad Karma will activate one day. HUMANS SHOULD NOT KILL HUMANS FOR NO REASON. HE SHOULD BE LIFE IN PRISON. KILLING HIM IS NOT APPROVE BY ANY HUMAN WITH A GOOD HEART AND CLEAR MIND. PEOPLE THINK ABOUT YOUR LIFE. AND TREAT THE SAME WAY TO THE OTHERS LIFE. LIFE IS SO PRECISOUS TO WASTE LIKE THIS. PLEASE SPARE HIS LIFE AND LET HIM LIVE IN PRISON CELL.

    1. silva says:

      II agree with you. No one have a right to take another life. it can be human or anything else. Also life is very valuable. no way to measure it. People agree with his death panelty..think what would you do if this is your brother??? do you agree to kill him. NO..NO..NO. It is that simple. DO NOT KILL ANY LIVING BEING.

    2. Dee says:

      He did kill someone for no reason, and NOW he will be killed for GOOD reason!

  8. thor's hammer says:

    as it should be. thanks to the jury for their due diligence. now is the time to put things right for the victims. justice has been served. if there can be a statute of limitations for the amount of time charges can be filed, then there should be a cap for how long appeals can run. how much longer must dr. petit suffer through appeals and appeals. note to aclu – sit down & shut up. too many tears shed, 3 angels in heaven far too early.

    1. e says:

      I disagree, I believe in capital punishment especially when young people are the victim. Why should this person enjoy food and sleep and recreation. Its a horrible crime and he should have to pay a horrible price.

  9. Bman says:



  10. Steve says:

    Bring back the death penalty in New York!!!!! These two men are the biggest pieces of garbage and they deserve to die. I hope Connecticut can start the process quickly and take these inhuman beings off the face of earth. May they rest in hell!!!

  11. Kevin says:

    evangelical Christian Parents who tortured him and rode him as a child, then refused him medical treatment as. Teen instead sending him to a religious based treatment.

    This kid never had a chance at being sane.

  12. Jerry says:

    Killing him is the least we can do. Many people get abused, suffer through life, get objected to injustice, etc, that is by far not even a slight reason to have any reduction of his sentence, he should be killed multiple times…

  13. Hunting Season says:

    Instead of hunting Black Bear in Jersey, why not “release the hounds”, and mae a sport hunt out of this dude, the winner gets a free spot on American Idol .

    1. Mary says:

      And their kids get raped and burned with cigarettes like he did. I bet you’d get off on that too.

      1. Call off the Hunt, it is inhuman says:

        I’ll tell you what Mary, Why don’t we spare the hunt and you can adapt the poor soul, so you can take him home ant tuck him in bed at night, right next to your pet ape.

  14. Sydney says:

    Yes, well deserved death penalty in such cases of absolute guilt. Tax payers should not waste money housing and feeding such killers in jails. Just wish the system worked faster, for it has been almost four years since the criime.

  15. Allison says:

    Tie them to a bed and set the room on fire. Sorry, and eye for an eye.

  16. Marsh Mallo Time says:

    Burn the s**mbag ALIVE, set an example for others like him.

  17. Carroll says:

    Kudos to the jury for their decision. Do it soon – no appeals, no stays of execution, no ACLU coming to the rescue. The sooner this subhuman piece of slime is gotten rid of, the better.

  18. Steve says:

    Torch him like he torched his victims. Burn in Hell you piece of garbage!

  19. tommy ryan says:

    kill em now … why wait and let em live to see another day …

  20. karlson says:

    Biblical Justice.

  21. Bubba says:

    Nothing but the death penalty for these turd holes!

  22. Danny says:

    Here’s a capital idea! Put the both of them in a cage and have them fight til death. The winner gets life.

    1. Brooklyn McDirtyshoes says:

      Unusual? Sure. Cruel? Probably not. I like it!

      1. Don King says:

        I’ll televise it too!

  23. Jean says:

    I am usually not in favor of the death penalty but in this case, I believe it is warranted. I just don’t know what’s taking so long! i am so sick and tired of people trying to excuse their behavior by blaming their dysfuntional family, abusive childhood, my mother didn’t hug me enough, I got a hangnail, etc They’re just trying to absolve themselves of responsibility. I know plenty of people from violent households who didn’t become psycopathic killers. You’re guilty and it’s your own fault. You want absolution, go see a priest

    1. Marie says:

      FINALLY. Find peace Dr. Petit.

    2. Kevin says:

      Obviously hs parents didn’t burn him with enough cigarettes and roe him often enough.

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