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Man condemned to death in Connecticut home invasion
NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (AP) — A jury condemned a U.S. man to death Friday for raping and strangling a woman and killing her two daughters in an attack that led to the defeat of a bill to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut and was compared to Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.”
Joshua Komisarjevsky will join his accomplice Steven Hayes on Connecticut’s death row. The jury rejected defense attorneys’ request to spare his life in light of the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy.
The two paroled burglars tormented a family of four before killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and leaving her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, to die. The girls died of smoke inhalation after they were tied to their beds and doused in gasoline before the house was set ablaze.
In closing arguments, a prosecutor said the two men created “the ultimate house of horrors” by inflicting extreme psychological and physical pain.
“It was shockingly brutal. It was evil. It was vicious,” prosecutor Gary Nicholson said.
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.
The crime in the affluent suburb in 2007 led to tougher state laws for repeat offenders and home invasions.
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.”
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.
Komisarjevsky admitted in an audiotaped confession played for the jury that he spotted Hawke-Petit and 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.
The men blamed each other for escalating the crime.
By Brahma Chellaney
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