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Cheshire, Connecticut, home invasion murders
Cheshire CT lg.PNG
The location of Cheshire within Connecticut
Location Chesire, Connecticut
Coordinates Template:Coord/display/inline
Date July 23, 2007
Attack type Home invasion, arson
Deaths 3
Injured 1
Perpetrators Steven Hayes
Suspected perpetrators Joshua Komisarjevsky

The Cheshire, Connecticut, home invasion murders occurred on July 23, 2007, when a mother and her two daughters were murdered during a home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut.[1] The Hartford Courant referred to the case as "possibly the most widely publicized crime in the state's history".[2] In 2010, Steven Hayes was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death. His alleged accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky, is scheduled to stand trial for the murders in February 2011.[3][4]

Home invasion

In the late afternoon of July 22, 2007, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and her daughter Michaela went to a local grocery store in Cheshire. They picked up staples for the evening meal which would be prepared by Michaela.[5] Unbeknownst to them, they had been targeted by Hayes and Komisarjevsky, who followed them home, and planned to later rob the family by home invasion.[6] Anticipating their deeds, Hayes and Komisarjevsky exchanged text messages that were later introduced in court. Hayes first messaged Komisarjevsky: "I'm chomping at the bit to get started. Need a margarita soon". Hayes then texts: "We still on?" Komisarjevsky replies "Yes". Hayes' next text asks, "Soon?", to which Komisarjevsky replied with "I'm putting the kid to bed hold your horses". Hayes then asserts "Dude, the horses want to get loose. LOL."[7][8]

According to Hayes' confession, the two men planned to rob the house and flee the scene with the family bound and unharmed. Hayes attributed the outcome of the spree to a change in their plan. Upon their early morning arrival, they found William Petit sleeping on the porch. With a bat Komisarjevsky had found in the yard, he bludgeoned William and then restrained him in the basement at gun point. The children and their mother were each bound and locked in their respective rooms. Hayes says he and Komisarjevsky were not satisfied with their haul, and that a bankbook was found which had an available balance. Hayes convinced Jennifer to withdraw $15,000 from her line of credit.[1][9] A gas station's video surveillance shows Hayes purchasing $10 worth of gasoline in two cans he had taken from the Petit home. After returning to the house, and unloading the gas, he took her to the bank. The prosecution later entered this as evidence of premeditation.

The bank surveillance cameras captured the transaction which shows Hawke-Petit in the morning of July 23 as she informed the teller of her situation. The teller then called 911 and reported the details to police. Hawke-Petit left the bank, was picked up by Hayes, who had escorted her there, and drove away. These actions were reported to the 911 dispatcher and recorded in real time. The teller stated that Mrs Petit had indicated the assailants were "being nice", and she believed they only wanted money. The niceness Hawke-Petit had perceived was an apparent facade to gain her confidence.

The Cheshire police response to the bank tellers' "urgent bid" began with assessing the situation and setting up a vehicle perimeter.[10] These preliminary measures employed by the police exhausted more than half an hour and provided the time used by the assailants to conclude their modified plan.[11]

During this time, Hayes and Komisarjevsky escalated the aggravated nature of their crimes. Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted the 11-year-old daughter, Michaela. Komisarjevsky, who had photographed the sexual assault of the youth on his cell phone,[12] then provoked Hayes to rape Hawke-Petit. While Hayes was raping Hawke-Petit on the floor of her living room, Komisarjevsky entered the room announcing that William Petit had escaped. Hayes then strangled Mrs. Petit, doused her lifeless body and parts of the house including the daughters' rooms with gasoline. The daughters, while tied to their beds, had both been doused with gasoline; each had her head covered with a pillowcase.[13] A fire was then ignited, and Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the scene. 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela both died from smoke inhalation.[6]

William Petit had been able to free himself, escape his confines, and call to a neighbor for help.[14] The neighbor indicated that he did not recognize Petit, due to the severity of Petit's injuries. In court testimony, William Petit stated that he felt a "jolt of adrenaline" coupled with a need to escape upon hearing one of the perpetrators state: "Don't worry, it's going to be all over in a couple of minutes." Petit then told the jury, "I thought, it's now or never because in my mind at that moment, I thought they were going to shoot all of us."[15]

Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the scene using the Petit family car. They were immediately spotted by police surveillance, pursued by police, apprehended, and arrested one block away.[10] The whole invasion lasted seven hours.

The scenario was revealed in an alleged confession by Hayes just hours after the killings. Detectives testified that Hayes exuded a strong stench of gasoline throughout the interrogation.[16] Each perpetrator was said to have blamed or implicated the other as the mastermind and driving force behind the spree.[17] There were even attempts to blame William Petit as an accomplice. A diary kept by Komisarjevsky was entered into evidence which also blamed William. This account called him a "coward" and claimed he could have stopped the murders had he wanted to.[11][18]


  • Jennifer Hawke-Petit, age 48, was a nurse and co-director of the health center at Cheshire Academy, a private boarding school. She met her husband, William Petit, in 1985 on a pediatric rotation at Children's Hospital when he was a third-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh and she was a new nurse.[9]
  • Hayley Petit, age 17, had just graduated from Miss Porter's School and was scheduled to attend Dartmouth College.[19]
  • Michaela Petit, age 11, attended the Chase Collegiate School before her death.[20]
  • William Petit, the sole survivor of the home invasion, is an endocrinologist in Cheshire. He survived when he escaped to a neighbor's house, despite his injuries.[3][21] He has not returned to his medical practice since the murders, stating his desire to be active in the foundations set up to honor the memory of his deceased family.[6]


Steven J. Hayes
File:Hayes, steven.jpg
Born Template:Birthdate and age
Homestead, Florida, U.S.
Conviction(s) Capital felony, murder, sexual assault
Penalty Six consecutive death sentences plus 106 years
Status Convicted on 16 counts; sentenced to death on six counts of capital felony
Children Son, Steven, Jr.; daughter, Alicia
Joshua A. Komisarjevsky
File:Komisarjevsky, joshua.jpg
Born Template:Birthdate and age
Status Incarcerated (pending trial)
Children Daughter (b. 2002)

Steven J. Hayes (born May 30, 1963, in Homestead, Florida)[21] was found guilty on 16 out of 17 counts related to the home invasion murders on October 5, 2010.[1] On November 8, 2010, the jury returned with a recommendation for Hayes to be executed by the State.[22] He was formally sentenced to death by Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue on December 2, 2010.[23]

Hayes, inmate #97425 of the Connecticut Department of Correction, has an extensive criminal history and was sentenced for his first offense at the age of 16.[21] He is incarcerated in the Northern Correctional Institution,[24] which houses the state's death row.[25] The method of execution currently employed by Connecticut is lethal injection,[26] and the state execution chamber is located in the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers.[27]

Joshua A. Komisarjevsky (born August 10, 1980) is alleged by prosecutors to have been Hayes' accomplice in the home invasion and murder of the Petit family. Joshua Komisarjevsky was born in 1980 and adopted by the son of famous playwright Theodore Komisarjevsky. According to court records, Joshua Komisarjevsky has a daughter who was born in 2002. Records show that Komisarjevsky was awarded sole custody of his then 5-year-old daughter about a month before police said he broke into the Petit home with Hayes.[28] Komisarjevsky, Connecticut inmate #299047, is currently incarcerated at the Walker Reception Center[29] in lieu of a $15 million bond.[30]

Both Hayes and Komisarjevsky had previous convictions and they met each other 18 months prior to the Cheshire home invasion, while at a halfway house where they also attended alcohol and drug abuse meetings together.[31] They began planning a home invasion shortly after meeting each other. The culmination of this otherwise chance encounter and the "plan" of these belligerents intersected with Jennifer Hawke-Petit's contribution to the family meal, when she and her daughter Michaela stopped to get groceries.[32]

Trial of Hayes

The jury in Hayes' case was composed of seven women and five men. In the guilt phase of the Hayes trial, the jury had deliberated for about four hours to arrive at its guilty verdicts.

The second phase of the trial began on October 18, 2010, in which the jurors who found Hayes guilty decided if Hayes should be executed or face life imprisonment.[1] The second day of jury deliberations started on November 6, 2010.[33][34] Hayes' attorney Thomas Ullman told the jury that a sentence of life in prison would be the harshest possible punishment for Hayes, because he is so tormented by his crimes and would be isolated in prison. "Life in prison without the possibility of release is the harshest penalty," Ullman said. "It is a fate worse than death. If you want to end his misery, put him to death," he added. "If you want him to suffer and carry that burden forever, the guilt, shame, and humiliation, sentence him to life without the possibility of release."[34]

On November 8, 2010, the jury returned with a recommendation for Steven Hayes to be executed by the State.[22] The jury recommended a death sentence on each of the six capital felony counts for which Hayes was convicted.[35] In the sentencing phase portion of the trial, the jury deliberated for about 17 hours over the course of 3½ days before arriving at its decision.

Hayes' defense attorney has stated: "Hayes smiled upon hearing the jury's recommendation of a death sentence." He then added: "He is thrilled. He's very happy with the verdict. That's what he's wanted all along."[36] This contradicts Hayes' earlier attempts to receive a life sentence in exchange for his admissions of guilt.[13]

The Connecticut state judicial branch, for the first time in state history, offered post-traumatic stress assistance to jurors who served in the triple-murder trial. Because the jurors were required to look at disturbing images and hear grisly testimony, during the two-month trial, their service necessitated these actions. A spokesperson confirmed that such post-traumatic assistance has never been done before by the state’s judicial branch.[37]

On December 2, 2010, after Hayes apologized for the pain and suffering he had caused to the Petit family and added that "Death for me will be a welcome relief and I hope it will bring some peace and comfort to those who I have hurt so much,"[38] presiding Judge Jon Blue formally imposed six death sentences, one for each of the capital charges Hayes was convicted of; Blue then added a sentence of 106 years for other crimes Hayes committed during the home invasion, including kidnapping, burglary, and assault,[39] before finishing with, "This is a terrible sentence, but is, in truth, a sentence you wrote for yourself in flames. May God have mercy on your soul."[40] The judge also gave Hayes an official execution date of May 27, 2011; however, it was acknowledged that this date was only a formality and, with appeals, his execution could be dragged out for decades.[41]

Capital punishment in Connecticut

Legal experts have expressed the Cheshire murders as a "poster child" for the debate on capital punishment. Hayes' own defense attorney alluded to the difficulty of producing a jury who would not be so outraged as to incline towards the death penalty. He acknowledged that even someone opposed to the death penalty in general would have difficulty not recommending it in this case. The notoriety of this crime extends well beyond Cheshire and even the state; indeed, it has national implications and genuine human interest.[citation needed]

In 2009, the Connecticut General Assembly sent legislation to abolish the state's death penalty to Governor M. Jodi Rell ostensibly to be signed into law. However, on June 5, 2009, Rell vetoed the bill instead and cited the Cheshire murders as an exemplary reason for doing so.[42][43] On November 8, 2010, Rell issued the following statement regarding the jury's recommendation of a sentence of death for Hayes:

The crimes that were committed on that brutal July night were so far out of the range of normal understanding that now, more than three years later, we still find it difficult to accept that they happened in one of our communities. I have long believed that there are certain crimes so heinous, so depraved, that society is best served by imposing the ultimate sanction on the criminal. Steven Hayes stands convicted of such crimes – and today the jury has recommended that he should be subjected to the death penalty. I agree.[44]


In 2007, John Carpenter, an employee of the Chase Collegiate School, ran the New York City Marathon, raising $8,554 for the "Miles for Michaela" campaign,[20] a scholarship benefit.[45]

In 2007, William Petit established the Michaela Rose Petit '14 Scholarship Fund of the Chase Collegiate School.[46] He also established the Hayley's Hope & Michaela’s Miracle MS Memorial Fund.[47]

On January 6, 2008, over 130,000 Luminaria candles were lit in front of thousands of homes across Cheshire in "Cheshire Lights of Hope", a fundraiser for multiple sclerosis and a tribute to the Petit family. Founded by local couple, Don and Jenifer Walsh, the event raised over $100,000 for Hayley's Hope and Michaela's Miracle Memorial funds.[48]

On October 5, 2010, the murder and its aftermath were featured on the newsmagazine show Dateline NBC, in a segment entitled "The Family on Sorghum Mill Drive".[49]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Mail Online : 'Things got out of control': Chilling confession of Connecticut massacre 'killer'
  2. Kauffman, Matthew. "Fair Trial Seen Likely For Other Cheshire Defendant." Hartford Courant. November 9, 2010. Retrieved on November 11, 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Steven Hayes found guilty of kidnap, rape and murder
  4. Jury Selection Date Set For Komisarjevsky
  5. [citation needed]
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 [citation needed]
  7. [citation needed]
  8. [citation needed]
  9. 9.0 9.1 Man gets death in triple-killing home invasion
  10. 10.0 10.1 Teller's urgent bid to save lives
  11. 11.0 11.1 [citation needed]
  12. 2nd Suspect Looms Large In Hayes Trial
  13. 13.0 13.1 [citation needed]
  14. Connecticut Man Could Face Death After Jury Convicts Him in Deadly Home Invasion –
  15. [citation needed]
  16. Petit Home Invasion: Hayes Verdict –
  17. [citation needed]
  18. [citation needed]
  19. Wool, Hillary. "Petit remembered as an athlete, role model." The Dartmouth. Friday July 27, 2007. Retrieved on November 9, 2010.
  20. 20.0 20.1 "School Head Runs 'Miles for Michaela'." Good Morning America. November 5, 2007. Retrieved on November 9, 2010.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Cowan, Alison Leigh and Christine Stuart. "Suspect in Connecticut Killings Left Long Trail of Lawbreaking." The New York Times. August 4, 2007. Retrieved on November 9, 2010.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Steven Hayes Sentenced to Death for the Deadly Conn. Home Invasion
  23. Conn. man condemned to die for fatal home invasion
  24. "HAYES,STEVEN JOSEPH." Connecticut Department of Correction. Retrieved on November 10, 2010.
  25. "Northern Correctional Institution." Connecticut Department of Correction. Retrieved on August 16, 2010.
  26. Death Penalty For Rape And Murder Of Family
  27. "Administration of Capital Punishment Directive Number 6.15." Connecticut Department of Correction. October 19, 2004. 1/9. Retrieved on August 16, 2010. "Execution Area. A series of four (4) contiguous rooms in the Osborn Correctional Institution Template:Sic the..."
  28. Profile: Joshua Komisarjevsky
  29. "KOMISARJEVSKY,JOSHUA A." Connecticut Department of Correction. Retrieved on November 10, 2010.
  30. [citation needed]
  31. Connecticut Home Invasion: Inside the Trial of Steven Hayes for the Petit Family Murders – Crimesider – CBS News
  32. [citation needed]
  33. Deliberations to resume Sunday in Connecticut home invasion case –
  34. 34.0 34.1 Jury Begins Day Two of Deliberations in Steven Hayes Trial – ABC News
  35. Conn. Man Condemned to Die for Fatal Home Invasion
  36. Killer of mom, 2 daughters gets death sentence
  37. Conn. judicial branch offers Hayes jurors post-trauma assistance
  38. Steven Hayes' Statement
  39. Aliyah Shahid (December 2, 2010). "Steven Hayes sentenced to death in Connecticut home invasion, murders of mom, daughters of Dr. Petit".
  40. Alaine Griffin (December 2, 2010). "Steven Hayes Sentenced to Death".,0,2840955.story.
  42. [citation needed]
  43. [citation needed]
  44. Death Penalty For Hayes For Petit Murders; Gov. Rell's Statement
  45. "FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MILES FOR MICHAELA." ABC News. November 2, 2007. Retrieved on November 9, 2010.
  46. "Endowed Funds at Chase Collegiate School." Chase Collegiate School. Retrieved on November 9, 2010.
  47. "Hayley's Hope and Michaela's Miracle MS Memorial Fund." National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Retrieved on November 9, 2010.
  48. Connecticut Local News, US & World, Business, Entertainment | NBC Connecticut
  49. Inside Dateline – Oct. 8: 'The Mystery of Horseshoe Drive' and revisiting 'The Family on Sorghum Mill Drive'

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