Connecticut killer sentenced to die for "unimaginable horror"

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut Fri Jan 27, 2012 3:12pm EST

Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela Petit, 11, in a combination image. REUTERS/Courtesy of Petit Family Foundation

Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela Petit, 11, in a combination image.

Credit: Reuters/Courtesy of Petit Family Foundation

Related Topics

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (Reuters) - A judge ordered Joshua Komisarjevsky to be executed this summer for the 2007 murders of a mother and her two daughters during a brutal home invasion in Connecticut, saying on Friday that he committed a crime of "unimaginable horror."

Judge Jon Blue told Komisarjevsky, 31, that he alone was to blame for his new address on death row after the triple murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela Petit, 11, and beating of husband and father Dr. William Petit Jr.

"This is a terrible sentence but one you have written for yourself," Blue told Komisarjevsky in New Haven Superior Court.

"Your crime was one of unimaginable horror and sadness," the judge said. "Your fate is now in the hands of others. May God have mercy on your soul."

He set an execution date of July 20 pending an appeal, which could drag out the matter for years.

Before the judge spoke, Komisarjevsky, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, denied he killed or raped anyone and blamed "the hurt I caused" on being a victim himself of sex abuse as a child, drug addiction, and his accomplice Steven Hayes, 48, already sentenced to death row.

Hawke-Petit was strangled and the girls died of smoke inhalation after the home was set afire. Hawke-Petit was raped and Michaela Petit was sexually assaulted.

Dr. Petit, who had been tied up and beaten unconscious, escaped as the home went up in flames.

"I did not rape, not that that excuses what I did do," Komisarjevsky told the judge in a monotone voice.

"I did not strangle Mrs. Petit. I did not pour the gas or light that fire. I did not want them to die. My personal feelings about their deaths are just that, personal. When will the killing end?"

He told the judge, "The clock is now ticking and I owe a debt I cannot repay."

The killer's portrayal of innocence was in stark contrast to the "evil" described by the sole survivor of the attack, Dr. Petit, who told the court how Komisarjevsky's actions had destroyed his family.

"July 23, 2007, was my own personal holocaust," Petit said. "Evil does live among us."

He said he missed his late night chats with his wife and their partnership raising their daughters, who he will never walk down the wedding aisle and who will never bear the grandchildren he would have loved to have known.

Outside the courthouse, Petit's father spoke of the slow emotional recovery of his son, who is now engaged to be married.

"He's starting to come back a little bit now to what he was. He never will come all the way back," William Petit Sr. told reporters after the sentencing.

"To know Bill, the brilliant young doctor that he was, the happy young man, the good father, brother, cousin, uncle, all of those things, and son, and then to see him after this is just heartbreaking."

Christopher Komisarjevsky, the killer's uncle, said outside court that he had "no doubt" his nephew committed the crimes he is sentenced to die for.

He likened the violence to "an earthquake where the Petit and the Hawke families are at the epicenter. At that center point of impact, the horror and sadness are beyond comprehension and beyond description."

A jury convicted Komisarjevsky last fall, then said he deserved the death penalty as his punishment.

Komisarjevsky targeted Hawke-Petit and her younger daughter at a grocery store and later went with Hayes to their home as the family slept, police said he confessed to investigators. He bashed Petit with a baseball bat, tied him up and ransacked the home.

The two men then tied the girls to their beds and concocted a plan to take Hawke-Petit to the bank to withdraw $15,000.

Despite his last-minute denial at the sentencing, Komisarjevsky admitted to investigators he molested Michaela while her mother was at the bank, according to police.

With the police circling the home, Hayes raped and strangled Hawke-Petit and the two men doused the home with gasoline.

Police caught Komisarjevsky and Hayes as they tried to flee.

Komisarjevsky's sentencing brought to 11 the number of men on the Connecticut's death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Connecticut has executed only one person, in 2005, since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976, the center said.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Barbara Goldberg and Paul Thomasch)

FILED UNDER: