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The Daily Wildcat

 

“Man sentenced to death for murder, assault”

Johanna Chapman, left, hugs her brother, Dr. William Petit, as their family gives a statement to the media outside New Haven Superior Court Monday, November 8, 2010, after jurors found Steven Hayes eligible for the death penalty. (Bettina Hansen/Hartford Courant/MCT)
BETTINA HANSEN
Johanna Chapman, left, hugs her brother, Dr. William Petit, as their family gives a statement to the media outside New Haven Superior Court Monday, November 8, 2010, after jurors found Steven Hayes eligible for the death penalty. (Bettina Hansen/Hartford Courant/MCT)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Superior Court jury Monday sentenced Steven Hayes to death for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley and Michaela, at their Cheshire, Conn., home in July 2007.

Outside the courthouse after the verdict, Hawke-Petit’s father, the Rev. Richard Hawke, said, “”There are some people who do not deserve to live in God’s world.””

Dr. William Petit Jr., who survived the brutal attack on his family, said, “”This is a verdict for justice.”” But, he said, as the verdict was read, “”I was really thinking of the tremendous loss … I was sad for the loss we have all suffered …

“”Probably many of you have kids,”” Petit said, pausing to choke back tears. His voice breaking, he said, “”Michaela was an 11-year-old little girl. She was tortured and killed in her own bedroom, surrounded by her stuffed animals.””

Petit also talked about his daughter Hayley’s bright future and her strength and the many children that his wife, Jennifer, helped.

Petit thanked the jury for doing its job, and said, “”I appreciate the fact that there was seven women on the jury. This was a case of sexual predation … I liked to see women stand up for other women.””

Hawke-Petit was raped during the attack, and Michaela was sexually assaulted, according to testimony.

“”Crimes like this have to be pursued and prosecuted vigorously,”” he said. “”The easy way out is to plead things out.”” He described how New Haven state’s attorney Michael Dearington came to his house and said, “”If any case deserves the death penalty, it’s this one. If I don’t go for it, there’s no reason to have it on the books.””

Petit said he agreed. “”In a civilized society, people need to be responsible for their actions,”” he said.

He criticized those who accused the media and family members of creating an atmosphere of blood lust. “”That is the kettle calling the pot black,”” he said.

Asked if he thought there would be closure now, Petit said, “”There’s never closure. There’s a hole … with jagged edges … that may smooth out with time, but the hole in your heart and the hole in your soul”” remains.

Inside the courtroom, Hayes looked straight ahead — as he has throughout the entire trial — as the jury of seven women and five men, after deliberating for 17 hours, sentenced Hayes to death on all six possible death-penalty counts. He will be formally sentenced Dec. 2.

Once the sentencing date was set, Judge Jon C. Blue looked over at Hayes.

“”The defendant may be taken down,”” Blue said.

New Haven public defender Thomas J. Ullmann shook Hayes’ hand and patted his arm before a judicial marshal led him out of the room.

“”He’s thrilled,”” Ullmann said of Hayes. “”He’s very happy with the verdict,”” Ullmann said to reporters outside the courthouse.

Ullmann declined to say why he thought Hayes was thrilled and he refused to discuss what he talked about with Hayes. But he said he saw Hayes smile as the verdict was read.

“”That’s what he wanted,”” he said, adding that Hayes wanted to commit “”suicide by state”” with an execution.

“”He’s tried to kill himself before,”” Ullmann said. “”The jury gave him what he wants.””

As the verdicts were read in the solemn courtroom, Petit became emotional, his eyes filling with tears as the victim’s advocate grabbed his hand. At one point, upon hearing the names of his wife and daughters, Petit closed his eyes.

Nearby, Petit’s mother, his sister and several other relatives also cried, some dropping their heads as the court clerk read through the verdicts. There was no elation on that side of the gallery.

Several jurors also cried and comforted one another with touches on hands or arms. Some looked over at the Petit family as the verdicts were read.

Dearington, in a nod to the upcoming trial of the second defendant in the case, Joshua Komisarjevsky, he said: “”It’s not over yet.””

Hayes, 47, of Winsted, Conn., was convicted Oct. 5 of breaking into the Petit home, beating Petit, tying up and torturing the family as Hayes and another man ransacked the home for cash and valuables and tortured the family for seven hours. Testimony during Hayes’ trial showed that at one point in the break-in, Hayes forced Hawke-Petit to go to the bank to withdraw money. During that time, according to testimony, Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted Michaela Petit, 11.

When Hawke-Petit and Hayes returned from the bank, Hayes raped and strangled Hawke-Petit. The house was doused with gasoline and set on fire as the intruders fled, testimony showed. Hayley, 17, and Michaela died of smoke inhalation.

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