Steven Hayes Sentenced to death in Hawke-Petit Murder

After several hours of discussion, a jury decided that Steven Hayes deserved the death penalty for the brutal murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley (17) and Michaela (11).

Hayes, aged 47, looked relieved by the verdict. His lawyer said this is the outcome he had been hoping for (ABC). Hayes and accomplice Joshua Komisarjevsky targeted the family for a home invasion after deciding they must be wealthy. Mother and wife Jennifer was taken to a bank where she was forced to retrieve $15,000. Husband and father Dr. William Petit was badly beaten and tied-up in their basement, but escaped to get help from neighbors. By the time they returned, his home was in flames (ABC).

Jennifer was raped and strangled first. Michaela suffered a humiliating sexual assault before both she and her sister were doused in gasoline. They died of smoke inhalation (L.A. Times)

During the case, jurors heard a letter from Hayes’s younger brother which stated the older sibling tortured him, burning him on the stove and putting a gun to his head.

The diaries of Komisarjevsky, aged 30, were also read out during proceedings. He wrote of his regret over the deaths of Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela and wishing he could obtain their forgiveness (ABC). He regretted losing control of his anger, discovering that ‘he enjoyed’ committing such obscene violence.

Dr. Petit commented that this was a just verdict (L.A. Times), but also noted that there was no such thing as ‘closure’; there is always ‘a hole’, at first with ‘jagged edges’, then the edges ‘smooth out a little bit’ (ABC).

Governor M. Jodi Rell agreed with the death sentence saying that ‘certain crimes are so heinous, so depraved that society is best served by imposing the ultimate sanction on the criminal.’

Reports suggest that the jurors went through an ordeal in having to hear the gruesome and painful details leading to their decision. They were spotted ‘comforting each other’ after the ruling and dismissed by Judge Jon Blue with his ‘profound thanks’ (ABC).

Komisarjevsky faces trial next year and could also face the death penalty.

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