Conn. home invasion convict threatened guard

AP News
Posted: Oct 25, 2010 5:44 PM
Conn. home invasion convict threatened guard

A man convicted of killing a woman and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion threatened to kill a correction officer in March, saying he had nothing to lose, a former prison official testified Monday.

Frederick Levesque testified before a New Haven jury considering punishment for Steven Hayes. Hayes, who could get the death penalty for the home invasion, pleaded guilty to threatening the officer and was punished by 20 days' loss of recreation and visitor rights.

Levesque, citing a disciplinary report, said Hayes, 47, made the threat to the officer's supervisor, saying "that was his last warning."

Prosecutors brought up the threat as they push for the death penalty, trying to show the jury that Hayes could pose a threat to prison officers and other inmates if he gets life in prison. Hayes could keep privileges such as air conditioning, television and education programs if he gets a life sentence and might be able to interact with some other prisoners but probably wouldn't be placed in the general prison population, said Levesque, who's retired.

Hayes was convicted early this month of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, at their home in Cheshire, a wealthy New Haven suburb. Hayes and co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky, who faces trial next year, were paroled burglars at the time of the invasion.

Prosecutors brought up another incident in 1986 in which Hayes, who has spent most of his adult life behind bars for burglaries, was accused of threatening a prison officer, saying, "I'm going to rip your heart out." He was acquitted of some charges in that incident but found guilty of creating a disturbance, Levesque testified.

Hayes's attorneys have tried to show their client repeatedly tried to kill himself and was remorseful, while portraying Komisarjevsky as the mastermind of the attacks.

Prosecutors said Hayes and Komisarjevsky broke into the family's house, beat the girls' father with a baseball bat and forced their mother to withdraw money from a bank before she was sexually assaulted and killed. The girls were tied to their beds, with pillowcases over their heads, before they were killed by a gas-fueled fire, authorities said. The girls' father survived.

The defendants have tried to blame each other for escalating the crime. They had offered to plead guilty in exchange for life sentences, but prosecutors pushed for death penalty trials, defense attorneys have said.

Retired state prisons commissioner Theresa Lantz testified earlier that Hayes was kept on 24-hour observation for an extended period after his latest arrest because of concerns he could harm himself while Komisarjevsky was not. Both men were placed in isolation cells to make sure other prisoners did not harm them, she said.

A psychiatrist testified Monday that Hayes told him he wanted the state to kill him.

Dr. Justin Schechter, who evaluated Hayes twice in 2008, said Hayes told him he was very depressed and said, "I would rather that they kill me."

Schechter said he didn't assess if Hayes really did hope to be executed but saw his comment as an indication of his depression.

Another psychiatrist testified last week that Hayes also told him he hoped to be executed and planned to "look like a monster" by showing no remorse so that the jury would give him a death sentence.

Prosecutors say the two men were equally responsible for the crime and have cast doubt on Hayes' claims of remorse and wanting a death sentence. They cited a prison document last week indicating Hayes said he would be fine with a life sentence.

Lantz said the crime was so notorious it sparked a review of the criminal justice system and led to a temporary suspension of paroles.

"This particular crime was obviously horrific," Lantz said. "It created a spotlight on the system."