A man convicted of killing a woman and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion told a psychiatrist he strangled and then raped the woman in a rage triggered after his co-defendant told him he had killed the girls.
But the psychiatrist, who was called by the defense, acknowledged Steven Hayes' account was at odds with what he told police immediately after the crime.
Hayes' attorneys are trying to persuade a jury to spare him the death penalty by arguing Hayes was a follower and Joshua Komisarjevky, who awaits trial, was the mastermind who escalated the violence. The psychiatrist, Dr. Eric Goldsmith, concluded Hayes was in an extreme emotional state at the time of the crime that diminished his ability to control his conduct, but prosecutors said that argument was undermined if the supposed trigger of his rage was a lie.
The New Haven jury convicted Hayes earlier this month of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit, in their Cheshire home.
Prosecutors say both men are equally responsible.
Goldsmith said Hayes told him he was concerned someone could get hurt and that Komisarjevsky even broke into a couple of houses to show Hayes they could do it without being caught.
The psychiatrist said Hayes told him he was "in a state of shock" when Komisarjevsky calmly beat Dr. William Petit bloody with a baseball bat after they broke into the Petit house.
Goldsmith said Hayes told him he took Hawke-Petit to a bank, forcing her to withdraw money while her family remained hostages at home.
When they returned, Hayes said, Komisarjevsky falsely told him William Petit had died. Hayes said Komisarjevsky also told him he had left his DNA on one of the girls, and he had killed them.
The psychiatrist said Hayes said he felt betrayed and became enraged by what Komisarjevsky had told him and then strangled and raped Hawke-Petit. He also said he felt deceived that Hawke-Petit had called police.
But prosecutor Michael Dearington brought up Hayes' statement to police in which he said he saw one of the girls in different clothing after he returned from the bank, so he knew she was alive.
Goldsmith acknowledged the account to police contradicted what Hayes told him. But he said he believed that what Hayes told police immediately after the crime was not accurate and that over time his mind cleared and he was able to tell the psychiatrist what was going on in his mind at the time.
Hayes said Komisarjevsky told him "fire destroys everything," including DNA evidence, but Hayes had expected they would take the family outside before torching the house, according to Goldsmith.
"He said, 'It is like I am transported from the earth to the moon. I'm just following Josh's lead,'" Goldsmith testified of Hayes' account.
Goldsmith said Hayes told him he poured gasoline and Komisarjevsky lit the match. Prosecutors say the girls, who were tied up, died of smoke inhalation. Their father, tied up in the basement, managed to crawl to a neighbor's house before the fire.
The defense has presented witnesses who described the 47-year-old Hayes' guilt and remorse, including several suicide attempts after the home invasion. They have said he tried to overcome a childhood of abuse that led to drug addiction and burglaries for which he served 25 years in prison.
Goldsmith read from a suicide note Hayes wrote, saying, "Although I am not the monster Josh is, I am one nonetheless," adding, "I always had the ability to change, but cowards don't change, they become me." He said the note was signed with the word "suicide" spelled backward.
But Hayes' brother called him an abusive, calculating "monster" and says "there is enough to hang him" in a letter he sent to police shortly after the crime that prosecutors brought up Thursday. It says Steven Hayes once put a gun to his brother's head and another time burned his hand on a stove.
Goldsmith testified Wednesday that Hayes told him the brothers were abused by their father, who made them fight over who would get a beating. But Matthew Hayes said his brother always scapegoated him.