Conn. home invasion defendant read violent books

AP News
Posted: Mar 14, 2011 11:35 AM
Conn. home invasion defendant read violent books

A man facing trial for a home invasion in which a mother was strangled and her two daughters were killed in a fire says his co-defendant read books in prison before the crime depicting violent murders and the burning of victims.

Attorneys for Joshua Komisarjevsky filed court papers Friday saying he didn't intend for the victims to die and blaming Steven Hayes for the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters inside their Cheshire home in 2007. Hayes, who has blamed Komisarjevsky, was sentenced to death last year. Jury selection starts Wednesday for Komisarjevsky.

Prosecutors say both men were equally responsible for the crimes.

Komisarjevky's attorneys say Hayes checked out 24 fictional books in prison the year before the home invasion. Komisarjevsky's attorneys say the majority of the books, according to the state Department of Correction, "pertain to very violent murders to include strangulation, rape, arson, serial killing, satanic torture and the burning of victims. Most victims are women."

Hayes was convicted of raping and strangling Hawke-Petit. The girls died of smoke inhalation after they were tied to their beds and the house was set on fire.

The court papers for the first time disclosed which books Hayes had checked out. Hayes' attorneys asked a judge before his trial to bar evidence of books he read in prison, but prosecutors never raised the issue.

The books include 'Split Second" by David Baldacci, "Battle Born" by Dale Brown, "Lullaby" by Diane Guest, "Manhattan Nocturne" by Colin Harrison, "The River Sorrow" by Craig Holden, "Dead Air" by Rochelle Krich, "Beyond Recognition" by Ridley Pearson, "Unholy Fire" by Whitley Strieber and "Harm's Way" by Steven White.

Prison officials said two pages were missing from one book describing "psychological terror and demonic possession" and that the preceding pages describe a woman being strangled in detail. Prison officials could not find seven books Hayes had checked out, according to Komisarjevsky's attorneys.

Brian Garnett, spokesman for the Department of Correction, declined to comment, citing a gag order in the case.

Prison officials began reviewing the library policy last year after an Associated Press investigation that found inmates had unrestricted access to works depicting graphic violence. Garnett said Monday a review of how other states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons handle the issue is continuing.

Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, who has raised concerns about the policy and introduced a bill directing prison officials to develop a policy based on federal guidelines, said he was "outraged" that inmates could have access to such books.

"It's a scary proposition," Kissel said.

Hayes' attorney, public defender Tom Ullmann, declined to comment.