Connecticut home invasion survivor says was bound in basement

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 20, 2011 3:53 PM
Connecticut home invasion survivor says was bound in basement

By Mary Ellen Godin

NEW HAVEN, Conn (Reuters) - A Connecticut doctor who survived a home invasion that killed his wife and two daughters testified on Tuesday that he had been bound and tied in his basement and did not know what was happening to his family upstairs.

Dr. William Petit, who testified at the murder trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, was badly beaten in the 2007 attack in which his wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit and daughters Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17, died at their home in Cheshire, Connecticut.

Komisarjevsky is the second man charged in the killings, and his lawyers have tried to attach most of the blame for the deaths on an accomplice, Steven Hayes, who was convicted last year over the grisly murders and sentenced to death.

Prosecutors say Komisarjevsky and Hayes broke into the Petit home at about 2:30 a.m. on July 23, 2007.

Petit, testifying in New Haven Superior Court, said he had fallen asleep earlier that night. When he awoke, he had been beaten and was bleeding and bound.

Two men forced him into the basement and tied him to a pole, he said. Their faces were covered, and one held a thick-barreled gun, he testified before Judge Jon Blue.

He said he heard a man say: "If he makes a move, shoot him."

About 9 a.m., Hawke-Petit drove to a bank, where she told a teller her family was being held hostage and she needed $15,000 to pay off the captors.

Petit said he could hear his wife tell someone she would need to get dressed and get some form of identification. Petit also said he heard the family car leave and return. Then he said he heard three thumps and a moan, and he yelled "hey."

A voice replied: "Don't worry. It will all be over soon," he testified.

Petit, who gave similar testimony a year ago in Hayes' trial, said he managed to free his hands and hop up steps out of the basement. He fell and finally rolled across the lawn to a neighbor's house for help.

Behind him, his home went up in flames. Inside were the girls, tied to their beds, and the body of Hawke-Petit, who had been strangled. The younger girl had been sexually assaulted.

Under cross-examination by Komisarjevsky's defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan, Petit said he never heard the two men converse, did not know who poured the gasoline around his house and did not know who set it on fire.

The defense has been trying to attach much of the blame on Hayes, arguing he was the one who wanted to murder the family and that Komisarjevsky had protested against killing anyone.

On Monday, the first day of testimony, Cheshire Police Officer Thomas Wright recalled a chaotic scene that police found at the Petit home after being notified by the bank manager.

Wright testified that police were blocked from getting inside the house because of the fire. Police have been criticized as being slow to respond.

Komisarjevsky faces 17 charges, six of which have a maximum penalty of death.

Connecticut has only executed one person, in 2005, since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston)