Psychologist: Conn. home invasion suspect abused

AP News
Posted: Oct 05, 2011 6:21 PM
Psychologist: Conn. home invasion suspect abused

A man charged in a 2007 home invasion that killed a mother and her two daughters said he was repeatedly sexually abused as a child and burned in the process, a psychologist hired by the defense testified Wednesday.

Dr. Leo Shea testified that Joshua Komisarjevsky told him he was sexually abused from ages 4 to 6 and was tortured by being burned. One person Komisarjevsky said had abused him admitted it, Shea said.

Komisarjevsky faces a possible death sentence if convicted of the home invasion that killed Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela Petit. He is also charged with sexually abusing Michaela.

Shea said medical records show Komisarjevsky suffered five concussions from the age of nine until 16 from a car accident and other incidents and that Komisarjevsky reported additional concussions to him. Komisarjevsky also said he extensively abused drugs such as crystal methamphetamine, Shea said.

Authorities say Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, both paroled burglars, broke into the Petit family's home in July 2007, beat Dr. William Petit with a bat and tied up him and his family. Hayes was sentenced to death after he was convicted last year of raping and strangling Petit's wife and killing the couple's two daughters, who died of smoke inhalation after the house was doused in gas and set on fire.

Komisarjevsky's attorneys have portrayed their client as panicked and indecisive, saying he suffers from "cognitive difficulties" that makes him unable to make quick decisions in stressful situations. Komisarjevsky blamed Hayes for the killings in an audiotaped confession but couldn't explain why he didn't untie the girls.

Shea said tests indicate that Komisarjevsky could have suffered brain damage. Tests also showed that Komisarjevsky is slow to process information and scored poorly on his ability to concentrate and shift his thinking, he said.

"He's a guy who thought a lot about what he was going to do, and when he put it into practice, it was a mess," Shea said, referring to a test.

State's Attorney Michael Dearington said Komisarjevsky had plenty of time to think about what he was doing after he spotted Hawke-Petit and one of her daughters at a supermarket, followed them to their house and returned later for the home invasion. He pressed Shea about his findings and how they relate to the crime.

"I'm saying in stressful situations he has reduced ability to make good decisions," Shea said.

Komisarjevsky's attorneys began their defense Wednesday by trying to show he could have had gas on his clothes from a roofing job.

Contractor Michael Ranno testified that Komisarjevsky was doing a roofing job the day before the three were killed. Ranno said he wasn't sure if Komisarjevsky was cleaning tools or using gas power, but a roofing company representative said roofers use gas-powered machines and flammable products.

Komisarjevsky's attorneys blame Hayes for pouring the gas and lighting the fire. Komisarjevsky had gas on his boots, pants and sweatshirt, a chemist at a state lab testified earlier.

Komisarjevsky's attorneys, who argue that Hayes was desperate for money and feared returning to prison, had a state police detective read a statement Hayes' mother gave after the crime in which she portrayed him as drinking heavily lately. She said she wanted her son out of her house because they weren't getting along and she didn't know what he was up to when he would disappear with her car.

The detective, Francis Budwitz, said authorities seized women's sneakers from Hayes' residence. Hayes had a fetish for women's sneakers, according to testimony from his trial.

Hayley's sneakers were found in a vehicle Hayes had used, according to Komisarjevsky's attorneys.

Hayes' mother told her other son to burn his clothes after she learned of the crime, Budwitz said.

Shea is expected to be the last defense witness when he finishes testifying Thursday. Closing arguments are planned for Oct. 10.