By Mary Ellen Godin
NEW HAVEN, Conn (Reuters) - The mother of a convicted murderer facing a possible death sentence broke down during a court hearing on Friday, recalling how her son's personality had changed and how he had been sexually molested.
Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, was convicted two weeks ago of rape, murder and arson in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters Hayley and Michaela during a brutal home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut in July 2007.
The jury that convicted him is deciding whether to sentence him to death or life in prison without parole.
Defense attorneys at Komisarjevsky's sentencing phase, which began this week and is expected to last six weeks, said that his extremely religious parents failed to get him clinical help for his troubled behavior and instead relied on prayer.
His mother, Jude Komisarjevsky, cried several times on the witness stand in New Haven Superior Court as she described a night her son, then 14, seemed to have changed forever.
"There was tremendous pain in his expression. It was like he was saying 'I don't care what you throw at me now, I can't be hurt.' His eyes were absolutely dead," she testified.
She said she would later learn that he had been raped by someone he trusted and that he became angry.
"He wasn't who he was before," she said.
Komisarjevsky was convicted of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, and beating Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor of the 2007 crime.
Hawke-Petit was strangled and the girls, tied to their beds, died of smoke inhalation after the home was set on fire.
Komisarjevsky's accomplice Steven Hayes was convicted separately of similar charges and has been sentenced to death.
Jude Komisarjevsky said medical personnel who saw her son as a teenager had recommended he receive drug therapy, be enrolled in a special school or placed in foster care.
According to court documents, doctors recommended family counseling and said they were having problems getting his family to comply.
Jude Komisarjevsky also said she feared Joshua would enter a satanic cult and sent him to a religious community in New Hampshire.
"I didn't know what was going to happen, but we were going to save Josh," she said.
Komisarjevsky's father Ben also testified this week and described his son's troubled behavior and his sexual molestation.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)