Pastor: Conn. man convicted of killings saw demon

AP News
Posted: Nov 02, 2011 6:12 PM
Pastor: Conn. man convicted of killings saw demon

A Connecticut man facing a possible death sentence for killing a woman and her two daughters during a fiery home invasion was portrayed Wednesday as a dark and depressed teen who once saw a demon with glowing eyes _ and whose ultra-religious parents believed prayer and faith were the best medicine, witnesses testified.

Joshua Komisarjevsky faces life in prison or the death penalty for killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in their Cheshire home in 2007. The girls were tied to their beds and died of smoke inhalation after they were doused in gas and the house was set on fire during an eight-hour ordeal.

Komisarjevsky's accomplice, Steven Hayes, was sentenced to death last year for raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and killing the girls. Komisarjevsky was also convicted of sexually assaulting the 11-year-old girl.

The defense says Komkisarjevsky's strict religious family failed to get him psychological help. The defense says Komisarjevsky was sexually abused as a young child by a foster teen the family took into their home and later by an unidentified person. Komisarjevsky's sister testified that he sexually abused her for years.

Prosecutors say the claim that Komisarjevsky was sexually abused came from him when he was facing sentencing for earlier home burglaries. They say the report of demons also came amid pending court cases.

Komisarjevsky's family had moved to a religious community in New Hampshire after he got into trouble for burning down a vacant gas station. Bryce Whiting, a pastor who belonged to a church the family attended there in the late 1990s, testified during the sentencing phase that a teenage Komisarjevsky was visibly shaken as he described "a dark spiritual being with glowing eyes and menacing in his appearance" by a TV where he had made a pipe bomb.

The pastor said he and others called to help the family as Komisarjevsky reported seeing the demon led him in prayers telling the devil to leave as they placed their hands on him.

Whiting said he believed Komisarjevsky's account of the demon, which he said would be guarding the pipe bomb. Whiting said other men who were with him instructed Komisarjevsky to give them the pipe bomb as well as weapons he kept at the house.

"Then you pray against the enemy," Whiting said. "We say to you devil you have to leave."

Komisarjevsky was in more trouble within weeks, breaking into a hardware store to get weapons, Whiting said. He also broke into cabins at the religious community and was eventually banished, he said.

Whiting said the church, described as advent Christian, does believe in the presence of demons and at one point said he might appear to be a "wacko" for describing them. He said he doesn't go looking for demons, but noted they can grow in numbers.

Under cross-examination, Whiting said he did not see the demon Komisarjevsky described. He described the bomb as small with Scotch tape attached to it.

A prosecutor asked if the incident might have been a ploy. He also asked why the men who were with Whiting would have Komisarjevsky give them a potentially dangerous bomb.

"That would help show the demon he meant business and didn't want this evil entity around him," Whiting said.

The church does accept psychiatry, Whiting said.

"I think we accept it like most people do," he said. "It has its place."

Whiting described Komisarjevsky as a troubled teen with empty eyes, though he said the teenager could occasionally be helpful, such as fixing an electrical problem at the church.

"I saw nothing," he said. "I saw an emptiness. I wondered how much he cared about people when I saw the nothing, the blank in his eyes."

William Gerace, an attorney who represented Komisarjevsky in 2002 when he pleaded guilty to 19 nighttime residential burglaries, said his family wanted to send him to a spiritual boot camp at the time. Gerace said he told the family Komisarjevsky needed psychological treatment.

"They were hell-bent on making sure he didn't get any medication and that the Lord would handle it through faith," Gerace said.

Charles Berney, Komisarjevsky's probation officer in New Hampshire in 1996, testified that the family planned to get him pastoral counseling and didn't want other types of counseling.

"He appeared very depressed," Berney said. "Just very dark, very sad."

Berney, who met with Komisarjevsky six times over eight months, said the family tried to give the impression the situation was under control.

`I felt it was a family in hiding," he said. "I felt the parents were evasive and not forthcoming."