Conn. killer's faith taught that end was near

AP News
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Posted: Nov 28, 2011 8:50 PM
Conn. killer's faith taught that end was near

A man facing a possible death sentence for killing three people in a home invasion grew up in a religious environment in which he was taught the end of the world was near, his former girlfriend testified Monday.

Frances Hodges said she grew up in a similar atmosphere and testified that she and Joshua Komisarjevsky were taught that they would be persecuted and that she imagined her mother being burned to death.

"As a child growing up I thought it was only a matter of time before I would have to, that I would be persecuted for my faith," Hodges said. "I was just anxious all the time."

Komisarjevsky and co-defendant Steven Hayes were convicted of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley and Michaela, in 2007 at their home in Cheshire, a wealthy New Haven suburb. Komisarjevsky and Hayes, who is on death row, have blamed each other for escalating the violence at the Petit home.

Defense lawyers, in their bid to get Komisarjevsky a life sentence, say his ultra-religious family didn't get him psychological help.

Hodges, who took a prolonged look at Komisarjevsky as she left the stand, says those who didn't share their beliefs were viewed as "potential agents of the devil."

"The secular world is considered toxic and anyone who participates in the secular world considered misled and potentially a threat to your faith," she testified.

Hodges dated Komisarjevsky as a teen for about two years in New Hampshire, where Komisarjevsky's family took him to a religious community after he burned down a vacant gas station and a psychiatric hospital recommended he undergo treatment.

Hodges said she and Komisarjevsky struggled with their faith, especially after they started having sex. She said he was never violent.

"He was thoughtful," she said. "He was compelling. He was kind of an outsider, kind of a fringe person. I think that's why we probably sort of connected."

She described his family as secretive, even within religious circles.

"The family was kind of an isolationist-type family," Hodges said. "There were a lot of secrets."

Hodges broke down crying, prompting a brief recess, after testifying that a gay teen in the community killed himself by jumping out a window. She said she left the community, which taught homosexuality is an abomination, and suffered from years of alcoholism, an eating disorder and self-induced insomnia. She said two other teens from the community also committed suicide.

A psychologist testified earlier Monday that Komisarjevsky suffered a "toxic stew" of childhood sexual abuse, uncontrollable mood swings and concussions.

Leslie Lebowitz testified Komisarjevsky was "severely damaged" by living in an environment as a young child in which he was chronically terrorized and sexually abused by his foster brother. She said there is reason to believe his brain was harmed by the abuse and concussions he later suffered.