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Defendant in home invasion murder has long criminal record

By Swetha Iyengar, In Session
  • Hayes is on trial for the murder of a mother and two of her daughters
  • He has been a convicted felon since 1980, his records show
  • He has pleaded not guilty

(CNN) -- Steven Hayes -- the man accused of the high-profile of killing of three members of a Connecticut family in a 2007 home invasion -- has been a convicted felon since 1980, his criminal record shows.

Hayes, 47, who has entered a plea of not guilty, is currently on trial in New Haven, Connecticut for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters.

Hayes' 8-page criminal report, obtained by CNN, shows a long history of burglary, larceny, drug possession, and forgery. He has been in and out of the criminal justice system since he was 17-years-old.

His first arrest was on April 25, 1980. He was charged with third-degree burglary and served 18 months probation for that crime. Since then, he has racked up nearly 60 criminal counts -- over 10 of them for burglary, the records show.

Prior to the Petit home invasion and murders, Hayes had been charged, yet again, with third-degree burglary in 2003 and sentenced to five years in prison, but he only served three of those years. In 2006, Hayes was released to a halfway house, where he met his co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26.

The quiet New Haven suburb of Cheshire was rocked by the brutality of the triple murder that happened in the early hours of July 23, 2007.

The home of Dr. William Petit, his wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit and two daughters was invaded in the middle of the night by Hayes and Komisarjevsky, prosecutors say.

Connecticut State Police Det. Anthony Buglione, who interviewed Hayes following the incident, testified the duo beat Petit bloody and left him in the basement.

The two men then went upstairs and found Hawke-Petit and 11-year old Michaela Petit asleep in the master bedroom. After tying Hawke-Petit to her bed, they led the girl to her room, tied her to her bed and put a pillowcase over her head, Hayes told Buglione.

They then found 17-year old Hayley Petit in her room and did the same, he said.

After finding a Bank of America account that contained $20,000 to $30,000, they decided to have the mother go to the bank in the morning and withdraw money from her account, Buglione testified.

And while Hayes took Hawke-Petit to the bank, Komiserajevsky stayed behind. When Hayes and Hawke-Petit returned with the money -- the two men set the home on fire and fled.

Inside the home, authorities said, Hawke-Petit, 48, was found raped and strangled. Her two daughters, one of whom had been sexually assaulted, had died of smoke inhalation.

Petit was the sole survivor -- managing to escape, and go to a neighbor's home.

Hayes is charged with capital murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, burglary and arson. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Public defender Thomas Ullmann conceded in the defense's opening statement that Hayes killed Hawke-Petit but said that, otherwise, much of what happened is unclear.

"No one was supposed to be hurt," he said. "What is known is that Steven Hayes kills and assaults Mrs. Petit. ... We concede much, but not all."

In a police interview, Hayes said that his life "sucked and that he had no money, no car, and not enough to eat".