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Psychiatrist: Petit killer has attempted suicide several times

From Michael Christian, In Session
Steven Hayes could face the death penalty for the killings of a woman and two girls in a home invasion.
Steven Hayes could face the death penalty for the killings of a woman and two girls in a home invasion.
  • NEW: Steven Hayes wanted to "look like a monster" to the jury
  • Doctor testifies Hayes said he wants to be executed
  • He says Hayes has been diagnosed with major depression
  • Hayes was convicted of capital murder in the 2007 home invasion

New Haven, Connecticut (CNN) -- A man convicted of capital murder in a 2007 Connecticut home invasion has attempted suicide several times since his arrest and has said he wants to receive the death penalty, a forensic psychiatrist testified Wednesday.

Steven Hayes, 47, was convicted this month of 16 of the 17 charges against him -- including nine counts of murder and capital murder and four counts of kidnapping -- in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit.

Prosecutors allege that Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky invaded the Petit home in Cheshire, beat Jennifer Hawke-Petit's husband bloody, strangled Hawke-Petit, set the house afire and tried to flee.

On cross-examination, Dr. Paul Amble said his panel did not address the question of whether the defendant's suicide attempts were sincere. But in his opinion, Hayes was "making decisions that were rational, given his situation" when he said he wanted to receive the death penalty.

"I want to plead guilty to everything now, because I just want it over now," Hayes told an evaluation team, the assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine testified to a jury considering whether to sentence Steven Hayes to death.

Hayes described a plan to "look like a monster" to the jury, expressing no remorse, in an attempt to move the jurors to sentence him to death, Amble wrote in his evaluation of the defendant.

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In March, Hayes told a psychologist that he no longer wanted to commit suicide "but intended to let the state do it," Amble said.

Judge Jon Blue had asked Amble to evaluate Hayes to determine whether he was competent to stand trial.

Hayes "described five overdose attempts" that he felt Connecticut corrections staff was aware of, Amble said.

The last such attempt came January 31, when Hayes "took a fairly large amount of thorazine ... nearly twice the lethal limit," Amble said. The incident forced a delay in Hayes' trial, which had been set for February 1.

Thorazine is an antipsychotic medication that can also be prescribed to treat anxiety, as it was in Hayes' case.

Asked to describe his mood on a scale of zero to 10, Hayes ranked it at zero and described symptoms of helplessness and hopelessness since his arrest shortly after the killings, Amble testified. He said Hayes told him he had tried to strangle himself with a sock but failed because he couldn't tighten it enough to cut off circulation.

Hayes told his evaluators that he had considered other ways to end his life, such as "putting my head in the toilet and doing a back flip" to break his neck, but opted against doing so out of fear that he might only paralyze or otherwise injure himself, according to the evaluation carried out by Amble.

Hayes told the evaluation team in March that "he wanted to essentially encourage the jury to vote in favor of the death penalty ... perhaps by taking the stand and looking like he has no remorse," Amble said. "His desire was to actively seek the death penalty."

He said Hayes has lost more than 60 pounds since his arrest and complained of not sleeping well and of nightmares.

His psychiatrist in prison has diagnosed him with "adjustment disorder" and "major depression," Amble said.

Prosecutor Michael Dearington asked Amble whether Hayes truly wanted to be executed. "I don't know," the doctor said. "I'm not here to say I can exactly divine his thoughts, only what he said."

Komisarjevsky is to be tried separately, but on Tuesday, a court clerk read from Komisarjevsky's writings providing graphic descriptions of the incident. "I am what I am; I make no excuses," Komisarjevsky wrote. "I'm a criminal with a criminal mind."

But he also appeared to express remorse, at one point writing, "Michaela, Haley and Jennifer, forgive me; I am damned. ... My forthcoming death sentence will be an action of mercy."

Police testified that in the 2007 home invasion, Hayes and Komisarjevsky found evidence of a bank account containing $20,000 to $30,000 and forced Hawke-Petit to go to a bank in the morning and withdraw money from the account. Prosecutors said Hayes took her to the bank while Komisarjevsky stayed behind.

When Hayes and Hawke-Petit returned with the money, officials said, the two men set the home afire 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, died of smoke inhalation. Petit, the sole survivor, escaped to a neighbor's home.

Amble was the only witness to testify on Wednesday, and no further testimony is scheduled until Monday, after the judge and attorneys spend the rest of this week working on jury instructions.