Defense to begin in Connecticut family murder, sex assault case

Story highlights

  • The defense for Joshua Komisarjevsky is set to begin its case
  • If convicted, Komisarjevsky could face the death penalty
  • Three members of the Petit family were killed in Connecticut in July 2007
  • Komisarjevsky's alleged partner in crime, Steven Hayes, was sentenced to death in December 2010
The defense is expected to lay out its case Wednesday in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, who is accused in the July 2007 home invasion, sexual assault and murders of three members of a Connecticut family.
If convicted, Komisarjevsky, 31, could face the death penalty.
Prosecutors say Komisarjevsky is one of two men who broke into the home of Dr. William Petit and raped and killed Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, before setting fire to the home.
Komisarjevsky, faces 17 charges in connection with the brutal home invasion. The first defendant to stand trial in the case, Steven Hayes, was sentenced to death in December 2010 after being convicted on 16 of the 17 charges filed against him.
Earlier in the Komisarjevsky trial, Dr. Petit, the lone survivor of the attack, testified that he was awakened after being hit by a baseball bat. He said his hands and feet were tied, and a cloth was thrown over his head.
Joshua Komisarjevsky faces 17 charges in connection with the home invasion and slayings.
He was then tied to a pole in the family's basement, but could hear "loud thuds" and "moaning," likely from his wife. Shortly before hearing his wife, Petit was told by one of the intruders, "Don't worry. It'll all be over in a few minutes." Petit said that's when he knew "I had to get out."
Petit managed to escape but could not summon help in time to save his family.
The two daughters, who were both tied to their beds, died of smoke inhalation. Hawke-Petit died of strangulation.
In his opening statement defense attorney Walter Bansley told jurors that his client never intended to kill anyone and that his sole purpose in breaking into the Petit home was to steal.
Bansley said Komisarjevsky did not have a weapon. He told jurors that in order to convict his client of capital murder, they must determine he intended to kill someone.
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It was Hayes, Bansley said, who raped and strangled Hawke-Petit, poured gasoline in the house and lit a match. Komisarjevsky was a willing participant in the break-in and theft but not the murders, according to Bansley.
Hayes thought that the Petits needed to be killed, Bansley claimed, but Komisarjevsky refused to kill anyone.