10 years later, shocking home invasion haunts a quiet suburb

It’s a day seared into the memories of all involved: The July 23, 2007, home invasion in which two paroled burglars broke into a Cheshire, Connecticut, home after dark, terrorized the family for hours and killed a woman and her two daughters.

The viciousness of the crime upended notions of suburban security, delayed the abolition of Connecticut’s death penalty, and became the subject of TV shows, documentaries and books. It drew comparisons to the 1959 killings portrayed in Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.”

Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, was strangled. Her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, were tied to their beds and died of smoke inhalation. Hawke-Petit and Michaela also were sexually assaulted. Hawke-Petit’s husband and the girls’ father, Dr. William Petit Jr., was beaten but survived.

The killers, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, are serving life in prison. They originally were sentenced to death, but Connecticut abolished capital punishment in 2012.

Komisarjevsky picked Hawke-Petit and Michaela as targets when he saw them at a grocery store. He followed them to their home, left and later returned with Hayes.

The two broke in around 3 a.m., smashed Dr. Petit’s head with a baseball bat as he slept and tied him up in the basement. They tied the two girls to their beds. Later in the morning, Hayes drove Hawke-Petit to a bank, where she withdrew $15,000 under the threat of her family being harmed.

After Hawke-Petit and Hayes returned to the house, Hayes sexually assaulted and strangled her. Komisarjevsky had assaulted Michaela. The intruders poured gasoline around the house, including on or around the girls, set it on fire and fled in the Petits’ car after police had surrounded the home. They crashed into police cruisers down the street and were arrested.

Dr. Petit managed to free himself and escape out the cellar hatchway as fire consumed the house. He has re-married and was elected to the state House of Representatives in…

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