Suspects eyed in burglaries night before home invasion
July 27, 2007 - 3:23pm
By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN
Associated Press Writer
CHESHIRE, Conn. (AP) - Two men accused of killing a physician's wife and two daughters and setting fire to their house in this upscale town are suspected in two other burglaries the night before, said homeowners who spoke with police.
Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, both on parole for nonviolent crimes, could face the death penalty if convicted in the slayings early Monday of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and the girls.
Authorities say the men broke into the home of Dr. William Petit Jr. and held the family hostage for several hours. One of them forced Hawke-Petit to make a withdrawal at a bank later that morning, triggering suspicion among bank employees, police said. Police rushed to the house, found it on fire and encountered the suspects fleeing. The two were arrested after crashing the Petits' car into police cruisers.
Ronald Bergamo Jr., who lives several miles from the Petits, said a police officer told him the suspects burglarized his home early Sunday as he slept along with his wife, 12-year-old son and another couple. The burglars, apparently entering through an unlocked door, took cash and left a large carving knife on a table in the family room.
"We were within 24 hours of being that family," a shaken Bergamo said of the Petits. "We aren't the quaint town any more."
David Hick, who lives on Bergamo's street, was also asleep with his family when his home was broken into early Sunday. Hick said the burglars stole a photo of him and his wife, along with cash, credit cards and a cell phone.
Taking the photo left them wondering if the robbers planned to target them.
"That's one thing that is really bothering us," Hick said Thursday. "What happened to them could have happened to us just as easily."
Komisarjevsky and Hayes were charged with six capital felony counts in the deaths of Hawke-Petit and her daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. The men also were charged with assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery and arson.
They have not been charged in the break-ins at the other homes.
"We're not leaving any stone unturned," police Lt. Jay Markella said, declining to confirm a link between the three break-ins.
Hawke-Petit, 48, a school nurse, was strangled and her daughters died of smoke inhalation, according to the state medical examiner. The mother and younger daughter were sexually assaulted, according to arrest documents.
A private service for the Hawke-Petit and her daughters was set for Friday, and a public memorial was scheduled for Saturday.
Residents are lining up for gun safety classes so they can buy firearms, said Scott Hoffman, owner of Hoffman's Gun Center in nearby Newington.
"You talk to these people and you can see it's hit home, this particular crime," he said. "It's the sheer grotesqueness of the crime and the fact that it's such a normal family."
A police source close to the investigation confirmed reports that Komisarjevsky, 26, and Hayes, 44, spotted Hawke-Petit and one of her daughters at a grocery store Sunday and followed their car home.
Police gave family members the same account, said Glenn Petit, Hawke-Petit's brother-in-law.
"They were attracted to the car," he told The Associated Press, though he was not sure what model Hawke-Petit was driving. "They liked the car, followed her home, thought she lived in a nice house."
William Petit, who remained hospitalized in stable condition, had been beaten and bound in the basement but managed to escape the fire. The bodies of his wife and daughters were found inside.
"He's doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances," Glenn Petit said of his brother. "Emotionally, he's a mess. He is stunned right now. He's had his family taken from him."
Komisarjevsky and Hayes were each being held on $15 million bond. Convicted burglars with lengthy criminal records, they had been roommates at a drug treatment center and halfway house in Hartford last year.
Komisarjevsky is a member of a prominent family in the stage arts.
"It was a monstrous, deranged act, beyond comprehension," his family said in a news release Thursday.
Komisarjevsky lived a few miles from the Petits, but it was not clear if there was any connection between them.
Source CNN via AP - http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/07/27/family.killed.ap