NEW HAVEN - (AP) - A Connecticut man was condemned to deathMonday for a night of terror inside a suburban home in which awoman was strangled and her two daughters tied to their beds,doused in gasoline and left to die in a fire.
Jurors in New Haven Superior Court voted unanimously to sendSteven Hayes to death row after deliberating over the span of fourdays. The judge will impose the sentence.
Hayes' attorneys had tried to persuade jurors to spare him thedeath penalty by portraying him as a clumsy, drug-addicted thiefwho never committed violence until the 2007 home invasion with afellow paroled burglar. They called the co-defendant, JoshuaKomisarjevsky, the mastermind and said he escalated the violence.They also said Hayes was remorseful and actually wanted a deathsentence.
But prosecutors said both men were equally responsible and thatthe crime cried out for the death penalty, saying the family wastormented for seven hours before they were killed.
Hayes looked straight ahead and had no obvious reaction as thejury's sentence was announced. He will join nine other men onConnecticut's death row. The state has only executed one man since1960, so Hayes will likely spend years, if not decades, in prison.
Komisarjevsky will be tried next year.
Authorities said Hayes and Komisarjevsky broke into the house,beat Dr. William Petit, and forced his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit,to withdraw money from a bank while the rest of her family remainedunder hostage at home. Hayes then sexually assaulted and strangledher, authorities said. Komisarjevsky, who will be tried next year,is charged with sexually assaulting their 11-year-old daughter,Michaela.
Michaela and her 17-year-old sister, Hayley, were tied to theirbeds and doused in gasoline before the men set the house on fire,according to testimony. The girls died of smoke inhalation.
The crime was so unsettling that it became a key issue in thedeath penalty debate in the governor's race and led to tougherConnecticut laws for repeat offenders and home invasions. Gov. M.Jodi Rell cited the case when she vetoed a bill that would haveabolished the death penalty.
To determine Hayes' punishment, the jury weighed so-calledaggravating factors cited by prosecutors, including the heinous andcruel nature of the deaths, against mitigating factors argued byHayes' attorneys.
The defense suggested prison would be more harsh than death forHayes.
He did not testify during the trial or penalty phase, but told apsychiatrist he wanted to "look like a monster" by taking thestand and expressing no remorse so that the jury would sentence himto die. Hayes also said he had repeatedly tried to kill himselfafter the crime because he felt guilty and remorseful and fearedisolation in prison the rest of his life.
Hayes' attorneys focused heavily on Komisarjevsky, even callinga witness who said his "completely dead eyes" made him look likethe devil. They cited his writings in which he described how his"dark shadow was let loose" as he beat the doctor and thepleasure he got from terrorizing the man's wife and two daughters.
Komisarjevsky's writings, however, also blamed Hayes forescalating the violence by strangling Hawke-Petit.
Prosecutors said it was Hayes who initiated the crime, citinghis confession to police in which he said he called Komisarjevskyshortly before the crime because he was financially desperate. Theyalso noted that Hayes took Hawke-Petit to the bank to withdrawmoney, raped and strangled her, bought the gasoline and poured itin the house.
Hayes' attorneys tried to humanize him, portraying him as aproud father and a hard worker who was trying to pick up the piecesof his life as he got out of prison shortly before the crime.
Hayes "could be a likable person," his attorney, PatrickCulligan, told the jury. One of his employers said Hayes tried tointervene to protect her after she got into a verbal argument withanother worker.
Hayes' defense called a psychiatrist who said Hayes was in anextreme emotional state triggered after Komisarjevsky falsely toldhim he had killed the girls while Hayes was with their mother atthe bank. Prosecutors rejected that argument, saying Hayes ownconfession showed he knew the girls were still alive when hereturned from the bank.
During the trial, jurors heard eight days of gruesome testimony,saw photos of the victims, charred beds, rope, ripped clothing andransacked rooms.
Hayes was convicted of six capital felony charges, three murdercounts and two charges of sexually assaulting Hawke-Petit. Thecapital offenses were for killing two or more people, the killingof a person under 16, murder in the course of a sexual assault andthree counts of intentionally causing a death during a kidnapping.
Juror dismissed from Hayes sentencing trialSteven Hayes penalty phase resumes todayDeath penalty phase begins in Hayes trialJudge rules against convicted Cheshire killerPenalty phase begins for convicted killerHayes convicted in deadly Cheshire home invasionHome invasion suspect out of hospitalJury selection halted in Cheshire murder case