Supects arraigned in home-invasion homicides

(07/24/07) MERIDEN (AP) - Two men described by authorities as career criminals were arraigned Tuesday in the home invasion and arson that took the lives of three members of a Cheshire family.

Joshua Komisarjevky, 26, of Cheshire, and Steven Hayes, 44, of Winsted, were formally charged with assault, first-degree aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery and arson. They were each ordered held in lieu of $15 million bond.

State police have said that additional criminal charges are likely to be filed. The two men, both in orange prison jump suits and shackles, did not enter pleas, and answered only, "Yes," when asked if they understood their rights.

Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela were found dead Monday inside their burning home after the family had been held hostage for hours, police said.

It was not clear how they died. Autopsies were planned Tuesday. The father, Dr. William Petit Jr., 50, was severely injured, but escaped the burning home and managed to tell police what happened.

Authorities were tipped off that the family was in danger by employees at a local bank when one of the suspects accompanied a Hawke-Petit to make a withdrawal around 9:30 a.m. on Monday. Bank employees became suspicious and called police who drove to the Petit home in the quiet suburb. There they found the house in flames and the suspects trying to flee the driveway in the family's stolen SUV. Komisarjevky and Hayes were caught after ramming several police cars. A bail commissioner said Hayes and Komisarjevky each have records that include over 20 prior burglaries, and both had been out of prison on parole. Authorities did not say what they believe led the pair to the Petit home. Petit, the president of the Hartford County Medical Association, is a noted specialist in diabetes and endocrinology and the medical director of the Joslin Diabetes Center Affiliate at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain. "It is a shocking day for everyone. It's just beyond anyone's understanding," said Larry Tanner, president and chief executive officer of the hospital. Tanner said the hospital is providing counseling to staff members and at the hospital and at Petit's private practice, which Tanner described as extensive. "He's my doctor," Tanner said. Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, was a nurse and co-director of the health center at Cheshire Academy, a private boarding school. Hayley Petit received an early acceptance to Dartmouth, her father's alma mater. A tireless fundraiser for multiple sclerosis, she was captain of the basketball and crew teams and role model for younger students, Burch Tracy Ford, head master of Miss Porter's School, the exclusive private school she attended. "She was such a good, good person," he said. "The younger kids just worshipped the ground she walked on."

Cheshire, a suburb with a population of more than 29,000, is just east of Waterbury and about 15 miles north of New Haven. Cruess, the police chief, said it was an isolated incident and tried to reassure residents that the town was safe. It may have been little comfort to those close to the family. "It's just insane," neighbor Laura Parisi said. "I can't even describe it."

 

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