|Steven Hayes (left) convicted in the killing of Petit’s wife and two daughters in 2007|
Sentencing testimony begins in home invasion killings
Jury will decide on imposition of death penalty
NEW HAVEN — A former boss of the man convicted in a fatal home invasion testified yesterday that the defendant was a good worker, but that she was frightened by his codefendant, whom she described as looking like “the devil.’’
Christiane Gehami took the stand in Superior Court, where a jury is considering whether to give Steven Hayes the death penalty or life in prison. He was convicted nearly two weeks ago of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, at their home in Cheshire in 2007.
The defense has tried to show that Hayes was influenced by drug addiction and his codefendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, who still awaits trial.
Gehami said Hayes worked at her West Hartford restaurant and did handyman work. When he brought Komisarjevsky in to talk about a carpentry job, “I just stopped dead in my tracks,’’ she said. “I thought I was looking at the devil. My skin crawled.’’
She said she told the men that she did not need the work done right away.
When a prosecutor asked on cross-examination what she meant, Gehami said that Komisarjevsky had “dead eyes, completely dead eyes.’’
She said Hayes showed a good sense of humor when he worked for her and once tried to intervene to protect her after she got into a verbal argument with another worker.
Hayes’s public defender, Patrick Culligan, said in his opening statement that he would show Hayes had a drug addiction that controlled his life.
“That’s because many of his life choices revolved around his desire and need to satisfy and fuel his drug addiction,’’ Culligan said.
Culligan said he would present evidence of Komisarjevsky’s role in planning and carrying out the home invasion, including what Komisarjevsky told the author of a book who interviewed him in prison.
The defense has blamed Komisarjevsky for escalating what had been planned as a burglary in which they would tie up the victims. Prosecutors rejected that argument, saying they both were equally responsible for the crime.
The first defense witness, D’Arcy Lovetere, a former court employee and investigator from Hayes’s hometown, said Hayes had a nonviolent criminal past and was “a follower.’’ She also called him a “klutz.’’
“He wasn’t the best criminal in the world,’’ Lovetere said. “He would do things that were really foolish that you knew he’d get caught.’’
Hayes was remorseful and desperately wanted help to overcome his addiction to crack cocaine, Lovetere said.
The prosecution rested its case yesterday after calling a court clerk to describe Hayes’s long record of burglary convictions. Prosecutor Michael Dearington said the jurors had already heard the gruesome nature of the attacks.
Authorities said Hayes and Komisarjevsky broke into the house, beat Dr. William Petit, and forced his wife to withdraw money from a bank before Hayes sexually assaulted and strangled her. Their daughters were tied to their beds before the house was set ablaze.
The crime drew comparisons to “In Cold Blood,’’ Truman Capote’s chilling book about the 1959 murders of a Kansas family, and prompted more Cheshire residents to get guns. It also led to tougher laws for repeat offenders and home invasions.
Connecticut has executed one person since 1960. Serial killer Michael Ross was put to death by lethal injection in 2005.
Komisarjevsky spotted the mother and her two daughters at a supermarket, followed them to their home, then returned later with Hayes, according to authorities.
The men were caught fleeing the scene, authorities said.
Hayes was convicted of six capital felony charges, three murder counts and two charges of sexually assaulting Hawke-Petit. The capital offenses were for killing two or more people, the killing of a person under 16, murder in the course of a sexual assault, and three counts of intentionally causing a death during a kidnapping.