Conn. Contractor testifies in home invasion trial
NEW HAVEN - Lawyers defending a man charged with killing a woman and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion in which the house was doused in gas and set on fire began their defense yesterday by trying to show that their client could have had gas on his clothes from a roofing job.
A lawyer for Joshua Komisarjevsky called a contractor in New Haven Superior Court who testified that Komisarjevsky was doing a roofing job the day before Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela Petit, were killed. The contractor, Michael Ranno, said he was not sure whether Komisarjevsky was cleaning tools or using gas power, but a roofing company representative said roofers use gas-powered machines and flammable products.
Komisarjevsky’s lawyers blame his codefendant, Steven Hayes, for pouring the gas and lighting the fire. Komisarjevsky had gas on his boots, pants, and sweatshirt, a chemist at a state lab testified earlier.
Komisarjevsky faces a possible death sentence if convicted. Hayes was convicted last year and sentenced to death.
Authorities say the two men, both paroled burglars, broke into the Petit home, beat Dr. William Petit with a bat, then tied up all four family members. Hayes was convicted of raping and strangling Petit’s wife and killing the couple’s two daughters, who died of smoke inhalation after the house was set ablaze.
Komisarjevsky’s lawyers, who argue that Hayes was desperate for money and feared returning to prison, had a State Police detective read a statement that Hayes’s mother gave after the crime in which she portrayed him as having been drinking heavily. She said that she wanted her son out of her house because they were not getting along, and that she didn’t know what he was up to when he would disappear with her car.
The detective, Francis Budwitz, said authorities seized women’s sneakers from Hayes’s residence. Hayes had a fetish for women’s sneakers, according to testimony from his trial.
Hayley Petit’s sneakers were found in a vehicle Hayes used, Komisarjevsky’s lawyers said.
Hayes’s mother told her other son to burn his clothes after she learned of the crime, Budwitz said.