Prosecutor: Man tormented family in home invasion

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - December 2, 2011

Prosecutor Gary Nicholson said in his sentencing closing argument that Joshua Komisarjevsky deserves the death penalty and said it was ironic the defendant was seeking mercy when he showed none to the victims.

"It was shockingly brutal. It was evil. It was vicious," Nicholson said, adding the men created a "hellish inferno."

Komisarjevsky and co-defendant Steven Hayes were convicted of capital felony and other charges stemming from the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, at their Cheshire home in 2007. Hayes is on death row for raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and killing her daughters, who died of smoke inhalation after they were tied to their beds, doused in gas and left to die in a fire.

Komisarjevsky was convicted in October. The same jury heard final arguments from prosecutors and the defense Friday before it begins deciding whether he should be sentenced to death.

Komisarjevsky's attorney told the jury he was repeatedly raped as a child by his foster brother and suffered a mood disorder that increased his risk of committing crime.

Defense attorney Walter Bansley said in his closing argument that the defense is sorry for the crime. But he said Komisarjevsky should get life in prison, describing him as damaged from an early age by repeated sexual abuse.

"Joshua will die in prison," Bansley said, pointing at his client. "Joshua will never ever walk freely among us and frankly he doesn't deserve to."

Komisarjevsky was never violent before the crime and has caused no problems in prison, Bansley said.

"Why is it so necessary for the state to kill Joshua Komisarjevsky," Bansley asked. "I'm suggesting to you there is no reason under the facts and circumstances of this case to kill Josh."

Bansley said the abuse was well documented and that Komisarjevsky never received professional help. He said many witnesses described him as a dark and troubled child who began to leave his home at an early age, run naked in the woods and cut himself.

"Think of the terror Joshua must have experienced," Bansley said.

A death sentence also would be tougher on Komisarjeksky's 9-year-old daughter, Bansley said. He showed a drawing Komisarjevsky did of her in prison and flooded jurors with photos of Komisarjevsky as a child.

Prosecutor Michael Dearington said Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor of the crime, has no photos of his family because they were burned in the crime. The prosecutor also cast some doubt on the sexual abuse claims, saying they came from Komisarjevsky many years later when he faced charges for earlier residential breakins.

"I ask you to consider the source of that," Dearington said.

A jury heard weeks of defense testimony about Komisarjevsky's troubled childhood, but Nicholson brought them starkly back to the crime scene. He showed them the masks, bat and BB gun Komisarjevsky used.

He also showed photos of Hawke-Petit at a bank where she was taken by Hayes and forced to withdraw money. He noted she was raped and strangled.

"Imagine her extreme physical and psychological pain," he said, adding she must have been thinking, "If they're killing me what are they going to do to my children?"

He said the girls would have been screaming for their lives before their house was set on fire.

Hayes and Komisarjevsky have blamed each other for escalating the crime, but Nicholson said it took both men to carry it out. He noted it was Komisarjevsky who spotted Hawke-Petit and her younger daughter at a supermarket, followed them home and returned later with Hayes.

"He wanted more than the money," Nicholson said. "He wanted a cute, vibrant, innocent 11-year-old Michaela Petit."

Komisarjevsky was also convicted of sexually assaulting Michaela. Nicholson recalled a judge who sentenced him for earlier house break-ins called him a predator, saying the description was "prophetic."

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