Cheshire killer sentenced to death

Joshua Komisarjevsky was sentenced to death on Friday for an infamous 2007 home invasion that left three people dead.

New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon Blue imposed six consecutive death sentences for capital felonies plus 140 years in prison on other counts for Komisarjevsky’s role in the July 2007 murders of the wife and two daughters of William Petit in their Cheshire, Conn. home. The sentence was handed down in the same courtroom where a Dec. 9 jury of 12 determined that Komisarjevsky deserved the death penalty instead of life in prison without parole.

“The task of sentencing another human being to death is the most sober and somber experience a judge can have,” Blue said on Friday, according to CNN. “But [the sentence] is one you wrote for yourself with deeds of unimaginable horror and savagery.”

Kominsarjevsky will join his accomplice — 48-year-old Steven Hayes — and nine other men on Connecticut’s death row. The state carried out its first execution since 1960 in 2005, and Komisarjevsy will likely spend years, even decades, in prison before receiving his sentence..

Kominsarjevsy and Hayes tormented a family of four — William Petit, his wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their two daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela — in their Cheshire home on July 23, 2007. After bludgeoning William Petit with a baseball bat and binding his two daughters, the two assailants forced Hawke-Petit to withdraw $15,000 from a bank account by escorting her to a local teller.

Upon driving Hawke-Petit back home from the bank, Hayes raped Hawke-Petit and Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted Michaela. Hayes then strangled Hawke-Petit to death, doused the daughters and parts of the house with gasoline, and set the home ablaze. Hayley and Michaela, tied to their beds as the house burned down, died of smoke inhalation.

William Petit, the lone survivor, escaped to a neighbor’s house, where he called police. The ordeal lasted seven hours.

On Friday, Petit read a statement in court, referring to the tragedy as his own “personal holocaust,” according to USA Today.

“They offered to give you everything you asked for — you didn’t have to take their lives,” Richard Hawke, Hawke-Petite’s father, said in a victim’s statement prior to sentencing. “You will from now on be known as a prison number in the book of death.”

Komisarjevsky said he came into Friday’s trial “angry and defiant.” He also claimed that he was not guilty of rape and did not pour the gasoline or light the fire that destroyed the Petits’ Cheshire residence, according to CNN. Walter Bansley, Komisarjevsky’s attorney, could not be reached for comment.

News of the attack sent political shockwaves throughout the state, reigniting the debate over capital punishment. In 2009, the General Assembly, the Connecticut’s main legislative body, sent a bill to then-governor M. Jodi Rell abolishing the death penalty in the state. But Rell vetoed the bill, citing the 2007 Cheshire murders.

“The crimes that were committed on that brutal July night were so far out of the range of normal understanding that now, more than three years later, we still find it difficult to accept that they happened in one of our communities,” Rell wrote in a statement following Hayes’ sentencing in 2010. “I have long believed that there are certain crimes so heinous, so depraved, that society is best served by imposing the ultimate sanction on the criminal.”

Since the 2007 murders, the General Assembly has enacted tougher laws for repeat offenders and home invasions. In June 2008, new legislation took effect that made home invasion a class A felony with a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence.

Connecticut has carried out a total of 126 executions between 1639 and 2005.

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