CHESHIRE, Conn. – Three people were killed after thieves broke into their home, held them hostage for several hours and ultimately set the house ablaze before being nabbed by police while trying to flee the scene.
Authorities surrounded the home after a woman was taken by one of the suspects to a bank and somehow alerted an employee that her family was being held hostage, The Hartford Courant reported on its Web site. Connecticut State Police said in a statement issued Monday that officers went to the residence after bank officials notified them of a "suspicious withdrawal."
A man inside the house was able to escape with severe injuries and provide authorities with some information, state police said in the statement. The man is currently hospitalized in serious but stable condition.
Two suspects tried to escape after apparently setting the home on fire, but were quickly arrested at gunpoint when the car they were driving crashed into two police cruisers, according to state authorities.
The Cheshire Fire Department responded to the scene, extinguished the fire and discovered three bodies inside the house, state police said.
Neighbors said the home belonged to the Petit family — William Petit Jr. and his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their two daughters.
Petit, 50, is the medical director of the Joslin Diabetes Center Affiliate at The Hospital of Central Connecticut, and his wife of 22 years worked at the Cheshire Academy, a boarding school.
Staff at Cheshire Academy were trying to confirm the news Monday afternoon, said spokeswoman Colleen Reilly.
"Everyone here is devastated. So we are still in shock," Reilly said.
"It's just a very difficult day here. We are just finding about it now," said Philip Moore, director of communications for the school.
Hawke-Petit, 48, worked at the boarding and day school as co-director of its health center, taking care of students and faculty there, Moore said.
"She was very good at educating kids about good health, not just taking care of them when they are not feeling well," Moore said.
Police said there was one male survivor, and two of those who died were female. Additional information on the third victim was not available, and it wasn't known whether arson was the cause of death or whether the victims were killed before the fire was set.
The Rev. Ronald A. Rising, a neighbor, said he has known the family for more than 10 years.
"They're just a lovely family," he said. "It's just awful to think it would happen to a family like that in this community. You don't think about those things happening."
The upper-middle class neighborhood includes colonial homes with well-kept lawns.
Cheshire, a suburb with a population of more than 29,000, is just east of Waterbury and about 15 miles north of New Haven.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.