CHESHIRE, Conn. – A quiet Connecticut community woke up on Tuesday to more details behind a home invasion that ended with a prominent doctor injured, his wife and two daughters killed and their house up in flames.
Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, of Cheshire and Steve Hayes, 44, of Winsted, were charged with assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery and arson. Bail was set at $15 million each, and state police have said that additional charges are likely.
The suspects, both parolees with long rap sheets, were caught Monday in the family's SUV as they fled the burning home, which they apparently had torched to cover their tracks, authorities said.
Endocrinologist Dr. William Petit Jr., 50, was the sole survivor.
"Right now it's so awful and so hard even to take in the horror of it," said M. Burch Tracy Ford, head of Miss Porter's School in Farmington, from where Hayley Petit recently graduated during her recovery from a collapsed lung.
The high school senior and three-sport athlete left her sick bed last month long enough to attend commencement before returning to the hospital.
"She was not going to let her class down," Ford said.
Ford and so many others struggled Monday after learning that 17-year-old Hayley, her mother, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and younger sister, Michaela, were killed in a violent home invasion after the family had been held hostage for hours.
A court bail commissioner said Hayes and Komisarjevky each have rap sheets with more than 20 prior burglaries, and both were out of prison on parole.
The two men did not enter pleas, and answered only "yes" when asked if they understood their rights. Both were represented by public defenders.
Komisarjevsky was sentenced to three years in prison in 2002 and six years of special parole after pleading guilty to 11 counts of second-degree burglary, the Hartford Courant reported.
Authorities said he would use military night-vision goggles during break-ins to steal electronic items while his victims were sleeping and that he claimed he did so to support a drug habit, prosecutor Ronald Dearstyne said at the time.
He added that Komisarjevsky, armed with a military backpack containing items including a knife for ripping window screens, began robbing homes when he was 14, the Courant reported.
Hayes has a 25-year history of burglary and larceny.
Bank employees contacted police when one of the suspects accompanied a female hostage, who was not identified, to make a withdrawal around 9:30 a.m. Monday. Police drove to the Petit home in this quiet suburb.
Dr. Petit, though severely injured, managed to tell police what happened. His wife and two daughters were found dead in the home, said a law enforcement official with firsthand knowledge of the investigation.
Cheshire, an upper-middle class neighborhood of 29,000 and colonial-style homes, is just east of Waterbury and about 15 miles north of New Haven.
"In Cheshire we're not used to this type of event," town Police Chief Michael Cruess said. "It's a very unfortunate, tragic event that's probably going to reach right down to the core of the community."
Hayley Petit received an early acceptance to Dartmouth, her father's alma mater. A tireless fundraiser for multiple sclerosis, captain of the basketball and crew teams and role model for younger students, Hayley Petit came from a family where helping people just came naturally.
"She was such a good, good person," Ford said. "The younger kids just worshipped the ground she walked on."
Petit, the president of the Hartford County Medical Association, is a noted specialist in diabetes and endocrinology and the medical director of the Joslin Diabetes Center Affiliate at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain.
"It is a shocking day for everyone. It's just beyond anyone's understanding," said Larry Tanner, president and chief executive officer of the hospital.
Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, a nurse, was co-director of the health center at Cheshire Academy, a private boarding school.
"It's just a very difficult day here," said Philip Moore, director of communications for the school. "She was very good at educating kids about good health, not just taking care of them when they are not feeling well."
The Rev. Ronald A. Rising, a neighbor, said he had 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."
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