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Prosecutor to Seek Death Penalty in Deadly Connecticut Home Invasion

New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington said Thursday that he will seek the death penalty against two convicted burglars accused of killing the wife and two daughters of a prominent Connecticut physician in a home invasion and arson this week.

Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, and Steven Hayes, 44, were charged Thursday with six counts each of capital felony, which could bring the death penalty.

Komisarjevsky and Hayes, convicted burglars with lengthy criminal records, were out on parole when the attack occurred. They had been roommates for a time at a drug treatment center and halfway house in Hartford last year.

Murder committed in the course of committing first-degree sexual assault, murder of a kidnapped person, murder of two or more people at the same time, and murder of someone under age 16 are capitol felonies punishable by either the death penalty or life in prison in Connecticut.

Komisarjevsky, of Cheshire, and Hayes, of Winsted, had already been charged with assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, arson, larceny and risk of injury to children. They were each being held on $15 million bond.

Authorities say the men broke into the home of Dr. William Petit Jr. early Monday morning and held the family hostage for several hours. One of them forced Petit's wife to make a withdrawal at a local bank later that morning, an incident that triggered suspicion among bank employees.

Police were notified and rushed to the Petit's home, where they encountered the fleeing suspects and found the family's home ablaze. Petit, who remained in stable condition at St. Mary's Hospital on Thursday, had been beaten and bound in the basement but managed to escape the fire. The bodies of his family were found inside.

Police have released few details on the case, including how the family was targeted.

"It was a monstrous, deranged act, beyond comprehension," Komisarjevsky's uncle, Chris, said in a statement released Thursday.

Joshua Komisarjevsky, a member of a prominent family in the stage arts, is the grandson of Theodore Komisarjevsky, a Russian theater director and designer, and Ernestine Stodelle, a former dancer, dance critic, author and studio director.

Chris Komisarjevsky said Joshua Komisarjevsky was estranged from his family for five years after he went to prison for a string of burglaries. He said Komisarjevsky's parents, who adopted him, are deeply religious people.

"We cannot and will not condone anything the accused have done. Justice needs to take place," he said. "We can add nothing more — simply to repeat how tragic this is and how much our thoughts and prayers go out to the Petit family and friends."

Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, was strangled and their daughters — 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela — died of smoke inhalation, according to the state medical examiner.

The suspects were apprehended after they crashed their getaway vehicle — the Petit's car — into three police cruisers.

The crime has prompted the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parole to review its policies. Robert Farr, the board's chairman, acknowledged it will be a difficult task because neither suspect had any history of violent crimes when they were paroled this spring. Farr has acknowledged that board didn't have as much information as it should have had about the men's records, such as the transcript from a 2002 sentencing where a Bristol Superior Court judge called Komisarjevsky "a cold, calculating predator."

Komisarjevsky was sentenced to nine years in prison with six years of special parole for a string of burglaries where he wore military night vision goggles and burglarized homes while the occupants slept, police said.