Connecticut Break-In Suspects Brought Together at Rehab

Joshua Komisarjevsky was known to authorities for his extraordinary planning of burglaries, wearing latex gloves and night-vision goggles and bringing a knife to cut window screens so he could slip into homes while the owners slept.

Steven Hayes was considered a clumsy thief, returning to the same area in the same stolen car to bash car windows with a hammer or rock to steal pocketbooks.

The two men, 18 years apart in age, operated alone for years.

But after meeting in a Hartford drug rehabilitation center after prison, and later rooming together at a halfway house this spring, police say they carried out a horrific crime that shattered a well-known family and unnerved people nationwide.

The parolees are accused of breaking into the home in suburban Cheshire of Dr. William Petit Jr. and his family early July 23 and holding them hostage for hours. Police say the men forced 48-year-old Jennifer Hawke-Petit, the doctor's wife, to withdraw money at a local bank, then killed her and the couple's two daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela.

The state medical examiner said that Hawke-Petit was strangled and that the girls succumbed to smoke inhalation after being tied up while the house was set ablaze. The lone survivor, Dr. Petit, was badly beaten but managed to escape.

"If you put two people, two certain people, together, they say it's like mixing oil and water," Cheshire police Lt. Jay Markella said shortly after the crime. "Sometimes it jells perfectly together and things escalate. You mix the wrong chemicals, you get an explosion or you get nothing."

Both Komisarjevsky and Hayes have been charged with capital felony, first-degree sexual assault, kidnapping, assault, burglary, robbery, arson, larceny and risk of injury to children.

They are jailed on $15 million bond each. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty. The two are scheduled to appear in court again Tuesday in New Haven.

Komisarjevsky's attorney, Jeremiah Donovan, and Hayes' attorney, Thomas Ullmann, both declined to comment.

Court and prison documents detailing the pair's criminal past have led the legislature and the office of Gov. M. Jodi Rell to investigate whether Komisarjevsky and Hayes should have been paroled.

A transcript of Komisarjevsky's 2002 sentencing for seven months of burglaries in 2000 and 2001 has received significant attention because it wasn't provided to the state parole board when it reviewed his case.

Superior Court Judge James Bentivegna's comments to Komisarjevsky may have provided some foreshadowing.

"You don't seem to be somebody that's ... an addict just trying to get the money for a quick fix," he told Komisarjevsky, then 22. "What you do seem like is somebody who is a predator, a calculated, cold-blooded predator that decided nighttime residential burglaries was your way to make money."

The transcript quotes Komisarjevsky's description of walking through several front yards "to get a feel for the neighborhood and to make sure that no one was around." He also spoke about opening an unlocked sliding door at one home, listening in the doorway for up to 15 minutes. He describes robbing another home while the owner watched television upstairs.

Komisarjevsky's attorney in that case, William Gerace, acknowledged that his client's propensity for burglarizing occupied homes was "bizarre and erratic." He even told the judge that Komisarjevsky would "either be a career criminal or never come back here again. I don't think there's any middle ground," Gerace said.

But Gerace stressed that Komisarjevsky, who has a young daughter, needed psychological and emotional help.

The suspect has had eight concussions, resulting in a progressive personality deterioration, he said. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, but did not receive the antidepressants prescribed because his parents thought he might overdose. Gerace also said Komisarjevsky has learning disabilities and has attempted suicide.

Komisarjevsky grew up as an adopted son in a well-known Connecticut family. He is the grandson of a renowned Russian theater director and a former dancer.

According to parole documents, Komisarjevsky said he was 14 when he started to smoke marijuana, the same age he discovered that he had been adopted. By age 18 or 19, he started using methamphetamine and cocaine and said he would steal from upscale homes to pay for his habit.

Hayes' criminal history dates as far back as 1980, according to court records. He has been in and out of Connecticut prisons, halfway houses and drug rehabilitation programs for much of his adult life.

In between, he fathered two children, was married and worked as a cook at various restaurants.

Andrew Wittstein, supervisory state's attorney, said he has prosecuted Hayes for decades.

"He has virtually no history of violence," Wittstein said. "I was quite astonished to see him involved in this."

Hayes has been arrested more than 25 times for crimes that include larceny and issuing bad checks. He has alternately been denied and granted parole, though he often violated the conditions of his release by using drugs, according to records.

In a 1996 statement to the state police, Hayes wrote about how well things were going at a Hartford community release program less than two months before his scheduled discharge. But on the way to the bank to cash his paycheck, Hayes visited a friend who was a prostitute. She suggested they smoke cocaine.

Hayes ultimately went on the run, stole a car and spent the next 11 days breaking into about a half-dozen vehicles and taking pocketbooks and wallets.

He was caught by police while daydreaming in a stolen Volvo, he said.

"I was thinking," he said, "I wished this whole thing was over and never happened."