A Connecticut police captain faced tough questioning Wednesday over his department's response to a grisly home invasion that killed a mother and her two daughters in their upscale home.
Capt. Robert Vignola of the Cheshire Police Department testified Wednesday in the trial of Steven Hayes, who is charged with murder, sexual assault and other crimes in the 2007 killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.
Prosecutors say Hayes and another man, Joshua Komisarjevsky, broke into the family's home on July 23, 2007, and beat Dr. William Petit with a baseball bat before forcing his wife, Jennifer, to withdraw $15,000 in cash from a bank.
Police allege that Hayes, 47, sexually assaulted and strangled Hawke-Petit. Komisarjevsky, 30, is accused of sexually assaulting Michaela. The two convicts bound both girls to their beds before pouring gasoline on or around them and setting the home on fire. Hayley and Michaela died of smoke inhalation, authorities said.
On Wednesday, defense attorney Thomas J. Ullmann questioned Vignola on the timeliness of his department's response and possible mishaps in police procedure.
Ullman pointed specifically to a timeline that showed 33 minutes elapsed from a 911 call about a possible hostage situation to police confirmation that at least one family member -- Dr. Petit -- was in distress, CTnow.com reports.
At 9:21 a.m., police reportedly received a phone call from an employee at a Bank of America branch in Cheshire, alerting them that Hawke-Petit had just withdrawn $15,000 in cash and had told a bank teller her family was being held hostage.
At 9:25 a.m., all police units were alerted to a possible hostage situation at the Petit home, CTnow.com reports. By 9:45 a.m., patrol units had been set up at each end of the Petit's street and at 9:54 a.m., Petit was reportedly found severely beaten in his neighbor's driveway.
Vignola said he told officers not to enter the home until a perimeter was set, CTnow.com reports. He said he had no information to indicate there was violence inside the home and said police followed proper protocol in their response to a possible hostage situation.
Ullman also questioned Vignola about an officer who reportedly went to the police department first to get SWAT gear before driving to the family's home.
"No phone call was made from any police officer to the home?" Ullmann reportedly asked.
"That's correct," Vignola said.
Petit, who managed to escape badly beaten, said he fell asleep that night on his couch. He said he remembers waking in the dark with the sensation of blood running down his face and being taken to his home's basement where he was tied to a post.
"It was very strange. I remember thinking or feeling ow, ow ow," Petit reportedly testified. "The next thing I knew I was seated on the sofa."
"And then I felt something warm running down the front of my face," he said, adding that he did not know where his family was. "I was oozing blood rather profusely."
Petit testified that he heard one of the men say, "If he moves put two bullets in him," CTnow.com reports.
At the trial's opening on Monday, prosecutors warned jurors that they would here "incomprehensible" and "indescribable" details about the murders.
Witnesses on Monday recalled how Hawke-Petit calmly walked up to the bank teller.
"Her hands were a little shaky, but she wasn't overly anxious, or looking over her shoulder," bank teller Kristin Makhzangi reportedly told jurors. "She was just focusing on her conversation."
"She just mentioned that she needed to take out $15,000 because her and her family were being held hostage at the house," Makhzangi said, according to the New York Post.
Mary Lyons, manager of the bank branch, reportedly described the 48-year-old mother's demeanor as heroic, telling jurors that Hawke-Petit "seemed, to me, very brave."
Authorities allege that Hayes drove Hawke-Petit to the bank in the family's Chrysler SUV, while her husband and daughters remained bound inside their home.
Prosecutors say Hayes raped and strangled Hawke-Petit once he drove her home -- approximately 30 minutes after leaving the bank.
Petit testified Tuesday that he felt a "jolt of adrenaline" and the need to escape after he heard one of the assailants upstairs say, "Don't worry, it's going to be all over in a couple of minutes."
"I thought, it's now or never because in my mind at that moment, I thought they were going shoot all of us," Petit reportedly told the jury.
Petit told jurors that he managed to hop upstairs to an outside basement door and then roll his body through his yard to his neighbor's home, CTnow.com reports.
The neighbor, David Simcik, testified Monday that he did not recognize Petit because he was so severely beaten.
"I did not recognize him at first," Simcik reportedly told the courtroom. "His face was banged up. It just didn't look like Dr. Petit."
Prosecutors say the defendants randomly targeted the family after Komisarjevsky spotted Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in the parking lot of a Stop & Shop earlier that day.
Both defendants face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted. Komisarjevsky is awaiting trial.
The Associated Press contributed to this report