A paroled burglar was found guilty Tuesday of murdering a mother and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion in an affluent Connecticut town. The killer, Steven Hayes, one of two men charged in the murders, now could be sentenced to death.
Hayes, 47, was convicted of capital felony, murder, sexual assault and other counts by a jury that heard eight days of gruesome testimony about the July 2007 attacks on Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela.
The sole survivor, Dr. William Petit, said Tuesday that the verdict gave him "some relief" but said "my family is still gone."
"It doesn’t bring them back. It doesn't bring back the home that we had, but certainly a guilty verdict is a much better sense of relief than a verdict of not guilty," Petit told reporters shortly after the verdict was announced.
The verdict triggers a second phase of the trial, beginning Oct. 18, in which the same jurors will decide if Hayes should be executed or face life in prison.
Hayes' defense admitted his involvement in the fatal home invasion but blamed his co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, for being the aggressor. Komisarjevsky faces trial next year and also could be sentenced to death.
Komisarjevsky spotted the mother and her two daughters at a supermarket, followed them to their Cheshire home, then returned later with Hayes, authorities say.
The men broke into the Petit house in the New Haven suburb of Cheshire, beat William Petit with a baseball bat and forced Hawke-Petit to withdraw money from a bank before raping and strangling her, according to testimony. The men, both paroled burglars who met at a halfway house, tied the girls to their beds, put pillow cases over their heads and poured gas on or around them before setting the house on fire, authorities say.
The girls died of smoke inhalation. Authorities say the men were caught fleeing the scene.
Hayes' attorneys conceded most of the evidence on the first day and spent much of the trial focusing on Komisarjevsky's role. They pointed to graphic photos of Michaela found on Komisarjevsky's cell phone, and Hayes' attorney, Tom Ullmann, said
Komisarjevsky escalated the violence at every critical point, starting with William Petit's beating.
Prosecutors rejected that argument, saying the two men were equally responsible for the crime.
The jurors' deliberations totaled about five hours. Hayes was convicted of 16 counts total, including two charges of sexually assaulting Hawke-Petit. He was acquitted of one count -- arson.
Fox News' Laura Ingle and the Associated Press contributed to this report