NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A doctor whose wife and two daughters were killed in a violent home invasion has become engaged to a woman who volunteered at events organized by the foundation set up to honor their memories.
Dr. William Petit became engaged over the weekend to photographer Christine Paluf, but no wedding date was set, his friend and spokesman, Rick Healey, confirmed Wednesday.
The Hartford Courant first reported the engagement of the 55-year-old Petit to the 34-year-old Paluf, who Healey said volunteered at events of the Petit Family Foundation, which helps educate young people, improve the lives of those with chronic illnesses and protect those affected by violence.
During the 2007 invasion by two men at the Petit family home in Cheshire, a wealthy New Haven suburb, Petit was beaten with a baseball bat and tied up, but he escaped to a neighbor's home. His wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, was killed, and their daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, were left to die in a fire.
The two men, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, are on death row for the killings. The men blamed each other for escalating the violence, but prosecutors said it took both of them to carry out the killings in a crime so gruesome that it evoked comparisons to Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," about the brutal murders of a Kansas farmer and his family.
Hayes, convicted of raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and killing the girls, was sentenced to death last year. Komisarjevsky, convicted of the killings and of sexually assaulting the younger girl, was condemned to die last month but will be formally sentenced later this month.
Petit told a court during Hayes' sentencing he had seriously considered suicide many times after the deaths of his wife, whom he called his best friend, and their daughters. He fought back tears as he talked about his family.
"I miss my entire family, my home, everything we had together. They were three special people," he said. "I lost my entire family. I lost the records of our shared lives together due to the fire. Thus I lost my past and my future."
Petit said when Komisarjevsky was convicted that he has had the "occasional moments of peace" since the crime. But he said the trial evidence brought back all the horror.
"It's been very difficult," Petit said last October as his sister, father and other relatives stood by his side. "It's not clear to me that time heals all wounds, but you form some form of scars."
Hawke-Petit's mother, Marybelle Hawke, welcomed the news of Petit's engagement.
"We're really excited and pleased that they've become engaged," she said by telephone from her home in Florida. "I think that they seem to be very compatible. We've got to know her quite well."
Hawke said her family encouraged Petit to find peace and joy in his life.
"I see a great change in him," she said. "I think he'll have pretty good sailing from now on. We felt he was a blank person for a long time."