Steven Hayes has been formally sentenced to death by New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue, and will soon take his spot among nine others on Connecticut's death row at Northern Correctional Institution.
Judge Blue set an execution date of May 27th, 2011, but acknowledged the date is merely a formality due to the years of appeals that lie ahead.
As Judge Blue imposed the death penalty he told Hayes, "This is a terrible sentence, but it is a sentence you wrote for yourself."
Blue's last words to Hayes before he adjourned for the day, "May God have mercy on your soul." The courtroom was silent as the last gavel fell in the case. Hayes shuffled away in his orange jail jumpsuit, shackled and chained at the wrists and ankles, and was ushered out of courtroom 6A for the last time.
Minutes before, Dr. William Petit, the only family member to survive the home invasion that took the lives of his wife Jennifer and two daughters Hayley and Michaela, gave an emotional victim impact statement to the court, but never directly addressed Hayes.
Dr. Petit choked back tears several times as he read from his prepared remarks that were 14 pages long. As he spoke of his family, a slide show of photos played on a big projection screen in the courtroom; wedding photos, baby photos, family vacation photos all flooded the screen with happier memories of their lives.
He called his wife his "best friend," adding, "When you are with someone 26 years, it takes a long time for habits to change. For months, and still on occasion, I start to think, 'I'll just ask Jen...' Then I shudder and feel a cold sweat and realize for the 100,000th time what has happened.
"Again, mornings are often bad, I wake up and, for a split second, I think my world is normal; then I realize it has changed in a huge way. There is a giant hole in the universe, in my heart, and I do not understand it. I do not want to live in what I call an alternative universe that I have not chosen."
The Petit and Hawke families will return next year for what many say will be an even tougher trial to sit through - that of the 2nd suspect Joshua Komisarjevsky, who is also accused of sexually assaulting the youngest Petit daughter, 11 year old Michaela.
Lawyers for the prosecution, a new defense team, and Judge Blue are expected to meet within a month to start discussing jury selection.