Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Connecticut Nightmare


Steven Hayes was on standby. The ex-con, bald, pudgy and middle-aged, was waiting in the yard for his younger friend to finish creeping into the house. They wanted it to be quiet.

It was about 3 a.m., and the man of the house was asleep on the porch. Hayes could see him and assumed the man's wife and daughter, about whom he'd heard from his friend, were also asleep. But they didn't know who else could be in the house. After waiting in the damp, early morning, Hayes finally saw his friend, Joshua Komisarjevsky, appear on the porch. He was carrying a baseball bat.

Book cover: In the Middle of the Night
Book cover: In the Middle of the Night

According to Komisarjevsky (pronounced Kom-ih-sore-JEFF-skee), who related his account to journalist Brian McDonald for the book In the Middle of the Night, he hit the sleeping man as hard as he could several times, and he and Hayes used zip-ties to restrain him. Thus began one of the most savage cases of home invasion in recent memory, one which shocked the nation and left a small town's residents feeling vulnerable and violated.

Over nearly seven hours on the morning of July 23, 2007, Dr. William Petit, along with his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their two daughters would be bound and attacked. Beaten beyond recognition, Dr. Petit would ultimately escape his attackers, stumbling out of his basement and prompting neighbors to call 911. Moments later, Jennifer Hawke-Petit and the two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, were burned in a fire started with gasoline doused around the house. Autopsy reports indicate the mother was raped and strangled before the fire, but the two young women died of asphyxia after being tied to their beds. The two accused killers, Komisarjevsky and Hayes, were captured by police while fleeing the burning home. They await trial in Connecticut for three murders.

After the flames died and the ashes cooled, investigators began to assemble the story of two career criminals, never arrested for violent crime, and how they brought mayhem to the seemingly picture-perfect suburban home in Cheshire, Conn.


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