While he sat on Connecticut's death row late in 2011, the trial of his accomplice in the
And Hayes' name kept coming up.
Was there any point in listening to a career criminal, a man Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue labeled as "universally despised, with good reason" ?
Was there anything a man who had brutally murdered a mother and her two daughters had to say?
State Sen. Edith
"I was so pissed that he would have the nerve to write me," Prague said.
Yet Hayes' trial, which concluded a year earlier, ended with some questions that had yet to be answered.
Were his suicide attempts, including one that halted jury selection in his case for six weeks, genuine, or just the manipulations of a killer desperate for a shred of sympathy?
What was behind Hayes' bombshell decision to change his plea to guilty only to reverse it again?
Why did the penalty phase of his trial — the time when attorneys would typically fight for his life — lack testimony from Hayes' family members, mitigation evidence his veteran defense lawyers were known to present in past cases?
And — did he really kill 17 other women?
Hayes had made that chilling claim in letters, including one sent to The Courant, that defense attorneys pushed to have included as evidence in Komisarjevsky's trial.
Hayes' offer to talk, while troubling, appeared to have a purpose.
"I need to clear my conscience," Hayes wrote.
The quiet road leading to Northern Correctional Institution, which houses Connecticut's death row, cuts through scenic open fields in Somers where passing cars send flocks of birds rushing up into the sky. Northern, a concrete fortress surrounded by layers of silver barbed wire, is a blemish on the picturesque landscape.
To get to death row, visitors must sign in and clear a security checkpoint. A correction officer leads visitors to a slow-running elevator that opens into a long, dimly lit corridor. The walk to the end of the hallway is more than 200 paces.
The visiting area sits beyond a locked metal door that slides open slowly. Visitors sit on gray, cylinder-shaped concrete seats built into the floor, and use a telephone to talk to the inmate on the other side of a glass partition.
Before Hayes sat down one recent afternoon, correction officers removed his handcuffs. The loud clanking of opening and closing jail cell doors was constant, but it was the sound of an inmate, screaming and groaning in the background, that was hard to ignore.
"I'm used to that," Hayes said. "I don't even hear it anymore."
Death And Oysters
The three-page, handwritten letter on lined notebook paper came from "S. Hayes. No. 97425'' in October 2011.
The claim he made was chilling: The Petit family members weren't his only murders. He also had killed 17 other women, all runaways, hitchhikers and prostitutes. The story had come up during Komisarjevsky's trial, when defense lawyers raised it in a bid to shift blame away from their client, whose defense included pointing the finger for the Petit murders at Hayes.
Judge Blue, the trial judge, was skeptical.
"If they are true," Blue scoffed, "he's one of the great serial killers in modern American history."
But Hayes' claims, though arguably difficult to believe, were eerie. And now he was willing to give details about "every victim, all 17 and where they can be found and the whole story behind it."
The letter said he had made some of the girls he kidnapped "pack some of their stuff" or write good-bye notes to loved ones. Hayes claimed no one reported the first hitchhiker he killed missing because no one cared about her.
"With most, a second and third note would be written, by the girls themselves, and I would mail these weeks and months later. The notes would be detailed and disarming. This was key because while the girl would be gone within hours, the notes gave the appearance of what I wanted, a runaway or a girl who left her boyfriend or a hooker drug addict who went to greener pastures," Hayes wrote.
But now, sitting behind the glass partition, Hayes, dressed in a yellow prison jumpsuit with rectangle reading glasses propped on the crown of his head, was quick to admit it was all a lie, a manipulation. He appeared more lucid and animated than the deadened, grimacing man sitting in the courtroom in the fall of 2010 during his trial.
"I made it up," Hayes said.
In this case, he said, it was another bid to kill himself. Portraying himself as an even more notorious criminal than he already was, he said, was just part of his elaborate plan to end his time on Connecticut's death row.
Hayes, 49, explained that by writing from prison about the bogus killing spree, he hoped authorities would seize his letters and notify police. His plan was to trade information for food — he wanted police to buy his story and grant his request for soda, a pepperoni pizza and a dozen oysters with hot sauce.
He is deathly
"I planned to eat them and have them find me dead in my cell the next morning," he said.
Like Hayes' previous suicide attempts, though, this ploy was a flop.
And the efforts he said he'd gone through to craft a credible story gives credence to those who see him as no more than a conniving manipulator. He said he did his homework, reading crime novels and studying the murders of serial killer
Bundy confessed to killing 30 women in seven states before he was executed by electric chair on Jan. 24, 1989.
New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington declined to discuss specifics about the state police probe into Hayes' claims, but said it is "an open investigation."
A Promise To Live
Hayes' purported desire to die has been a constant theme of his defense since the July 23, 2007 killings.
Hayes raped and strangled
Hayes said he expected to die as he and Komisarjevsky fled the burning Petit home. He expected Cheshire police officers to shoot him when they saw the fake but authentic-looking gun he was carrying or when Komisarjevsky rammed their getaway vehicle into a police cruiser.
Instead, he and Komisarjevsky were immediately arrested and forever linked to one of the most horrendous crimes in Connecticut history.
As his trial was getting underway, Hayes was found unconscious in his prison cell after overdosing on prescription medication. Testimony at his trial showed that the attempt was another on a list of suicide attempts he made before and after the Cheshire killings.
To end his life, Hayes said, he slashed his wrists, slammed his mother's car into a rock and tied a sock around his neck, according to trial testimony. He even fantasized about putting his head in a prison cell toilet and doing a back flip, but didn't for fear he would survive but be paralyzed.
At Northern, he said, he still thinks of ways to die. Every day, Hayes said, he paces for hours in his cell, trying to relieve his anxiety. It doesn't work. Thoughts of the killings — and a host of other crimes that have sent him shuffling back and forth to prison since 1993 — return to him in nightmares, he said.
Hayes used to read crime novels in prison, but since being on death row, he said, he no longer reads. "I just can't concentrate anymore," Hayes said.
The frustration of being in a place where he no longer can "make it right" gives him constant anxiety attacks. In one recent episode, he ended up slamming his head against the metal ladder to the bunk bed in his cell.