A judge getting ready to send Joshua Komisarjevsky to prison in 2002 called him a ``cold, calculating predator.''
Equipped with night-vision goggles and armed with a knife, he would slash his way through screens into houses around his hometown of Cheshire, stealing mostly electronic equipment and petty cash to pay for a drug habit.
Steven Hayes had a record more noteworthy for its length than the severity of the crimes -- decades of larcenies, burglaries and check forgeries. Hayes committed most of his crimes in the northwest corner, near his home in Winsted -- far from Sorghum Mill Drive in Cheshire, where the horrific events that landed him back in court played out early Monday.
The two met in Hartford in 2006, at a residential drug treatment center, and then again in a halfway house where they lived for nearly five months.
This spring, Komisarjevsky and Hayes, listed as nonviolent offenders by the state Department of Correction, were both paroled -- Komisarjevsky , 26, released in April, and Hayes, 44, in May.
On Tuesday they appeared together again, this time in Superior Court in Meriden to face a litany of charges stemming from a home invasion that left a mother and her two daughters dead and a community in shock.
Although it is still unclear why they chose the home of Dr. William Petit Jr., one thing is certain, police say: The ``calculating predator'' and the career criminal descended to a level of violence that is almost unfathomable.
When the ordeal was over, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters, Hayley Petit, 18, and Michaela Petit, 11, were dead. The girls, sources said, were tied to their beds and raped, then left to burn after gasoline was poured around their beds and ignited.
Late Tuesday, the state medical examiner's office said Hawke-Petit was strangled and her daughters died of smoke inhalation. Their deaths were ruled homicides.
William Petit was beaten almost beyond recognition with a baseball bat, tied up in the basement and left for dead, only to make his way out of the house and to a neighbor before his home exploded into flames.
Komisarjevsky and Hayes were arraigned Tuesday. Each is charged with aggravated sexual assault, arson, robbery, kidnapping and risk of injury to a minor. Komisarjevsky was also charged with felony assault, possibly in connection with William Petit's beating. Bail for each was set at $15 million, and they are being held.
Authorities are believed to be considering whether to bring murder and capital felony charges against both men, which would make them eligible for the death penalty.
William Petit is recovering at St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury.
``Our precious family members have been the victims of horrible, senseless, violent assaults. We are understandably in shock and overwhelmed with sadness as we attempt to gather to support one another and recognize these wonderful, giving, beautiful individuals who have been so cruelly taken,'' the Petit family said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Komisarjevsky lived 2 miles from the victims' home in Cheshire. His parent's house at 840 N. Brooksvale Road is a small, 1 1/2-story bungalow with an overgrown front yard and children's toys -- a rocking horse and a plastic slide -- on the side.
Associates of the family said Komisarjevsky has a 5-year-old daughter, Jayda, who has been living with him and his parents. An older man was seen carrying a small child into the house Tuesday afternoon followed by several police detectives. Komisarjevsky 's family released a brief statement later:
``This is an absolute tragedy. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the Petit family (and all those whose lives they touched). We cannot understand what would have made something like this happen. There is nothing else we can say at this time.''
State police detectives and members of the state fire marshal's office combed through the Petit home all day Tuesday, and new details of what happened inside emerged.
William Petit may have confronted the burglars shortly after they broke in, sources said.
Police recovered $15,000 that Hawke-Petit was forced to withdraw from a bank that morning while the rest of her family was held hostage. She told bank officials who balked at giving her the money that she needed it because her family was being held hostage. Bank officials then notified police.
About a half-dozen relatives of the victims were in Superior Court as the suspects made their first appearance before a judge. A blond woman, who did not give her name, leaned forward and sobbed as the two prisoners were brought into court. Another relative tried to comfort her. The family left without speaking to members of the press.
Hayes, a pudgy man with a shaved head, was brought into court first. He wore an orange prison jumpsuit, his hands clasped to a thick belly chain around his waist. A bail commissioner rattled off a litany of criminal charges dating back to when Hayes was a teenager in the '80s.
The court official said Hayes was on special parole in connection with an October 2003 burglary conviction out of Bantam. He was given a five-year sentence and his release date from parole was May 4, 2008.
Hayes also has a conviction for possession of marijuana in 2002 and several convictions in 1996 and 1997 for passing bad checks, forgery, petty larceny and escape from custody, the latter stemming from an incident in Hartford in 1996. In 1993, he was convicted of a burglary charge in Litchfield and given a five-year suspended sentence and five years of probation.
Hayes was arrested three months later and charged with forgery and violating his probation. He was sent back to jail but it was unclear Tuesday how much time he served before being released again. Hayes also has a record for theft of a firearm and carrying a firearm without a permit, officials said.
A bail commissioner said Hayes was issued 23 disciplinary tickets during his times in prison. Three members of the Department of Correction's special emergency response team accompanied the two suspects to court.
Judge Christina G. Dunnell set Hayes' bail at $15 million and ordered him held without chance of release because of his parole status. Hayes' public defender, Tom Conroy, asked for Hayes to be put on a suicide watch. Conroy said Hayes was taking pain medication.
Someone in the court hissed, ``Scumbag!'' as Hayes was led back to the holding pen. Hayes' case was transferred to Superior Court in New Haven and continued to Aug. 7.
Komisarjevsky , a slight man with tousled black hair and a thin mustache and beard, was also out on parole at the time of the home invasion.
Public defender David Smith, Komisarjevsky 's attorney, said his client attended a year of schooling at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield. Dunnell set Komisarjevsky 's bail at $15 million and transferred the case to New Haven with an Aug. 7 continuance date.
Attorney Patrick Culligan, head of the state public defender's office special capital felony unit, was on hand for Tuesday's court proceedings. Culligan said outside court that it was ``conceivable'' that the state could bring more serious charges and it was his department's policy to be present and prepared in advance.
Nancy Manning, a diabetic patient of Petit's from Rocky Hill, was also in court. She said she felt compelled to be there.
Manning said she wanted to know "why they didn't get stopped and why didn't someone throw away the key long, long ago."
``One looks very young, the other very callous and cold-hearted,'' Manning said later outside court.
Komisarjevsky and Hayes met when they were both at Berman House residential treatment center on Sargeant Street in Hartford in June 2006. They were there from June 13 to July 25, and their stays at Silliman House on Retreat Avenue in Hartford overlapped from July 31 until Nov. 26, 2006. Between the two places, they spent 5 1/2 months together -- until Hayes failed a urine test and was sent back to prison
Robert Pidgeon, chief executive officer of Community Solutions Inc., which runs Silliman House and six other halfway houses for the Department of Correction, said he doubted the two men were assigned to the same employer while at the halfway house, but said, ``They certainly saw each other.''
Although Pidgeon said he did not have a detailed report of their behavior and performance at Silliman House, he said he doubted there were problems before Hayes failed the urine test. ``I can tell you [corrections] would yank them back quickly if there was a problem,'' Pidgeon said. ``They're very good about that.''
Correction department records show Komisarjevsky was sentenced in January 2003 to nine years in prison for second-degree burglary . He was released to a halfway house in June 2006.
Since his offense was non-violent and the sentence longer than two years, the Board of Pardons and Paroles considered his parole after he had completed 50 percent, DOC spokesman Brian Garnett said. He was granted parole on April 10, 2007.
Hayes was sentenced to five years in prison for third-degree burglary in 2003. In June 2006 he was released to a halfway house, but was sent back to prison five months later for drug use. He was granted parole on May 3, 2007.
Correction department officials say the two men had been reporting to their parole officers since their release and had full-time jobs. Officials would not reveal where they worked.
A state senator whose district includes Cheshire called for a review of the state parole board's decision to release the suspects into the community despite their lengthy records and prior convictions.
``Issuing judgment and laying blame is counterproductive,'' said Sen. Sam Caligiuri, R-Waterbury. ``Nevertheless, three people are dead. ... We owe it to the victims, their families and friends, and to the public to find out why these suspects were seen as ready for supervised parole and what action the state can take to prevent such a horrific thing from happening again.''
Komisarjevsky was first arrested in May of 2002 for a series of burglaries in the Cheshire area. Shortly after, state police linked him to 11 burglaries in the Burlington area. It was at his sentencing on those charges that Superior Court Judge James Bentivegna in Bristol called him a ``cold, calculating predator.''
State officials said that Komisarjevsky started burglarizing homes when he was 14 but that most of the crimes occurred during an eight-month spree between July 2001 and February 2002 after he had bought night-vision goggles.
Prosecutors said he stole more than $20,000 worth of goods from his victims.
Several of those victims were stunned to learn Tuesday afternoon that the man who had broken into their homes is accused of the horrific Cheshire crime.
``That was him? Really? That just sends chills up my spine,'' Jamie Maheu said. ``He just escalated from what he did six years ago.''
About a month after Maheu and her husband, Paul, were married, Komisarjevsky broke into the home they owned on Wildewood Run. Komisarjevsky 's home at the time was nearby, on Wilderness Way in Bristol. The Maheus didn't know until the next day that someone had sneaked into their house overnight. Cash had been stolen from the husband's wallet, and papers from the wife's briefcase had been scattered in the doorway.
``My wife is still nervous about leaving windows open in the evening, and I agree with that. We stopped using the window air conditioner at night. This still affects her -- it was not a good feeling,'' Paul Maheu said.
Another victim, who requested anonymity, said she nearly caught Komisarjevsky burglarizing her home on Wilderness Way.
``I had gone to bed, shut down the house and heard something, as if a paperback book had gotten knocked off a kitchen counter downstairs,'' she said. ``I immediately woke up and yelled at the top of my lungs `Get out of here now.'''
The woman ran out the garage door and called 911 from under a streetlight.
``We found out later that I scared him by yelling and he tripped; he was carrying my stereo outside and hit his head on the concrete floor,'' she said. ``I didn't sleep right for at least a year. I was awakened by fear. I got an alarm system -- I'm a big believer in alarms now.''Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times