#CrimeTime with Alicia Dean ~
People Magazine Investigates, Season 2, Episode 4, “Connecticut Horror Story”
Cheshire, Connecticut July 23, 2007
Jennifer Petit and her eleven-year-old daughter, Michaela, were shopping for groceries for Jennifer’s birthday dinner, which Michaela planned to prepare. Unbeknownst to them, they were spotted by Joshua Komisarjevsky . He and his pal were planning to find a rich family to rob, and the Petits fit the bill. He called his friend, Steven Hayes, and the plan was put into motion. Supposedly, they only planned to rob them and leave. They waited until the wee hours, while the family was sleeping. When they arrived, they found the father, William Petit, asleep on the sofa. They beat him over the head with a bat they found in the yard, then tied him up in the basement. They then went upstairs and bound and gagged Jennifer and her two daughters, Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17.
The criminals robbed the home but were not satisfied with their haul. They found a bank book showing the balance in the account, and decided to have Jennifer withdraw money for them. The bank would not be open until 9 a.m., which was 7 hours away. With the family tied up, they drove the family’s vehicle to a nearby gas station and, using the Petits’ credit card, filled gas cans with $10 worth of gas. Then, they returned and spent all that time in the home with the family as they waited for the bank to open. From what I understand, during that time, there was no abuse, no sexual assault. They treated their victims decently.
At nine a.m., Hayes drove Jennifer to the bank. The teller told Jennifer she was unable to withdraw the money without her husband present as well. Jennifer wrote a note on the withdrawal slip stating that her children were being held hostage and would be killed if she didn’t get the money, and that if the police were called, her children would be killed. The teller contacted the bank manager. The manager spoke to Jennifer who showed her a picture of her daughters. A mother herself, the bank manager knew Jennifer was being truthful. She approved the withdrawal but went into her office and called the police. As she was on the phone with them, Jennifer left the bank.
The police first showed up at the bank, thinking there was a situation there. When they learned there was not, they headed to the Petit house. By this time, William Petit had escaped the basement through the doors which led into the yard. He called out to a neighbor who rushed over to help him. The police spotted the men and thought at first they might be the perpetrators. Mr. Petit told them his family was in the home, in danger. When it was established these men were not the criminals, Mr. Petit was rushed to the hospital.
The police were formulating a plan and setting up a perimeter around the home. While this was taking place, the home went up in flames. The criminals tried to escape in the family’s SUV, but were quickly apprehended. Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela were found dead inside the home. They’d been raped and strangled and suffered smoke inhalation.
A lot of criticism was aimed at the police for their handling of the situation. They never tried to make contact with the criminals. They wasted too much time without taking action. It appears that the sexual assaults and murders happened after the police had arrived. From the time the bank manager called to the time the house was set on fire, 50 minutes or so had passed. Critics assert that the police could have acted more quickly and saved the family.
Authorities later learned that the criminals saw the police outside the home and doused it with gasoline and set it on fire.
I am certain things could have been done differently by many of those involved. I have to wonder a few things…
- If the bank manager hadn’t called the police at all, would the killers have let the family live? I have my doubts. They purchased the gasoline hours earlier, obviously they had a purpose in mind.
- If they had delayed Jennifer in the bank, would the police have been able to stop the crime?
- If the police had ascended on the home, would the murders not have happened? My thought is that they likely still would have. The killers took action when they knew police were there, so I’m not sure that converging on the home would have made a difference. In hindsight, it would have been worth a try.
- Why did the killers only commit the rapes and murders the next morning, when police were outside, when they had all night? I assume it was because they had to keep the women calm in order to get Jennifer to make the withdrawal.
- Why on earth would the killers go ahead and murder the family, knowing they wouldn’t get away? At that point, they had only committed home invasion/kidnapping/robbery. Why add murder charges?
When the cowardly, sick, evil monsters were interviewed, they blamed one another. Komisarjevsky confessed to sexually assaulting 11 year old Michaela. He called her ‘KK’, a nickname the family gave her, which somehow makes the horror even more sickening. He also took photos of the sexual abuse.
His interview with police, during which he gleefully recounted the tragic details of his assault on the child, was played during his trial. His three court-appointed defense lawyers asked the judge to call a mistrial citing the grief shown on the faces of the Petit family members in court as the interview was played unfairly affected the jury. What???? Wow. Yes, let’s not be unfair to a murdering, heartless POS.
Both ‘men’ were convicted and sentenced to death. However, in 2015, Connecticut abolished the death penalty, and their sentences were commuted to life. Jennifer’s sister was interviewed on the show, and she said she had always been against the death penalty, but she changed her mind after what her sister and nieces suffered. She thought the killers should be executed.
Later, in a diary Komisarjevsky kept, an entry was found where he called William Petit a coward and said he could have stopped it any time. Wow. The nerve.
William Petit managed to rebuild his life. The home was torn down and he built a beautiful memorial garden in its place. He remarried in 2012 to Christine Paluf, with whom he has a young son. In 2016, he was elected to the Connecticut legislature.
How do you think you would have acted had you been the bank manager? Jennifer? The police? Would you have done anything differently?
[I love true crime shows, and I watch them every night. (Since I write suspense, thriller, and mystery, it’s not a waste of time…it’s research, right? 🙂 ) I love Investigation Discovery and watch many of the various shows, although some are a little too cheesy. However, there are plenty of shows that are done well enough to feed my fascination with murder. Each week, I’ll blog about some of the recent episodes I’ve seen and I’d love to know your thoughts.]