Photos of ripped clothes of Conn. sisters who died in fire are shown at home invasion trial

By Stephen Singer, AP
Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jurors see photos of Conn. girls’ ripped clothes

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Photos of two young sisters’ ripped shorts and T-shirts and a pile of debris damaged in a house fire were shown to jurors Thursday in the trial of a suspect in a deadly home invasion.

Connecticut police Sgt. Karen Gabianelli took the stand in the trial of Steven Hayes, who is charged with murder, sexual assault and other crimes in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela. The trial of co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky is to begin after Hayes’ trial concludes.

Prosecutors say Komisarjevsky saw Hawke-Petit and her daughters at a supermarket in July 2007 and followed them to their home in the affluent suburb of Cheshire. He returned later with Hayes, authorities say, and together they severely beat Dr. William Petit and killed his wife and daughters.

William Petit, the sole survivor of the home invasion, who was beaten and tied up in the basement but escaped before the fire was set, held his head facing down at times Thursday as prosecutors showed photo after photo of burned staircases and hallways throughout the house. Petit had sobbed during Wednesday’s testimony as photos of his daughters’ bodies were shown.

Evidence presented Thursday included photos that showed pieces of shorts worn by Hayley Petit and a nearly shredded T-shirt and partially burned shorts belonging to Michaela.

Prosecutors also showed photographs of a pickup truck they say was driven by Hayes that held items from the alleged burglary, including a purple knapsack embroidered with Hayley’s name, a string of pearls in a plastic shopping bag and other jewelry.

Other pictures showed ropes and other restraints used to tie Michaela to the bed and cans of what Gabianelli said was accelerant used to set the fire, and one showed a bedroom where a telephone had been disconnected from the wall and drawers were pulled out of a bureau with clothes strewn around the room.

Hayes was in court Thursday, but his lawyer told the judge that Hayes had had seizure-like symptoms and urinated on himself Wednesday night. Lawyer Thomas Ullmann said defense lawyers are prepared to continue.

Both defendants face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

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