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Joshua Komisarjevsky Case: Sister Says Man Convicted In Deadly Conn. Home Invasion Molested Her

Joshua Komisarjevsky

JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN   10/31/11 07:58 PM ET   AP

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The sister of a man convicted of killing a woman and her two daughters in a gruesome home invasion told a jury Monday he sexually abused her as a child for years, but she said he wasn't a violent person and wouldn't intentionally kill.

Joshua Komisarjevsky's sister testified in the sentencing phase in New Haven Superior Court. Komisarjevsky was convicted of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, in their Cheshire home in 2007. Now, the same jury must decide if he should get the death penalty.

His accomplice, Steven Hayes, is on death row after he was convicted last year of raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and killing her daughters.

The family was tied up during the eight-hour ordeal and gas was poured on the girls, who died of smoke inhalation after the house was set on fire. Komisarjevsky was convicted of the killings and sexually assaulting Michaela.

His sister's name is being withheld by The Associated Press, which generally doesn't identify victims of sexual crimes.

She said the abuse began when she was about 7 and happened "quite often" before it ended when she was 9 or 10. She said her brother admitted to the abuse, which didn't involve sexual intercourse.

She disclosed the abuse when her brother was about 12, saying she broke down crying and blurted it out while at summer camp. She said her brother grew more distant and rebellious and was angry at the world.

The defense says Komisarjevsky's religious family didn't get him the proper psychological treatment. His attorneys say he was sexually abused by a foster teen the family took into their home and later as a teen by someone else. Prosecutors say those claims come from Komisarjevsky and emerged years later when he faced prison time for 19 nighttime residential burglaries.

"I know Josh is not a violent person in nature," she said. "I know Josh would not intentionally decide he is going to kill. I know he would not intentionally harm or decide to kill the Petit family."

A prosecutor asked her if sexual abuse was violence. She called it an act of control.

She began to cry as she said her brother feels a lot of sorrow, self-hatred and anger at himself for the killings. But she said her brother doesn't like Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor whom Komisarjevsky beat with a baseball bat.

"He doesn't believe Dr. Petit did much to help his family out," she said.

Under cross-examination, prosecutors brought up Komisarjevsky's claim that he had not tied up Petit in the basement. But his sister acknowledged that she saw rope in the photos and that he was tied to a pole.

Petit said he managed to free himself from the bindings and hop, crawl and roll to a neighbor's house to get help. Petit testified during the trial that there were two of them, that one of the men had a gun and that his feet were still bound, so fighting back wasn't an option.

"I didn't think it would be a good match," he said.

Petit said after court Monday that it was "hard to dignify the comments of a person who's been convicted of six capital felonies and a sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl."

The testimony by Komisarjevsky's sister largely mirrors defense arguments that Komisarjevsky didn't intend to kill anyone and that it was Hayes' fault. But prosecutors say Komisarjevsky was the mastermind and that it took both men to carry out the crime.

Komisarjevsky's sister and aunt testified that he was very caring toward his 9-year-old daughter and had won custody of her from her drug-addicted mother.

"He was very loving," his sister said. "He always loved children. She would giggle when she was on his lap. He wanted to make sure she was protected and safe."

Defense attorneys showed several drawings Komisarjevsky did in prison, including one of his daughter.

The defense wants to call his daughter to testify, possibly by videotape, but an attorney for the girl has objected. A hearing is planned later in the week.

Komisarjevsky's aunt Karlie Lebatique testified Monday that her nephew should be spared the death penalty.

"Because Josh, ever since he was in the womb, has been rejected, attacked, abused, doubted, every step of the way by people that were supposed to love him the most and take care of him the most," she said in response to a question about why Komisarjevsky should not be sentenced to death.

Lebatique said her nephew has "done some awful things" but needs a second chance. "And he has a daughter that he loves," she said.

Prosecutor Gary Nicholson reminded Lebatique of details of the crime

His aunt blamed Hayes for the killings and said of her nephew: "I don't believe he killed anyone."

Komisarjevsky's mother testified earlier Monday that she suspected he was visiting hundreds of pornographic adult websites days before the crime. About five days before the crime, she said she saw him on the computer at around 2 a.m. with an angry look on his face.

Jude Komisarjevsky said her son's electronic monitoring bracelet was removed days before the crime. She said he immediately started staying out late at night and complained about a lack of money even though he had no bills to pay because he was living with her and her husband.

She said her son left the house late the night of the crime and she feared he was up to no good because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt he used in the past to commit burglaries. When she heard a family had died in a fire nearby, she feared her son could have been involved

Loading Slideshow...
  • Joshua Komisarjevsky

    This March 14, 2011 file photo, provided by the Connecticut Department of Correction, shows Joshua Komisarjevsky. On Oct. 13, 2011, Komisarjevsky was convicted of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters in a July 2007 home invasion in Cheshire, Conn. A jury sentenced him to death on Dec. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Connecticut Department of Correction, File)

  • William Petit Jr.

    Dr. William Petit Jr., left, managed to survive the attack despite being beaten by Komisarjevsky. In this Oct. 13, 2011 picture, taken after Komisarjevsky was convicted of capital felony for the July 2007 home invasion, Petit stands with his sister Johanna Chapman outside Superior Court in New Haven. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

  • Steven Hayes

    This photo, supplied by the Connecticut State Police, shows Steven Hayes -- Komisarjevsky's accomplice in the home invasion and triple homicide, according to authorities. Hayes, 44, was sentenced to death for his involvement in the crime in 2010. (AP Photo/Connecticut State Police)

  • The Hawke-Petit Family

    Richard and Marybelle Hawke pose with a picture of their daughter and granddaughters at their Venice, Fla. home on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2007. The Hawkes' daughter Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and his granddaughters Hayley Elizabeth Petit, 17, and Michaela Rose Petit, 11, were held hostage for several hours before they were killed. Hawke-Petit's husband was beaten but managed to escape the house, which the attackers were accused of setting on fire. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

  • The Family

    This photograph, taken during a family vacation in 2003, shows the Petit family four years before the home invasion. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

  • The Scene Of The Crime

    This police photo shows the rear of the fire-damaged Petit home in Cheshire, Conn., where three family members were killed during a home invasion July 23, 2007. The image was released by the Connecticut Judicial Branch as evidence presented in Komisarjevsky's trial in New Haven, Conn. Superior Court. (AP Photo/Connecticut Judicial Branch)

  • The Memorial

    Petit, center, walks past a picture of his daughter Hayley after speaking at a ceremony honoring his wife and two daughters at Cheshire high school in Cheshire, Conn., on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007. Petit's wife and daughters were killed in a home invasion in Cheshire on July 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)

  • Fire Damage

    This police photo, also included as evidence, shows the interior of the home where Hawke-Petit and her daughters Hayley and Michaela perished. Hawke-Petit's husband was severely beaten, but managed to escape from the house before Hayes and Komisarjevsky burned it down, according to investigators. (AP Photo/Connecticut Judicial Branch)

  • Three Angels

    This Sept. 7, 2010 photo shows a remembrance garden in place where the Petit family's house once stood in Cheshire, Conn. Intruders broke into the Petit family home and held the family hostage for several hours before setting the house on fire. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

  • A Brutal Crime

    This police photo, also released by the Connecticut Judicial Branch as evidence, shows the fire-damaged kitchen of the Petit home. Prosecutors say Komisarjevsky and Hayes broke into the home, attacked Petit with a bat and tied up the entire family. According to police, Hayes drove Hawke-Petit to a bank and made her withdraw cash, then raped her and strangled her back at the house. Petit found a way to escape and seek help, but the children died after the house was doused in gasoline and lit on fire, authorities say. (AP Photo/Connecticut Judicial Branch)

  • The Trial

    Petit, right, walks back to at Superior Court after a break from jury selection in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky at Superior Court in New Haven, Conn., Wednesday, March 16, 2011. Petit is the sole survivor of the 2007 Cheshire, Conn., home invasion where his wife and their daughters, Hayley and Michaela, were murdered. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

  • The Crime Scene

    This police photo, presented as evidence, shows the inside of the Petit home. Both Hayes and Komisarjevsky blamed each other for the increasing violence during the home invasion. (AP Photo/Connecticut Judicial Branch)

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