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Joshua Komisarjevsky Sentencing: Suspect Tortured Family In Brutal Home Invasion, Prosecutor Alleges

Joshua Komisarjevsky

First Posted: 12/03/11 06:12 AM ET Updated: 12/03/11 06:12 AM ET

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A Connecticut man and his accomplice created "the ultimate house of horrors" in a 2007 home invasion during which they killed a woman and her two daughters, inflicting extreme psychological and physical pain on the victims that amounted to torture, a prosecutor told a jury Friday.

Prosecutor Gary Nicholson said in his sentencing closing argument that Joshua Komisarjevsky deserves the death penalty and said it was ironic the defendant was seeking mercy when he showed none to the victims.

"It was shockingly brutal. It was evil. It was vicious," Nicholson said, adding the men created a "hellish inferno."

Komisarjevsky and co-defendant Steven Hayes were convicted of capital felony, sexual assault and other charges stemming from the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, at their Cheshire home. Hayes is on death row for raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and killing her daughters, who died of smoke inhalation after they were tied to their beds, doused in gas and left to die in a fire.

SEE PHOTOS FROM THE CASE

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  • 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)

Komisarjevsky was convicted in October. The same jury heard final arguments from prosecutors and the defense Friday before it begins deliberating Monday on whether he should be sentenced to death.

Komisarjevsky's attorney told the jury he was repeatedly raped as a child by his foster brother and suffered a mood disorder that increased his risk of committing crime.

Defense attorney Walter Bansley said in his closing argument that the defense is sorry for the crime. But he said Komisarjevsky should get life in prison, describing him as damaged from an early age by repeated sexual abuse.

"Joshua will die in prison," Bansley said, pointing at his client. "Joshua will never ever walk freely among us and frankly he doesn't deserve to."

Komisarjevsky was never violent before the crime and has caused no problems in prison, Bansley said.

"Why is it so necessary for the state to kill Joshua Komisarjevsky," Bansley asked, urging the jurors not to give in to a "mob mentality." "I'm suggesting to you there is no reason under the facts and circumstances of this case to kill Josh."

Bansley said the abuse was well documented and that Komisarjevsky never received professional help.

"The only option he ever had was to go through life damaged," Bansley said.

He said many witnesses described him as a dark and troubled child who began to leave his home at an early age, run naked in the woods and cut himself.

"Think of the terror Joshua must have experienced," Bansley said.

A death sentence also would be tougher on Komisarjeksky's 9-year-old daughter, Bansley said. He showed a drawing Komisarjevsky did of her in prison and flooded jurors with photos of Komisarjevsky as a child.

Prosecutor Michael Dearington said Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor of the crime who was beaten with a bat and tied up but later escaped, has no photos of his family because they were burned in the crime. The prosecutor also cast some doubt on the sexual abuse claims, saying they came from Komisarjevsky many years later when he faced charges for earlier residential breakins.

"I ask you to consider the source of that," Dearington said.

A jury heard weeks of defense testimony about Komisarjevsky's troubled childhood, but Nicholson brought them starkly back to the crime scene as he described a plan that involved "greed, sex, death and destruction." He showed them the masks, bat and BB gun Komisarjevsky used.

He also showed photos of Hawke-Petit at a bank where she was taken by Hayes and forced to withdraw money. He noted she was raped and strangled.

"Imagine her extreme physical and psychological pain," he said, adding she must have been thinking, "If they're killing me what are they going to do to my children?"

He said the girls would have been screaming for their lives before their house was set on fire.

Hayes and Komisarjevsky have blamed each other for escalating the crime, but Nicholson said it took both men to carry it out. He noted it was Komisarjevsky who spotted Hawke-Petit and her younger daughter at a supermarket, followed them home and returned later with Hayes.

"He wanted more than the money," Nicholson said. "He wanted a cute, vibrant, innocent 11-year-old Michaela Petit."

Komisarjevsky was also convicted of sexually assaulting Michaela. Nicholson recalled a judge who sentenced him for earlier house break-ins called him a predator, saying the description was "prophetic."

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