The Petite Family Murders

The Petit Family (L-R) Michaela, William, Hayley and Jennifer

The Petit Family

The Petit family had been living in Cheshire, Connecticut at the time of the home invasion. Jennifer Hawke-Petit was 48 years old at the time she was murdered. The oldest daughter, Hayley Petit was 17 years old and her younger sister was 11 years old at the time they were killed. The sole survivor, William Petit was 50 years old at the time.
Jennifer and Dr. Petit were married in 1985. Jennifer worked as a nurse and was a director of a health center of a private boarding school, Cheshire Academy. Dr. Petit worked as a Medical Director of the Joslin Diabetes Center at New Britain General Hospital.
Hayley was a recent high school graduate and had been accepted into Dartmouth College, where she would have studied medicine. She had played on her high school basketball, crew, and cross-country track teams. Haley had also founded Hayley’s Hope (now Hayley’s Hope and Michael’s Miracle), a multiple sclerosis walk team, to raise money and awareness for the disease.
Michaela was going to attend the Chase Collegiate School and was planning on talking over Hayley’s Hope. She had also enjoyed cooking for her family.
Josuha Komisarjevsky (Left) and Steven Hayes (Right) invaded the Petit family home on July 23, 2007.


Steven Hayes

Steven Hayes was born on May 30, 1983, in Homestead, Florida to James and Diana Hayes. Hayes had described his childhood to be “not particularly happy but ‘normal.’” A psychological evaluation produced for the courts would show that James Hayes wanted a daughter, and “he would let his wife and sons know he thought they were inadequate. School records showed he was recommended for special-education classes due to his “immature speech and behavior, short attention span, eating inedibles and instigating trouble.” When Hayes was 10 years old his parents divorced. Hayes would soon turn to alcohol and have run-ins with the law. Hayes would state he especially did not like junior high school and felt he did not fit in. He hung out without kids who drank and did drugs and would drop out of high school in the 12th grade. When Hayes was 18 years old he earns his GED.   

Joshua Komisarjevsky

Jude and Ben Komisarjevsky  adopted Joshua Komisarjevsky in 1979 when he was 2 weeks old. Jude Komisarjevsky would tell the jury that Komisarjevsky may have been sexually abused by another foster child who had lived with them. Though it could never be confirmed, there was a child in the household who had been caught sexually abusing a young girl. Komisarjevsky started to act out and one day his sister had admitted that she had been sexually abused by Komisarjevsky, who would eventually admit to doing so. Though Komisarjevsky’s parents showed the jury pictures of their son as a happy child, they admitted they should have got their son the appropriate mental help.

Home Invasion

On July 23, 2007, in Cheshire Connecticut, Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky broke into the Petit’s family home looking to steal money. Earlier in the day, Komisarjevsky had been in a Stop & Shop parking lot, picking up money for a contracting job he had done that day. He had noticed a mother and daughter driving a nice car going into the store. When he had finished his business he noticed the mother and daughter getting into their vehicle and followed them to their home. He had taken note of how nice a house it was. He then went home to his daughter to spend time with her. After putting her to sleep he met up with Steven Hayes.


They had driven around thinking of ways to make money with
their contracting business. When this did not seem to be a fast enough method, they started to think of illegal ways When this did not pan out either, Komisarjevsky recalled the mother, daughter, and the nice house he has seen earlier. Believing the house could have money they decided to drive to the house. They parked around the corner, put on rubber gloves, fashioned face masks out of a shirt and a work hat, and broke inside. Hayes, armed with a bb or a pellet gun, waited outside while Komisarjevsky entered with through the basement door in between 2:30 AM and 3:15 AM.

The Petit Family home

Komisarjevsky had seen Dr. William Petit,  laying on the couch in the sunroom before they had entered. Knowing he needed to subdue him, he. looked for a weapon upon entering the house. Komisarjevsky found a baseball bat. According to his confession, he stood over Dr. Petit for 15 or 20 debating to strike him while Hayes, who was still outside, motioned for Komisarjevsky to hit him. He hit him in the head multiple times with the bat until he was huddled in the corner of the couch. Komisarjevsky stated “I hit him in the head with the baseball bat. He let out this unearthly scream. Uh, I couldn’t take his screaming.”

Bat Komisarjevsky used to beat Dr. Petit with

Komisarjevsky then proceeded to open the door for Hayes; together they tied Dr. Petit’s hands and feet. They asked him who else was in the house. Dr. Petit told the intruders his wife, Jennifer Petit, 48, and two daughters, Michaela Petit, 11, and Hayley Petit, 17, were upstairs. The men went upstairs to the master bedroom to find Jennifer and Michaela asleep. Komisarjevsky approached Michaela while Hayes approached Jennifer. They tied their hands behind their back and their feet together. They would do the same to Hayley.

The men went back to the mother to find out if there was any cash in the house. She told them there wasn’t any cash in the house, but told them where her jewelry was. While they were searching for money, Hayes had come across a check written for $40,000. The men told Jennifer if she would draw $15,000 from the bank they would not hurt the family.

The men then separated all 3 females, putting them in a room alone, with pillowcases on their heads, tied to their beds. Dr. Petit was had his feet and hands bound, sitting on the couch in the living room.  The sun started to rise and the men realized they would have to move their vehicle from the spot they parked in. They collected the phones from the house and left; Komisarjevsky got his truck while Hayes drove the family’s car. Komisarjevsky drives to a condo complex and parks his car in the parking lot. Together, they drive back to the Petit’s home.

It has now been 2 hours or so since the men had intruded the residence. Komisarjevsky checks in on the girls, giving them water and bathroom breaks when needed. Hayes continues to look through the home for valuables. Komisarjevsky would spend time with Michaela, who he referred to as KK, talking about “music and like what not” he stated in his confession. They move Dr. Petit to the basement, so he would not be seen through the living room windows. Komisarjevsky made a cushioned seat on the floor and tied his feet again.

Pictures showing where Dr. Petit was tied up

Waiting for the bank to open so they can bring Jennifer to the bank to withdraw money, the intruders ask if the family has jobs they are expected to show up for. Jennifer is a teacher and is off for the summer. Dr. Petit is expected to do rounds at the hospital he worked in. Dr. Petit had a head injury and was unable to make the phone call. The men had his wife, Jennifer phone the job to inform them Dr. Petit was not feeling well and may not be in for work.

As time passes, Hayes seems to become paranoid about getting caught. According to Komisarjevsky, Hayes calls him to the side and tells him he will need to get gasoline to burn down the house. Komisarjevsky states that Hayes believes there is DNA evidence that he needs to destroy. Hayes then goes to the garage and gets a few large-sized bottles and tells Komisarjevsky he is going to get gas. He takes the family’s car and leaves.

Hayes returns about 20 minutes later and calls Komisarjevsky to the side; this time to tells him they will need to kill the family and burn down the house. Komisarjevsky tells police that he wanted nothing to do with murdering the family, he only wanted money. When 9:00 AM comes near, Hayes and Jennifer leave in the family’s car and head for the bank.

Steven Hayes in the gas station

While Hayes and Jennifer are out for the bank, Komisarjevsky spends more time talking to Michaela. In his confession, he states he was talking to her about summer plans “then one thing lead to another and uh, I ended up having or performing oral sex on KK.” A rectal swap, taken as part of the autopsy, would later test positive for seamen. He had also stated in his confession he had used a pair of scissors to cut all of her clothing. He would also take pictures, which were shown as evidence, with his phone.

Jennifer Petit in the bank

While Jennifer is in the bank, she tells the bank teller she absolutely needs the money because two men are holding her family hostage; she also tells her not to call the police The teller gives Jennifer the money and calls the police after she leaves. The bank teller would tell police she saw a van, driven by a white male pick her up. According to court documents, the police now alerted to a possible home invasion, set a perimeter around the Petit’s home. They also set up blockades, and watch the home for any activity. They would wait outside of the house for 30 minutes before taking action.

Hayes and Jennifer return back to their home. Jennifer had been tied up again and left in the living room.  Hayes would then rape and strangle her. As this was happening, Komisarjevsky, hearing the door open from the basement, realizes Dr. Petit had escaped. Dr. Petit would hop and crawl to his neighbor’s house, yelling until he got their attention.

Neighbor's house
Dr. William Petit's head injury

Komisarjevsk goes to Hayes to tell him Dr. Petit had escaped and sees Jennifer dead. The men grab the gasoline, pour it on and around the girls, and in the hallway, while they were still alive. The men are now scattering in the house looking for the keys to the car.

They light the house on fire before fleeing in the family’s car. As they reverse out of the driveway, they hear sirens, and see lights flashing; an unmarked police vehicle has pulled up behind them. Komisarjevsky proceeds to drive into the car and down the street. He slams into the barricade- formed of two police cruisers. Komisarjevsky crashed not to far away; both Hayes and Komisarjevsky were apprehended. Dr. Petit was rushed to the hospital. Jennifer’s cause of death was determined to be asphyxia due to strangulation. Hayley and Michaela’s cause of death was ruled to be asphyxia due to smoke inhalation.


Both men were arrested and charged with murder, kidnapping, assault, sexual assault, and arson.

Hayes was found guilty on 16 of 17 charges and was sentenced to death. After a Supreme Court ruling, making the death penalty unconstitutional, he was resentenced and received 6 consecutive life sentences.

Komisarjevsky was found guilty of all 17 counts he was charged with. He also received a death sentence and was resentenced to 6 consecutive life sentences.

(Click to enlarge photos below)


Some people, including Jennifer Petit’s sister, Cindy Renn, believe the police could have taken action sooner. If police would have acted on the information they had, they may have saved the lives of Jennifer and her two daughters. Renn had received an email from a Cheshire police officer which had a detailed report of police communication. The police had seen the van return back to the home after going to the bank. Renn stated, “It was very upsetting to realize if they had stopped the car when they had the chance it may not have occurred.” Renn had lost the email and had only shown her husband and an attorney. Though her email has been lost, many other people feel the police should have acted sooner. Police had stated they were following hostage protocol. A recording had surfaced of two police officers talking, one saying that Jennifer may have made up the story just to get money from the account that was in her husband’s account.


After being arrested, Hayes had written letters claiming that he would have killed Komisarjevsky if the police had not arrested them. He had also written he killed 17 women and took their sneakers as trophies.  Click the link for more on Steven Hayes.

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