In attempting to convince a jury that accused murderer Steven Hayes is guilty of slaughtering a woman and her two daughters during a brutal Connecticut home invasion, the prosecutor recounted how the family's home had been turned into a "house of terror and horror."
Both the prosecution and the defense completed their closing arguments today in the state's case against Hayes, 47, one of two men accused of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.
Though the defense had attempted to separate Hayes from his co-defendant, 30-year-old Joshua Komisarjevsky, State's Attorney Michael Dearington told jurors that they could "count the opportunities that he had to walk away from this."
"He said, 'Things got out of control," Dearington said. "It wasn't things. It was them. They were out of control."
"What was a vibrant house of people at 9 o'clock became a house of terror and horror," Dearington said.
The trial was alternately gruesome and heartbreaking as the prosecution described, often in detail, how Hayes and Komisarjevsky broke into the Petit's upscale Cheshire home in July 2007 and held them captive for hours, eventually raping Hawke-Petit and Michaela, pouring gasoline in the bedrooms, and setting the house on fire with the family still inside.
"The sadness and the tragedy of this incidence has affected us," defense attorney Thomas Ullman said at the beginning of his closing argument.
Only the family patriarch, Dr. William Petit survived. Brutally beaten and left bound in the basement, he managed to make his way out to a neighbor's home.
Petit has sat stoically in the audience at the trial, openly crying when jurors were shown pictures of his slain wife and children and walking out as the medical examiner testified how Petit's 11-year-old daughter was brutalized. Today, he sat in his usual seat, gripping one of the courtroom banisters.
He continued to wear his wedding ring.
During the closing arguments this morning, the prosecution recounted the timeline of events that night, including how Hayes eventually turned to Hawke-Petit for sex at Komisarjevsky' s suggestion to "square things up" after he himself had raped Michaela.
"Having sex isn't the right term -- brutally raped," Dearington said.
But Ullman said his client had no idea that the little girl was being brutalized.
"He's guilty of sexual assault of Mrs. Petit. There isn't any question about that," Ullman said of Hayes, but quickly added, "He kills Jennifer Petit at the request of Joshua Komisarjevsky."
"Steven Hayes is no angel," Ullman said. ""But he's not the one who controlled the escalation of violence. That's Joshua Komisarjevsky."
Ullman said it was Komisarjevsky who poured the gasoline on the Petit girls, not Hayes, a direct counter-argument to the prosecution's case.
"Does Steven Hayes have the motive to kill those girls?" he asked "Where's the evidence on that."
But Dearington had already anticipated the defense's strategy in his closing argument, which came before Ullman's.
"So who lit the fire? It was a fast moving violent fire," Dearington said. "Komisarjevsky came out first. Doesn't it suggest to you that the last one out is the one to light the fire?"
Later, during the prosecution's rebuttal, Dearington blasted the defense again for trying to convince the jury that Hayes simply got caught up in the moment.