The Connecticut dad who was the lone survivor of a 2007 home invasion that ended with his wife and two daughters dead walked out of court today to avoid hearing the graphic details of how his 11-year-old daughter met a fiery, tortuous end.
Dr. William Petit left the courtroom at the murder trial of one of the home invasion suspects, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, just before a medical examiner described Michaela Petit's death by smoke inhalation. About a dozen of Petit's family members, who have remained by Dr. Petit's side throughout the ordeal, left the courtroom with him.
The bodies of Michaela Petit, 11, her sister Hayley Petit, 17, and their mother Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, were found in the charred remains of the Petit's suburban home in Cheshire, Conn., July 23, 2007. The family had been held hostage and tied up for hours, and Jennifer Hawke-Petit had been raped and strangled.
William Petit was beaten in a basement room, but escaped during the attack and tried to get help.
Komisarjevsky is on trial for the triple murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
His accomplice, Steven Hayes, was convicted last year and is currently on Connecticut's death row.
Dr Wayne Carver II, the chief medical examiner for the state of Connecticut who performed the autopsy on Michaela Petit, illustrated his testimony with a large photo of the young victim's trachea projected on a screen in front of the jury. Carver said the trachea's pink color suggested that poisonous carbon monoxide had entered Michaela's bloodstream and eventually killed her. Carver used a laser pointer to show the jury black particles -- soot -- that had settled inside Michaela's voice box.
Victims of smoke inhalation often feel nauseous, experience delirium and a significant amount of pain before death, according to testimony heard earlier this week.
Carver told the jury that it was possible Michaela lived for as long as two minutes while breathing in the soot-filled air before she died. Her body had severe burns on its legs and feet.
"There was significant heat damage to her skin," said Carver, adding that her long hair was mostly intact.
In a particularly graphic moment, Carver testified that he found sperm in the area of Michaela Petit's rectum. In an audiotaped statement, Komisarjevsky admitted to sexually molesting the young girl, ejaculating on her body and taking naked pictures of her. However, his lawyers have adamantly denied that Komisarjevsky raped her.
Earlier, jurors also viewed photos apparently of Michaela Petit tied to a bed as she lay partly naked with a pillowcase covering her head.
Komisarjevsky began taking the photos at 7:27 a.m. that day and he took the last image at 9:14 a.m., according to John Brunetti, a forensic scientist with the Connecticut State Police.
There were eight images in all. Six images were of "a young, white girl," Brunetti testified, and two of Komisarjevsky himself.
Komisarjevsky told detectives in a statement after his arrest that he took the cell phone photos possibly to send them to Hayes as leverage while Hayes forced Michaela's mother, Hawke-Petit, to withdraw $15,000 from the family's bank account.
All 18 jurors, including six alternates, looked at the pictures as the folder slowly passed from one to the next. Several of the jurors seemed subdued after viewing the images.
Text messages between Hayes and Komisarjevsky hours before the home invasion were also displayed for the jury.