A Connecticut jury today heard a chilling 911 tape from a Bank of America employee who called police in 2007 when Jennifer Hawke-Petit, walked into the branch asking for $15,000 from her account so she could give it to the men who were holding her husband and children hostage.
Haunting surveillance video was also shown of Jennifer Hawke-Petit leaving the bank and getting into a car with the man who, within hours, would rape and kill her.
It was a grim start to the murder trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, who is charged with invading the Petit's home along with Steven Hayes. During the seven hour ordeal, the family was battered, sexually assaulted, and the wife and two daughters killed.
The ony survivor of the July 23, 2007 attack was Dr. William Petit, who sat in the first row today.
The voice of bank manager Mary Lyons filled the courtroom as the 911 tape was played.
"We have a lady in our bank right now who says her husband and children are being held at their house," Lyons tells police.
She testified that Hawke-Petit only had pictures of her daughters in her wallet instead of the required two forms of ID, but the bank teller gave her the money. She described Hawke-Petit as calm, despite the harrowing circumstances.
The Second Petit Murder Trial Begins Grimly
At one point she can seen leaning over the counter and whispering in an attempt to save her family.
"To me, she was trying to get done what she was sent into the bank to get done, so she could return to her family," Lyons said.
The bank manager said she watched as Hawke-Petit drove away with a man wearing a hoodie.
Shortly after leaving the bank, Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela Petit, 11, would be dead. Hawke-Petit was raped and strangled and the girls died from smoke inhalation as they were tied to their beds when their house was set ablaze.
Komisarjevsky's lawyer opened the procedings by blaming his client's accomplice for the rape and triple murder in Cheshire, Conn.
The attorney admitted it was Komisarjevsky who singled out Hawke-Petit and Michaela in a supermarket, trailed them to their house, and returned later that night with Hayes. He also admits that it was Komisarjevsky who attacked the father with a bat and that he masturbated in front of the younger daughter.
Nevertheless, defense lawyer Walter C. Bansley III painted his client as a man who was "confused" and easily led but who never meant to kill anyone, so that when the horrific events of that night spiraled out of control, Komisarjevsky was helpless to stop them.
Komisarjevsky had confessed to the crime and offered to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty, an offer the prosecution rejected. His defense hopes to save him from death by lethal injection.
His accompliced Steven Hayes was convicted in a trial last year that was so graphic that the jurors received counseling when the case was over. Hayes was sentenced to death and is currently on death row.
During his opening statements today, Bansley warned the jury that testimony they will hear would "break your hearts" and "shake your confidence in humanity," but he argued that as horrible as the events of that night were, Komisarjevsk's only broke into the home to commit a robbery. Hayes, he said, was responsible for the murders.
It was Hayes who raped and killed the mother and it was Hayes who bought the gasoline which was used to set the house ablaze.
Petit Murder Suspect Blames Death Row Accomplice for Murders
"The evidence will show Steve Hayes is to blame" and that Komisarjevsky "did not intend to kill anyone."
During the sentencing phase of Hayes' trial, Hayes blamed Komisarjevsky for the violence and fire.
Komisarjevsky's lawyer urged jurors several times to set their emotions aside, but in an attempt to humanize his client, Bansley told jurors that before the crime, Komisarjevsky took his own daughter to a park and then put her to bed before heading out to burglarize the suburban home.
Petit, his sister and other family members occupied the first two rows of the courtroom today, just as they did every day during Hayes' trial.
Komisarjevsky, wearing a suit, sat with his lawyers and listened attentively throughout the proceedings in sharp contrast to Hayes who often spent his days in court slumped over with his head down. At one point, Komisarjevsky leaned back and looked over at the Petit family members.
Shortly before opening arguments, defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan sparred briefly with the Prosecutor Michael Dearington over the Petit Foundation's pins that 27 members of the Petit family were wearing in court. Donovan referred to family members as the "Petit posse." Dearington objected to calling family members a "posse." Judge Jon Blue rejected the request to have the pins removed and said the pins were "small and discreet."
Prosecutor Michael Dearington declined to present opening arguments preferring he said to "offer evidence" instead.
The courtroom was packed for the this morning. A long line stretched outside the courtroom before security officers opened the doors to let media and family members inside - an indication that the horrible events of July 23, 2007 continue to captivate Connecticut and the nation.