A Cheshire, Conn., police captain today defended the department's response at the scene of a home invasion that ended with the torture, rape and killing of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela,11, in 2007.
Capt. Robert Vignola acknowledged that a half-hour passed between the time police first learned of the break-in, and the time they saw the two accused murderers, Steven Hayes, 47, and Joshua Komisarjevsky, 30, run out of the house, get into the Petit's car, and try to escape. It was only then that police noticed the house was on fire.
Vignola said there was no sign of activity inside when police arrived, and that they set up a perimeter around the Petit house, in accordance with standard procedure. He said that if he had known what was going on inside, "I would have been the first one through that door," The Associated Press reported.
Vignola's testimony came after jurors listened to a recording of a 911 call, made by the manager at the Bank of America branch in Cheshire, where Hawke-Petiti had gone to withdraw $15,000 in hopes of placating her assailants.
"We have a lady who is in our bank right now who says that her husband and children are being held at their house," the manager told a 911 operator during the July 2007 incident. "The people are in a car outside the bank. She is getting $15,000 to bring out to them. [She says] that if the police are told that they will kill the children and the husband.
"They told her they wouldn't hurt anybody if she got back there with the money," the caller said. "She believes them."
Hawke-Petit may have believed her abductors would let her go, but they are accused of taking her home where she was sexually assaulted and killed. They also tied up and assaulted her husband, Dr. William Petit, a prominent Connecticut doctor.
Hayes, is accused of sexually assaulting and strangling Hawke-Petit. Komisarjevsky, who is awaiting trial, is charged with sexually assaulting Michaela.
The trial resumed Thursday with Hayes' lawyer telling Judge Jon Blue that Hayes had suffered seizure-like symptoms and urinated on himself Wednesday night. But the accused man was in the courtroom Thursday, and the judge let the trial proceed.
The July 2007 ordeal began, authorities said, as Komisarjevsky followed Hawke-Petit and her two daughters from a grocery store. At the end of the ordeal, the two allegedly tied Michaela and Hayley to their beds, poured gasoline on and around them and set the house on fire, killing them and their mother.
Today, jurors were shown photos of the burned clothing Michaela was wearing, and the burned out house.
On Wednesday, Dr. Petit, the sole survivor, sobbed as jurors in New Haven Superior Court saw graphic photos of his daughters' bodies. A juror also cried as the evidence was passed among jurors, The Associated Press reported.
Dr. William Petit Testifies on Ordeal
After describing a pleasant Sunday leading up to the killings, Dr. Petit testified Tuesday that he was beaten in his sleep and woke up around 3 a.m. face-to-face with Hayes and Komisarjevsky.
"I remember I awoke in a daze thinking or feeling ow, ow, ow," he testified. "Something warm was running down the front of my face. ... I saw two people standing in front of the sofa. ... [A] person who was walking said if he moves put two bullets in him."
Petit said the men bound his wrists and ankles with rope and plastic ties, and covered his face, then took him down to the basement, where they tied him to a pole. He said he went in and out of consciousness. Upstairs were Hawke-Petit and the couple's two daughters.
"I heard moaning and thumps. I may have yelled out, 'Hey!' Then he said he heard someone upstairs say, 'You are alright, don't worry it's going to be all over in a couple minutes.' It was a different tone, it was much more sinister," he testified.
Petit said he did not know the fate of his wife and daughters, but said he heard his wife in the kitchen tell one of the attackers she needed to change clothes and get a checkbook.
Bank Manager on Jennifer Hawke-Petit: 'Amazing How Calm She Was'
Later, black-and-white surveillance videos released to the media Wednesday showed Hawke-Petit entering and then withdrawing money at the bank, fidgeting at the counter and talking to the teller as she did.
"She says they are being very nice," the bank official said on the 911 tape. "They have their faces covered. She is petrified. She wasn't going to call the police, but I came to the office and I did.
"It's amazing how calm she was," she added. "But then again, she could have been petrified. I don't know."
In court Wednesday, Hayes' public defender, Thomas Ullman, asked Cheshire police Capt. Robert Vignola why it took police 33 minutes from the 911 call to determine at least one person was in distress inside the house.
Police said they followed standard hostage procedure by not going in until the suspects fled. But Vignola admitted that no attempt was made even to contact the family.
"No phone call was made from any police officer to the home?" the defense asked him in court.
"That's correct," he responded.
William Petit's Daring Escape
It could have cost Dr. Petit his entire family -- though he ultimately managed to escape by untying himself and running to his neighbors.
"I felt a major jolt of adrenaline and thought it's now or never. In my mind, at that moment, I thought they were going to shoot all of us," he testified Tuesday.
He managed to free his hands and hop up the stairs, falling at least once, then finally made his way out the door, he testified.
"My heart felt like it was beating 200 beats per minute," he said, "like it was going to explode out of my chest."
Somehow, he crawled, then rolled to a neighbor's house. Doctors said later Petit had lost as much as seven pints of blood. He said his neighbor didn't even recognize him at first, because he was so bloody.
The neighbor called 911. But it was too late for his wife and daughters.
Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the burning home in the family's car and were caught after ramming several police cruisers, authorities said.
In opening statements Monday, Ullmann said Hayes told police that things "got out of control," and that Hayes' co-defendant Komisarjevsky said no one was supposed to get hurt, the AP reported.
"It has been a very painful process to get to this day," Johanna Petit Chapman, Dr. Petit's sister, said outside court on Monday. "And although the pain will never end, we think of Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela every second of every day."
William Petit: 'Tried to Do the Best I Could Do for My Family'
Petit and Hawke-Petit lived what seemed like a charmed life in an upscale neighborhood. Hayley, who was planning to attend Dartmouth College, was hoping to become a doctor and follow in her father's footsteps. Hawke-Petit had multiple sclerosis and the family was active in efforts to raise money to fight the disease.
Dr. Petit cited his lost family after his testimony.
"I mostly focused on the questions I was being asked," Dr. Petit told reporters. "Just tried to do the best I could do for my family."
Both defendants have offered to plead guilty in exchange for life sentences. But prosecutors, seeking the death penalty for both, pushed for trials, defense attorneys said, forcing the state to revisit the unsettling crime and its lone survivor to relive it in the courtroom.
Hayes' trial was delayed significantly after he was put into a medically induced coma following a suicide attempt earlier this year.
If Hayes is convicted, the same panel will weigh his fate in the penalty phase.
ABC News' David Muir, Sarah Netter and Lee Kamlet, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.