Parolees May Have Watched Girls Before Attack

New details suggest the fatal Conn. home invasion may have been premeditated.

July 26, 2007 — -- As prosecutors consider filing capital murder charges against the two suspects in the deadly Connecticut home invasion that left a mother and her two daughters dead, new details have emerged about why the family may have been targeted in the first place.

Police said Wednesday they believe the pair accused in the brutal attack — Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, and Steven Hayes, 44 — may have cooked up the plot after spotting the Petit sisters at a supermarket.

After seeing the two girls, Michaela, 11, and Haley, 17, the suspects then may have gone to a nearby store to purchase an air rifle and rope, police said.

Shortly after 3 a.m. Monday, their plot unfolded, police said, with the two breaking into the Cheshire home and terrorizing Michaela, Haley and their parents, William Petit and Jennifer Hawke-Petit, for six hours.

The attack included sexual assault, robbery and, ultimately, arson, according to police. Hawke-Petit, a 48-year-old school nurse, was dragged to a bank to withdraw a large sum of money. Bank officials called police, who responded to find the house ablaze.

The two suspects were arrested after ramming into multiple police cars as they tried to escape the scene in the Petits' car.

Inside the house, police found the mother and daughters dead. An initial medical examiner's report ruled that Hawke-Petit had been strangled and that her two daughters had died of smoke inhalation. William Petit, a prominent endocrinologist, escaped from the attack badly beaten, but alive.

New Haven state Attorney Michael Dearington, the prosecutor in the case, has said he will do a thorough investigation before deciding whether the two suspects should face a capital murder charge despite the public outrage the attack has sparked.

"I know the public consensus is they should be fried tomorrow," Dearington said Wednesday.

The criminal charges in Connecticut that carry the death penalty are: murder committed in the course of committing first-degree sexual assault, murder of a kidnapped person, murder of two or more people at the same time and murder of someone younger than 16 years of age.

Suspects Not Strangers to Trouble

Komisarjevsky and Hayes are both convicted burglars and parolees with lengthy criminal records. Each is being held on $15 million bond while police consider additional charges.

The two had been roommates for a time at a drug treatment center and halfway house in Hartford last year. Komisarjevsky, the grandson of a renowned Russian theater director, lived just miles from the Petits.

The crime already has prompted the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parole to review its policies. The parole board chairman has acknowledged that it didn't have as much information as it should have had about the men's records, such as the transcript from a 2002 sentencing at which a Bristol Superior Court judge called Komisarjevsky "a cold, calculating predator."

Wednesday, Richard Hawke, Hawke-Petit's father, joined family, friends and strangers grieving over the tragedy.

"They're two wonderful girls, and it's such a waste. They had so much potential to give to the world," Hawke said. "I think God is crying with us today over this disaster."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.