Petit Trial Testimony: Suspects Snapped Photos During Sex Assaults

Tech expert testified about cell phone pictures depicting assaults

September 13, 2010, 4:59 PM

NEW HAVEN, Conn. Sept. 23, 2010 — -- The two ex-cons accused of torturing a Connecticut family during a brutal home invasion snapped pictures as they sexually assaulted two of their alleged victims, according to testimony heard in court today.

In what has become a continuously heartbreaking and graphic murder trial, computer and technology expert John Farnham was shown eight pictures off Joshua Komisarjevsky's cell phone, taken while he and defendant Steven Hayes allegedly brutalized and killed Dr. Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.

The jury was spared the shocking images, but Farnham was asked to describe each one. In two, he said, Komisarjevsky -- who will face trial after Hayes -- was photographed nude and posing suggestively. Five showed a young female with her arms tied above her head, with a cloth over her face and a close up of her underwear.

The eighth photo was of an older female, her legs splayed.

Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of the July 2007 home invasion, was visibly upset during Farnham's testimony, but remain composed, occasionally gripping a courtroom railing.

Petit walked out of the courtroom Wednesday after listening to a detective recount Hayes' alleged confession of the crime. He also skipped the medical examiner's testimony, which continued into today and included details of the rape of his 11-year-old daughter.

Medical Examiner Wayne Carver testified today that Hayley was found laying face down in the hallway, but that the front of her clothing was more severely burned than the back, indicated she'd been directly exposed to fire. She died from smoke inhalation.

He speculated that she had managed to free herself after being tied to her bed and made her way down the hallway and that Michaela had likely died a painful death.

The courtroom also heard testimony today regarding a series of text messages that Hayes and Komisarjevsky sent back and forth before allegedly heading out around 3 a.m. to the Petit home, where Komisarjevsky had followed Hawke-Petit from a grocery store.

"I'm chomping at the bit to get started," Hayes wrote to Komisarjevsky at 7:45 p.m. the previous night. "Need a margarita soon."

And then, between 8:45 p.m. and 9:20 p.m., the following exchange:

"We still on?" Hayes sent to Komisarjevsky.

"Yes," Komisarjevsky replied.

"Soon?" Hayes wrote back.

"I'm putting kid to bed," Komisarjevsky then wrote to Hayes. "Hold your horses."

"Dude the horses want to get loose," Hayes replied. "Lol."

Dr. William Petit Left Courtroom During Gruesome Testimony

Throughout much of the trial Hayes has simply sat still and looked forward. He occassionally steals glances around the coutroom, surveying the audience, and he appears to study the exhibits the prosecution has presented.

Friday was expected to be a short day in court, the judge said. After today's witnesses, the state had just one left -- an expert in the science field, but that witness would not be available to testify until next week. The defense is scheduled to begin presenting its case after the final state witness.

On Wednesday, jurors heard for the first time an intimate description of exactly what happened the day the Petit family was killed as told by a police officer who said he took Hayes' 70-minute confession.

Detective Anthony Buglione told the court that Hayes said the original plan had been to simply rob the Petit's home, but in the course of the robbery things spiraled out of control.

Buglione testified that he spoke to the suspect hours after Hayes, 47, and Komisarjevsky, 30, allegedly doused the Petit's Cheshire, Conn., home in 2007 with gasoline and set it on fire with Petit's wife and children tied to their beds.

William Petit, who had been beaten and tied up in the basement, barely escaped. Hayes smelled of gasoline and gave his confession without emotion, Buglione said.

At one point during the alleged assault, Hayes took Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, to the bank to withdraw money.

While Hayes was out with Hawke-Petit, Buglione said that, according to Hayes, Komisarjevsky was supposed to put the family in the car and then the pair would burn the house down. When Hayes returned, however, Komisarjevsky told him he had already sexually assaulted Michaela Petit, 11, and told Hayes to "square things up" and do the same to the wife, which Hayes allegedly did.

One of the suspects also took photos of Michaela on his cell phone during the alleged crime.

"It was another tough and painful day for the Hawke and Petit families, and I think everybody saw that who listened to the testimony," Petit told reporters later.

Hayes and Komisarjevsky first crossed paths at a halfway house where the two attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, police said. Desperate for money, they hatched the plan after a few drinks.

Trial Resumes After Sickness of Suspect, Judge

The detective's testimony was one of the first since the trial was twice delayed because of medical issues.

Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue was in the hospital during the weekend after he complained of feeling light-headed, the Hartford Courant reported.

And last week Hayes reportedly suffered seizure-like symptoms.

Last week, jurors were presented with gruesome evidence of the murder scene, including the girls' burned bodies and their charred beds. The evidence left jurors clearly shaken, with several sobbing while inspecting the photos.

In testimony last week, police 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 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-Petit had gone to withdraw $15,000 in hopes of placating her assailants.

"They told her they wouldn't hurt anybody if she got back there with the money," the caller said. "She believes them."

Click here to visit the Web site for the Petit Family Foundation.

ABC News' David Muirand Lee Kamlet, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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