'House of Terror and Horror': Jury in Petit Murder Trial Hears Closing Arguments

Defense attorney admits, "Steven Hayes is no angel."

NEW HAVEN, Conn. Oct. 1, 2010 — -- In attempting to convince a jury that accused murderer Steven Hayes is guilty of slaughtering a woman and her two daughters during a brutal Connecticut home invasion, the prosecutor recounted how the family's home had been turned into a "house of terror and horror."

Both the prosecution and the defense completed their closing arguments today in the state's case against Hayes, 47, one of two men accused of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.

Though the defense had attempted to separate Hayes from his co-defendant, 30-year-old Joshua Komisarjevsky, State's Attorney Michael Dearington told jurors that they could "count the opportunities that he had to walk away from this."

"He said, 'Things got out of control," Dearington said. "It wasn't things. It was them. They were out of control."

"What was a vibrant house of people at 9 o'clock became a house of terror and horror," Dearington said.

The trial was alternately gruesome and heartbreaking as the prosecution described, often in detail, how Hayes and Komisarjevsky broke into the Petit's upscale Cheshire home in July 2007 and held them captive for hours, eventually raping Hawke-Petit and Michaela, pouring gasoline in the bedrooms, and setting the house on fire with the family still inside.

"The sadness and the tragedy of this incidence has affected us," defense attorney Thomas Ullman said at the beginning of his closing argument.

Only the family patriarch, Dr. William Petit survived. Brutally beaten and left bound in the basement, he managed to make his way out to a neighbor's home.

Petit has sat stoically in the audience at the trial, openly crying when jurors were shown pictures of his slain wife and children and walking out as the medical examiner testified how Petit's 11-year-old daughter was brutalized. Today, he sat in his usual seat, gripping one of the courtroom banisters.

He continued to wear his wedding ring.

During the closing arguments this morning, the prosecution recounted the timeline of events that night, including how Hayes eventually turned to Hawke-Petit for sex at Komisarjevsky' s suggestion to "square things up" after he himself had raped Michaela.

"Having sex isn't the right term -- brutally raped," Dearington said.

But Ullman said his client had no idea that the little girl was being brutalized.

"He's guilty of sexual assault of Mrs. Petit. There isn't any question about that," Ullman said of Hayes, but quickly added, "He kills Jennifer Petit at the request of Joshua Komisarjevsky."

"Steven Hayes is no angel," Ullman said. ""But he's not the one who controlled the escalation of violence. That's Joshua Komisarjevsky."

Ullman said it was Komisarjevsky who poured the gasoline on the Petit girls, not Hayes, a direct counter-argument to the prosecution's case.

"Does Steven Hayes have the motive to kill those girls?" he asked "Where's the evidence on that."

But Dearington had already anticipated the defense's strategy in his closing argument, which came before Ullman's.

"So who lit the fire? It was a fast moving violent fire," Dearington said. "Komisarjevsky came out first. Doesn't it suggest to you that the last one out is the one to light the fire?"

Later, during the prosecution's rebuttal, Dearington blasted the defense again for trying to convince the jury that Hayes simply got caught up in the moment.

"There's no way to recreate the fear, the terror, the horror that those girls experienced in their last few minutes," Dearington said.

"Did Mr. Hayes have a motive to have those two girls killed? Yes he did," he added. "These two defendants acted together to commit these crimes."

Corrections Officer: Steven Hayes Overheard Copping to Petit Murder

Dearington also used his time before the jury to read biographies of Hawke-Petit, Hayley and Michaela and showed pictures of what they looked like in happier times. He told the jurors how Hayley had planned to make dinner that night and how Dr. Petit had stopped to pick up corn on his way home from playing golf on a "classic July summer day."

The case is expected to be handed to the jury on Monday.

Komisarjevsky will face trial after Hayes. Both he and Hayes are facing the death penalty.

Earlier this week, jurors heard testimony by a Connecticut corrections officer that Hayes had admitted to strangling Hawke-Petit.

Corrections Officer Jeremiah Krob, who has been responsible for the continuous observation of Hayes while he sits in prison, testified today that he overheard conversations Hayes has had with another inmate, Vernon Cowan, in which he admitted to killing Hawke-Petit.

Hayes allegedly told Cowan that he didn't know if he could "go through" with killing Petit-Hawke, according to Krob, but when he spotted police cruisers outside the family's home that July day, he did it.

"He never mentioned how he killed Mrs. Petit. He just stated that he did kill Mrs. Petit," Krob testified.

Some of what Krob heard was in conversations between Hayes and other inmates using an inmate communication system.

Krob said Hayes talked with his cell neighbor by placing "empty toilet paper rolls and placing it over the sink drain and talking to each other through that system."

The officer told the court that Hayes had told the other inmate that investigators would find physical evidence of sodomy when they examined his alleged accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky. Komisarjevsky, will face a trial of his own at a later date.

"Hayes did mention that Komisarjevsky had taken cell phone pictures of the youngest Petit girl and was trying to e-mail them to his friends," said Krob.

Hayes and Komisarjevsky allegedly tried to cover up their crime by setting the house on fire after tying the girls to their beds.

"Hayes was concerned about being charged with arson. He believes that he couldn't be charged with arson because he had only poured gasoline down the stairs of the Chesire home, not lit the match," said Krob.

The fire allegedly set by the two ex-cons was so ferocious that there was no chance of rescuing the three victims from the flames, according to other expert testimony today.

Paul Makuc of the state fire marshal's office told the jury who will decide the fate of Hayes that the fire that killed the two Petit girls and burned the body of their mother was set "by human hands."

The "ignitable liquid" used to start the fatal fire contained accelerants, helping the flames to travel that much faster through the home, Makuc told the New Haven courtroom. Hayes and his alleged accomplice are accused of pouring the gasoline like substance on the bodies of the Petit daughters and around their beds.

Makuc's said that there was "no carpet left" in the room where Hawke-Petit's body was found, and that "some parts of her body [were] nearly completely consumed by the fire."

Komisarjevsky and Hayes Allegedly Tortured Petit Family Prior to Killing Them

Last week, testimony revealed that Hawke-Petit had been strangled to death after she'd been raped, while Hayley and Michaela died of smoke inhalation.

Makuc said today that the Petit's sun porch seemed to have sustained the heaviest fire damage, and that the blaze was so fierce that investigators could identify only "some strings" of a couch that had been in the room.

Hayes attorney, public defender Thomas J. Ullmann, pressed Makuc on whether his investigation made clear who was responsible for pouring the flammable liquids.

Asked by Ullman whether his "science" told him who poured the gasoline or who "handled the various containers," Makuc responded, "No it does not."

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

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 spread.

Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of the July 2007 home invasion, has grown visibly upset during the trial but has remained composed, occasionally gripping a courtroom railing.

Medical Examiner Wayne Carver has testified that the older of the two Petit girls, Hayley, was found laying face down in the hallway, but that the front of her clothing was more severely burned than the back, indicating she'd been directly exposed to fire.

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."

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

ABC News' David Muir, Emily Friedman, Lee Ferran and The Associated Press contributed to this report.