Petit Judge Hospitalized, Postponing Home Invasion Trial

Trial to resume Wednesday after judge falls ill.

September 13, 2010, 4:59 PM

Sept. 20, 2010 — -- The judge in the trial of Steven Hayes, accused in a deadly Connecticut home invasion, has been hospitalized.

Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue was in the hospital over the weekend after he complained of feeling light-headed, the Hartford Courant reported. The trial will be postponed until at least Wednesday.

No testimony was heard Friday after Hayes suffered seizure-like symptoms. Hayes, 47, is on trial for the 2007 home invasion of Dr. William Petit in Cheshire, Conn. A second man, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 30, is also charged with the crime and will be tried at a later date.

The two men are accused of beating Petit, raping and torturing his wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit along with the couple's two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.

Petit escaped and went for help, but the females were bound to their beds and died in a fire that was allegedly set by Hayes and Komisarjevsky.

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.

Thomas Ullman, chief public defender for Hayes, told the court Thursday that his client had suffered "seizure-like symptoms" and had urinated on himself Wednesday night, but was healthy enough for Thursday's hearing. After Thursday's lunch break, however, Ullman asked the court to delay continuation of the trial until Monday due to Hayes' "medical status," the New Haven Register reported. The prosecution did not object.

It is not clear what caused Hayes' physical break-down. It's not known whether Hayes has a history of seizures and because the judge has imposed a gag order on the case, his lawyer was not available to speak about it.

Details on the judge's condition were not available. Blue was listed in fair condition Sunday night at Yale-New Haven Hospital, the AP reported.

During Thursday's testimony, the Cheshire police captain defended the department's response at the scene of the home invasion .

Dr. William Petit Testifies on Ordeal

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.

"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."

Hayes, is accused of sexually assaulting and strangling Hawke-Petit. Komisarjevsky, who is awaiting trial, is charged with sexually assaulting Michaela.

The July 2007 ordeal began, authorities said, as Komisarjevsky followed Hawke-Petit and her two daughters from a grocery store. Hours later, 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.

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.

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 allegedly 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."

The latest delay is not the first caused by a medical crisis. Hayes' trial was delayed significantly after he was put into a medically induced coma following a suicide attempt earlier this year.

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

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

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