Petit Trial: Accused Killer Confession Relived

Cops says Petit told him the plan was to rob the Connecticut home.

September 13, 2010, 4:59 PM

Sept. 23, 2010 — -- Jurors heard an intimate description for the first time of exactly what happened the day Dr. William Petit's family was killed in its Connecticut home, as told by a police officer who said he took suspect Steven Hayes' 70-minute confession.

Detective Anthony Buglione told the court Wednesday that Hayes said the original plan had been to simply rob the Petit's home in July 2007. In the course of the robbery, however, things spiraled out of control, Buglione said.

Buglione testified that he spoke to the suspect hours after Hayes, 47, and his alleged accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky, allegedly doused the Petit's Cheshire, Conn., home in 2007 with gasoline and set it on fire; the Petit family still inside.

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 Hawke-Petit, which Hayes allegedly did.

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

The stunning testimony was apparently too much for William Petit to hear. He left the courtroom before a medical examiner was set to testify.

"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.

No testimony was heard Friday after Hayes suffered seizure-like symptoms. Komisarjevsky, 30, is also charged with the crime and will be tried at a later date.

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.

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."

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.

Dr. William Petit Testifies on Ordeal

After describing a pleasant Sunday leading up to the killings, Dr. Petit testified earlier last week 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.

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.

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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