Connecticut Home Invasion: Komisarjevsky Had 'Perfect Storm' of Impairments, Petit Trial Witness Claims

PHOTO: Joshua Komisarjevsky, on trial for murdering Dr. William Petits wife and two daughters, is shown in this July 23, 2007 photo.PlayConnecticut State Police
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A "perfect storm" of drug abuse, childhood sexual abuse and head injuries were at the root of Joshua Komisarjevsky's "poor decision-making" the night he and an accomplice invaded the home of a Connecticut doctor, beat him and killed his family, according to a neuropsychologist testifying in Komisarjevsky's defense.

The accomplice, Steven Hayes, was tried and sentenced to death for his role in the deadly home invasion and is currently serving his sentence on Connecticut's death row.

Komisarjevsky's legal team is attempting to spare their client the same fate for what many believe is the most horrific crime in Connecticut's history.

On July 23, 2007, according to prosecutors, the two men broke into Dr. William Petit's house in Cheshire, Conn. During the home invasion, they beat Petit about the head with a baseball bat and tied him up.

Hayes raped and strangled Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48. Their two daughters, Hayley, 17 and Michaela, 11 were tied to their beds for hours and terrorized.

Komisarjevsky has admitted to sexually molesting Michaela.

The two men then poured gasoline throughout the house and set it on fire.

Komisarjevsky's lawyers argue that Hayes was responsible for buying and pouring the gasoline and setting the house on fire.

Today, for the second day in a row, Dr. Leo Shea discussed a neuropsychological evaluation he performed on Komisarjevsky. The interviews took place on a series of dates in 2010.

In the evaluation, which has been publicly released, Komisarjevsky told Shea that he had been sexually abused by a foster child his parents took in to their home. Komisarjevsky said he had been raped orally and anally and burned with cigarettes by a 15-year-old boy.

Komisarjevsky's parents attempted to get him help through their church, according to the report, which says the parents "got the elders, to put their hands on me, to cast out sin, to heal me. I was so scared and felt smothered."

Komisarjevsky also told the doctor that he started self-mutilation when he was 13.

"I started to cut myself because it was soothing," Komisarjevsky said, according to the report. "I did this up until 17 years old. I carved "hate" into my arm when I was 14; I hated everything about my life. I had been abused and I wanted everyone else to know what it was like to hurt."

Komisarjevksy also sustained five concussions at a young age -- one of which occurred Jan 20, 1990, when his head hit the windshield of the family car.

That accident was so traumatic, according to the report, that Komisarjevky's personality changed and he became "more agitated, frustrated."

Komisarjevsky only showed emotion when talking about his daughter and his parents, according to the report, and he expressed regret that he would not be a presence in the young girl's life. She was 4 when Komisarjevsky was arrested.

Komisarjevsky also used "occasional references to Shakespearean texts and poetry" to express himself in a more literate manner. He drew a picture for Shea that had "fantastical fairy tale qualities to it." The drawing included flowers, said Komisarjevsky, because his young daughter loved flowers.

Komisarjevsky spent his youth going to various schools in Connecticut and New Hampshire, often being home schooled by his mother when his absences mounted and performance in public school started to fail.

Shea performed a number of cognitive tests on Komisarjevsky and summed up his 15-page evaluations this way: "Mr. Komisarjevsky can benefit from extended time to process stimulation, prompting and a reduction of irrelevant and distracting stimuli. He will be at a disadvantage when he is required to make quick decisions on complex matters."

According to Komisarjevsky's lawyers, these poor decision-making skills were at the root of their clients' inability to stop events from spiraling out of control on July 23, 2007.

Jeremian Donovan, one of Komisarjevsky's lawyers, has said that when Hayes bought gasoline and decided to kill the Petit girls, Komisarjevsky was unable to stop it. Donovan has said his client was not a willing participant in the arson, nor did he pour the gasoline in the house or light the match.

On cross examination, prosecutor Michael Dearington pressed Shea on the degree to which the number of concussions Komisarjevsky sustained could impair his decision-making process. Shea admitted that concussions don't necessarily lead to criminal activity.

Dearington also asked, "Sexual abuse does not necessarily lead to criminal behavior?"

Shea answered, "I would agree with that."

But Shea said if someone had all three -- head injuries, drug use and sexual abuse -- there would be a "likelihood" that it could lead to a life of criminal activity.

Closing arguments in the case are expected to be heard on Tuesday.