Four years after what has been described as the most horrific murder in Connecticut history, the death penalty trial of the second suspect in the slaying of the Petit family began on Monday.
Joshua Komisarjevsky is charged with 17 counts including murder, abduction and assault in the triple homicide of a mother and her two children, and the beating of their father, reported ABCNews.com.
The grisly case revolves around the seven-hour abduction of Dr. William Petit, his wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit and their daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, who were held hostage in their Cheshire, Connecticut home on July 22, 2007.
Komisarjevsky and his accomplice, Steven Hayes, followed Jennifer and Michaela home from a grocery store and claimed they only planned to tie up the family and rob them, but upon discovering William asleep on a couch on the porch, they bludgeoned the father of two and went on to massacre his family as he was restrained by gun point in the basement.
While the man of the house was held hostage, Komisarjevsky allegedly sexually assaulted one of the daughters as they were both tied to their beds.
The abduction came to the attention of the authorities when unsatisfied by what they got from the house, the attackers drove Jennifer to the bank to withdraw $15,000 and the teller called the police.
The nature of the crime escalated as Jennifer was raped and then strangled, and the house was doused in gasoline and set on fire.
Dr. Petit managed to escape and crawl to a neighbor’s house to cry for help, but it was too late to save his daughters, who died in the blaze from smoke inhaltaion while still tied to their beds with pillow cases on their heads.
Steven Hayes stood trial last year for his role in the horrifying attack, and it took just hours for a jury to find the bald-headed killer guilty, after which he told the court that, “death would be a welcome relief.” He will soon get his wish as he is now on death row awaiting execution.
The trial of 31-year-old Komisarjevsky is expected to be a sharp contrast to the media frenzy that surrounded his accomplice, which captivated viewers, Twitter followers, and even Oprah, who had Dr Petit on her show to talk about his trauma.
The murder suspect’s team of court-appointed attorneys, Walter Bansley III, Jeremiah Donovan and Todd Bussert, have taken an aggressive stance and are attempting to have Dr. Petit banned from the court, despite him being a victim of the crime.
According to Fox News, the defence is arguing that their client did not intend to kill his victims.
“The evidence you are about to hear will shake your confidence in humanity,” Bansley told the jury on Monday. “The deaths that occurred were senseless, unnecessary and tragic.”
Bansley admitted to a number of the accusations against Komisarjevsky including that he spotted Jennifer and Michaela at a supermarket, beat Petit with a baseball bat and tied up the family and then masturbated in Michaela’s presence, but he said the evidence shows that Hayes raped and strangled Hawke-Petit, got the gas, poured it around the house and lit the fire.
He claims that Hayes wanted to kill and torch the family because he was worried about his DNA being in the house, and Komisarjevsky was “stunned” and told his side-kick, “I’m not killing anyone. No one is dying by my hand today.”
Komisarjevsky, who along with Hayes had a long history of residential break-ins, is described by his lawyers as suffering from cognitive problems that caused him to panic in stressful situations.
Prosecutors have repeatedly said both men were equally responsible for the crime.