NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A U.S. man was sentenced Friday to die for killing a woman and her two daughters during a night of terror in their suburban home, a crime that halted momentum to abolish the death penalty in the state of Connecticut.
Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, blamed his accomplice for much of the crime but spoke of the devastating consequences of his decisions. He said he has family and supporters who don't want him to die and said being sentenced to death was a "surreal experience."
"I know my responsibilities, but what I cannot do is carry the responsibilities of the actions of another," Komisarjevsky said. "I did not want those innocent women to die."
Komisarjevsky joins accomplice Steven Hayes and nine other men on Connecticut's death row. The state's last execution in 2005 was the first since 1960, and Komisarjevsky will likely spend years, if not decades, in prison.
The two paroled burglars tormented a family of four in an affluent suburb before killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and leaving her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, to die in a fire.
The only survivor, Dr. William Petit, was beaten with a baseball bat and tied up but escaped.
Hayes was convicted in 2010 of raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and killing the girls. The girls were tied to their beds and doused in gasoline before the house was set ablaze; they died of smoke inhalation. Komisarjevsky was convicted of the killings and of sexually assaulting Michaela.
Petit called the crime a "personal holocaust" as he testified during the sentencing hearing.
"I lost my family and my home," he said. "They were three special people. Your children are your jewels."
The 2007 attack led to the defeat of a bill to outlaw the death penalty in Connecticut and sparked tougher state laws for repeat offenders and home invasions.
In arguing for a life sentence, his lawyers said he was repeatedly sexually abused as a child by his foster brother and he never got proper psychological help as his problems worsened.
Prosecutors said the rape claims emerged years later when Komisarjevsky faced prison time for 19 nighttime residential burglaries committed a decade ago.
Komisarjevsky admitted in an audiotaped confession played for the jury that he spotted Hawke-Petit and Michaela at a supermarket and followed them to their house. After going home and putting his own daughter to bed, he and Hayes returned to the Petit house in the middle of the night to rob it.
The men, who blamed each other for escalating the crime, were caught fleeing in the family's car.
Komisarjevsky did not testify during his trial but objected unsuccessfully to an effort by his attorneys to play a videotaped interview of his 9-year-old daughter. Speaking outside the presence of the jury, he said he didn't want his daughter to feel compelled to help "one of the most hated people in America."