National News

Chapel Hill woman wants sister's killer to pay

Posted October 6, 2010
Updated October 7, 2010

— A Chapel Hill woman has changed her longstanding opposition to the death penalty after the brutal murder of her sister and two nieces in Connecticut.

A jury there found Steven Hayes guilty Tuesday in the 2007 murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters.

Hawke-Petit's sister, Cindy Hawke-Renn, of Chapel Hill, said no punishment is too dire for the man who committed the crimes.

"Sometimes I think the death penalty is too easy," Hawke-Renn said Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Hayes and another ex-con, Joshua Komisarjevsky, broke into the family’s house in Cheshire, beat Dr. William Petit with a baseball bat and forced Hawke-Petit to withdraw money from a bank before Hayes sexually assaulted and strangled her.

Hawke-Renn’s nieces – 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley – were tied to their beds with pillowcases over their heads and doused with gasoline before the house was set ablaze, according to testimony. Michaela was sexually assaulted. The girls died of smoke inhalation.

"I don't think I have ever seen a movie that has been as evil as this," Hawke-Renn said.

She has suffered through the emotional aftermath of the crimes twice – three years ago, when her sister and two nieces were murdered and again during Hayes’s trial.

"I can't imagine any human being can do what he did," she said.

Chapel Hill woman has tie to brutal Conn. crime Chapel Hill woman has tie to brutal Conn. crime

To prove to herself that the nightmare was real, Hawke-Renn said she visited the charred crime scene where her sister lived.

“It felt like you were walking through hell," she said.

Hayes was convicted of 16 counts, including six capital felony charges, three murder charges and two charges of sexually assault. The jurors will start deliberating Oct. 18 whether Hayes should be executed or get life in prison.

Hawke-Renn plans to speak to those jurors before they consider Hayes’s sentence.

"I just wish there was a worse punishment. It doesn't seem like it is bad enough for me,” she said.

Komisarjevsky faces trial next year and also could be sentenced to death.


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  • NavySrChiefswife Oct 7, 2010

    My father and 2 other men were murdered in Apex in 1985. Alton Green got 3 death penalties. the supreme court of NC changed them to 3 life sentences. I would love for him to be put to death. I supported/believed in the death penalty prior to this happening and still support it.
    I agree with a number of posters that you either believe in the death penalty or not...I am sad for the family. I know what they are going through.
    She stated she supports the death penalty now... is that just for these 2 guys or for every murderer? Will she go back to her stance against the death penalty after these 2 are executed (IF THEY ARE)?

  • wildcat Oct 7, 2010

    this time he will never get out unless he is dead.

  • wildcat Oct 7, 2010

    he will not have a life in prison once he gets there. the prisoners will show him what it is all about.

  • wildcat Oct 7, 2010

    beach....that would be good for all crimals like this one. good comment.

  • wildcat Oct 7, 2010

    He can pay for his crime of murder, etc. with life in prison for both without parole.

  • pmck Oct 7, 2010

    Who cares if it costs more? Those who get released after serving time for murder just commit more crimes - how much does that cost??? They forfeit their right to live. It's not about money.

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Oct 7, 2010

    If the death penalty costs more that a life sentence, please explain why? It is because of the costs of the appeals or what? Could it be that those who oppose the death penalty deliberately use the courts to argue appeals and raise the costs of actual death penalty cases to rise? If so, this needs to stop and quit using the argument and give these monsters the sentence they deserve which is DEATH.

  • beachbum1 Oct 7, 2010

    Why kill any prisoners? Why not just put them in a 10' concrete cube cell with no windows, a single 3' door, a toilet, sink & cot...and just slide food under the door?...until they die there.
    NICE or put them all on a island about a 100 miles from any shore, no trees with a fishing pole and a book of matches

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Oct 7, 2010

    Why kill any prisoners? Why not just put them in a 10' concrete cube cell with no windows, a single 3' door, a toilet, sink & cot...and just slide food under the door?...until they die there.

    Wouldn't this be cheaper & easier for us AND more of a deterrent for any future killers?

  • penelope1 Oct 7, 2010

    I'm torn about life in prison without parole or death. I believe in the death penalty but that's to easy. If life in prison was hard; why do so many go back to prison?
    They simply adjust to that life in prison as if they were living on the outside and they don't suffer like we might want them too. The state can't torture these sleaze bags so I don't know what the appropriate punishment should be. I have my ideas but I'm sure what I say won't be posted; because it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment.