Local News

Sister of slain Connecticut woman reacts to attacker's verdict

Posted November 8, 2010 9:11 p.m. EST
Updated November 9, 2010 3:47 p.m. EST

— The sister of a Connecticut woman who was strangled to death said she thinks the jury made the best decision they could in sentencing one of the co-defendants in the crime to death on Monday.

“This is the kind of punishment that's called for in a horrific crime of this manner,” said Cindy Hawke-Renn, the sister of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, who, along with her daughters, was killed in a July 2007 home invasion.

Hawke-Renn said she traveled to Connecticut from her Chapel Hill home as often as she could for the trial of Steven Hayes, one of the men accused in the crime.

Authorities said Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky broke into the family’s house, beat Dr. William Petit and forced his wife to withdraw money from a bank while the rest of her family remained under hostage at home. Hayes then sexually assaulted and strangled her, authorities said.

Komisarjevsky is charged with sexually assaulting their 11-year-old daughter, Michaela. He has blamed Hayes for escalating the crime.

Michaela and her 17-year-old sister, Hayley, were tied to their beds and had gasoline poured on or around them before the men set the house on fire, according to testimony. The girls died of smoke inhalation.

Petit was able to escape.

After four days of deliberations, jurors in New Haven Superior Court voted unanimously to send Hayes to death row.

“In this kind of situation and under these circumstances, I guess the jury did the best they could,”  Hawke-Renn said in a telephone interview with WRAL News on Monday afternoon. 

Petit said the verdict was not about revenge.

"Vengeance belongs to the Lord," Petit said. "This is about justice. We need to have some rules in a civilized society."

Judge Jon Blue will impose the sentence on Dec. 2. Hawke-Renn said she recorded a message that will be played in court.

“This man took away my sister and my only two nieces,” she said.

Komisarjevsky's trial is expected to start next year.