John Muldoon/Polaris
Nicole Weisensee Egan
September 13, 2010 06:15 PM

It was a day they had waited for – and dreaded – for years.

In a courthouse in New Haven, Conn., trial began Monday for one of two men accused of murdering the wife and two daughters of Dr. William Petit during a home invasion in July 2007.

After the grueling first day, Petit and family members gathered outside court to deliver a statement saying they hoped “justice will prevail” for Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and their daughters Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17.

“It has been a long and painful process to get to this day,” said Petit’s sister, Hanna Chapman. “The pain will never end and we think of Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela everyday.”

Steven Hayes, 47, is one of two men accused of holding Petit and his family hostage in their Cheshire, Conn., home before setting it on fire. Petit was beaten, tied up and left for dead. His wife was strangled and his daughters, who were tied to their beds, died of smoke inhalation.

Opening Statements

“I suspect that many of you wish the events that bring us here today never occurred,” prosecutor Michael Dearington told the jury in opening statements. “But regrettably … those events did occur We are confident you will render what is a just and fair verdict.”

Hayes’s attorney Thomas Ullmann said in his opening statement that “no one was supposed to get hurt” that night but “things got way out of control.”

The plan was to break into the Petit home and rob it, Ullmann told the jury. But when Hayes and his alleged accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky found little money in the home, they decided to wait until morning and have Jennifer withdraw cash from the bank.

“The evidence you are about to hear will shake your inner core,” Ullmann said, but he cautioned jurors to stick to proven facts when rendering its verdict.

Petit’s family and friends filled three rows of the overflowing courtroom. Petit, expected to testify as early as this week, was stoic as testimony got underway but looked away when pictures of his burning house were admitted as exhibits.

Hayes, wearing a tan striped rugby shirt and khakis, appeared calm throughout the proceedings.

The trial for Komisarjevsky, 30, will begin next year.

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