The sole survivor of a brutal home invasion speaks to the court as his family's killer is sentenced to death
Credit: John Muldoon/Polaris

Dr. William Petit Jr. told a packed Connecticut courtroom on Thursday how his life was shattered forever the night his wife and two daughters were murdered during a July 2007 home invasion, calling that night “my own personal Holocaust.”

“I lost my entire family,” Dr. Petit, speaking for nearly 30 minutes, said as part of his victim-impact statement. “I lost shared records of our entire lives together due to the fire. Plus I lost my past and my future.”

While a jury sentenced Steven Hayes, 47, to death last month for his role in the murders, the judge did not officially impose the sentence until Thursday.

Hayes and Joshua Komiserjevsky, 30, stood accused of holding the Petit family hostage for hours before setting the house on fire on July 23, 2007. Dr. Petit’s wife, Jennifer-Hawke-Petit, 47, was strangled to death and his daughters, Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17, died of smoke inhalation. Komiserjevsky goes on trial for the crimes next year.

Families Speak

Petit and three other members of his and his late wife’s families spoke through tears about the impact the tragedy has had on them.

“We lost the Bill we knew,” Bill Petit Sr., with his wife by his side, said of their son. “Our son went from being someone with everything to live for to one with doubts about whether he should be living at all.”

Bill Petit Jr. admitted he’s had many suicidal thoughts over the last three years and said he got no more than two hours of sleep the first three months after the deaths. When he finally got on a medication that helped him sleep, he said he was tormented by nightmares, ones he struggles with to this day.

“The mornings are often bad,” he said. “I wake up and for a split second I think my world is normal. There is a giant hole in my heart.”

Hayes spoke in the courtroom, as well. Dr. Petit would not even look at him.

“Apologizing will not bring his family back,” Hayes said, “but I am deeply sorry for my actions and the pain and suffering I have caused.” Of his sentence, he said, “Death will be a relief, and I hope it brings some peace and comfort to those I hurt so much.”

After Hayes spoke, Superior Court Judge Jon Blue, calling it “a sentence you wrote for yourself in flames on July 23, 2007,” officially ordered him to be put to death. He set an execution date of May 27, 2011, but noted the state Supreme Court reviews all death sentences.

“Your fate is now in the hands of others,” said the judge. “May God have mercy on your soul.”