The panel suggests the criminal be executed for his role in killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters

By Nicole Weisensee Egan
November 08, 2010 12:40 PM

Steven Hayes was sentenced to death by a Connecticut jury on Monday for his role in the violent 2007 home invasion, robbery and arson that killed Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters.

The panel had deliberated for slightly more than three full days. Hayes, 47, sat motionless at the defense table as the recommendation was made in the courtroom. He had been found guilty of six death-penalty counts on Oct. 5.

The other defendant in the case, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 30, goes to trial on the same charges next year. The two men stood accused of holding the family of Dr. William Petit hostage for hours before setting the house on fire.

Dr. Petit’s wife, Jennifer-Hawke-Petit, 47, was strangled to death. Their daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, died of smoke inhalation.

As the verdicts were read in the courtroom, Dr. Petit looked emotional and his eyes – which he closed when the names of his murdered family were said aloud – well up with tears, reports the Hartford Courant.

Sitting near him were his mother, sister and other relatives, who were crying. Some jurors cried, as well.

“We fought the good fight,” Petit told reporters afterward. “This is a verdict for justice … [But] I don’t think there’s ever closure. I think whoever came up with that term … There’s a hole with jagged edges and over time the edges may smooth out a little bit but the hole in your heart and the hole in your soul is still there.”

Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell, who vetoed an attempt by the state Legislature to repeal the death penalty last year, issued a statement after the verdict was announced.

“I have long believed that there are certain crimes so heinous, so depraved, that society is best served by imposing the ultimate sanction on the criminal,” the statement said. “Steven Hayes stands convicted of such crimes – and today the jury has recommended that he should be subjected to the death penalty. I agree.”