published Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Contractor testifies in Connecticut home invasion trial

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Attorneys defending a man charged with killing a woman and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion in which the house was doused in gas and set on fire began their defense today by trying to show he could have had gas on his clothes from a roofing job.

An attorney for Joshua Komisarjevsky called a contractor in New Haven Superior Court who testified that Komisarjevsky was doing a roofing job the day before Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela Petit, were killed. The contractor, Michael Ranno, said he wasn’t sure if Komisarjevsky was cleaning tools or using gas power, but a roofing company representative said roofers use gas-powered machines and flammable products.

Komisarjevsky’s attorneys blame his co-defendant, Steven Hayes, for pouring the gas and lighting the fire. Komisarjevsky had gas on his boots, pants and sweatshirt, a chemist at a state lab testified earlier.

Komisarjevsky faces a possible death sentence if convicted. Hayes was convicted last year and sentenced to death.

Authorities say Komisarjevsky and Hayes, both paroled burglars, broke into the Petit family’s home, beat Dr. William Petit with a bat and tied up him and his family. Hayes was convicted of raping and strangling Petit’s wife and killing the couple’s two daughters, who died of smoke inhalation.

Komisarjevsky’s attorneys, who argue that Hayes was desperate for money and feared returning to prison, had a state police detective read a statement Hayes’ mother gave after the crime in which she portrayed him as drinking heavily lately. She said she wanted her son out of her house because they weren’t getting along and she didn’t know what he was up to when he would disappear with her car.

The detective, Francis Budwitz, said authorities seized women’s sneakers from Hayes’ residence. Hayes had a fetish for women’s sneakers, according to testimony from his trial.

Hayley’s sneakers were found in a vehicle Hayes had used, according to Komisarjevsky’s attorneys.

Hayes’ mother told her other son to burn his clothes after she learned of the crime, Budwitz said.

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