On July 23, 2007, the Petit family's idyllic life in Cheshire, Connecticut, ended when two convicted criminals, Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, broke into the house. The men intended to rob the upscale home of the respected doctor, William Petit Jr.; his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, a former nurse who had recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; and their two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. However, the burglary quickly transformed into a terrifying home invasion that included multiple acts of assault and ended with arson.
After law enforcement captured the perpetrators, many people in the wealthy town were left asking how such a brutal crime could have occurred in their quiet community, as well as what, if anything, could have been done to prevent one woman and two girls from losing their lives. The Cheshire Murders, as the crime came to be called, is an example of a home burglary that spun out of control.
At approximately 3 AM on July 23, 2007, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, and Steven Hayes, 44, broke into the Cheshire, Connecticut, home of the Petit family, which included parents Jennifer, 48, and William, 50, and their two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. The pair discovered Petit, a successful endocrinologist, asleep on a porch sofa. Komisarjevsky then hit the father of the family on the head with a baseball bat.
After striking Petit, Hayes and Komisarjevsky tied the doctor up and took him down to the basement, where they secured him to a pipe. With Petit restrained and out of their way, the two men went upstairs to burglarize the home - which spiraled into a 7-hour slew of crimes.
After they tied up Petit in the basement, Hayes and Komisarjevksy went upstairs where they discovered young Michaela and her mother asleep next to one another in bed, while the eldest daughter, Hayley, was asleep in her own bedroom. The pair tied up the woman and her two daughters and placed pillowcases over their heads.
Then the two men searched the home at 300 Sorghum Mill Drive for valuable items they could steal. Disappointed by the family's belongings, Hayes took Hawke-Petit to the bank to withdraw some money, leaving his 26-year-old accomplice in the house with the two girls. While Hayes was at Bank of America with Hawke-Petit, Komisarjevksy performed oral on Michaela and made the girl pose in a variety of positions while he pleasured himself in front of her.
When Hayes returned from the bank - having forced Hawke-Petit to withdraw $15,000 from her account - he learned that his accomplice had assaulted the youngest Petit daughter. According to Hayes, Komisarjevsky encouraged him to assault Hawke-Petit in order to "square things up" between the two of them, so he attacked the woman on the floor of the family's living room.
During the assault, Komisarjevsky came into the room to tell Hayes that Petit had escaped from the basement. This prompted Hayes to strangle Hawke-Petit. The perpetrators then decided to destroy any evidence of their crimes.
After committing the assaults and causing the death of Petit-Hawke, Komisarjevsky and Hayes decided to get rid of any evidence of their crimes by setting the house on fire. Before Hayes took Hawke-Petit to the bank to withdraw money, he'd actually left the house hours earlier to go to a nearby gas station. There he purchased two containers and filled them with several gallons of gasoline.
Reportedly, Hayes poured gas all over the house, making sure to douse Hawke-Petit's body with the accelerant. He also poured the liquid all over Michaela and Hayley, who were both still alive and tied to their beds with pillowcases covering their heads. With the house and their victims soaked with gasoline, one of the men lit a match and set the home on fire.
Both Komisarjevsky and Hayes have denied being responsible for setting the fire, with each man saying the other struck the match that started the blaze. Although both were charged with arson and the subsequent deaths, only Komisarjevsky was convicted of felony arson.