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Defense Details Komisarjevsky's Childhood Abuse

A history of Joshua Komisarjevsky's childhood abuse was presented in the triple-murder trial.

Update at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 5

Attorneys representing accused murderer Joshua Komisarjevsky began their defense on Wednesday. A neuropsychologist detailed a pattern of sexual and violent abuse Komisarjevsky endured when he was a child that shaped his life.

According to the Associated Press:

Dr. Leo Shea testified that Joshua Komisarjevsky told him he was sexually abused from ages 4 to 6 and was burned and tortured. One person Komisarjevsky said had abused him admitted it, Shea said.

Shea also said that Komisarjevsky “extensively abused” crystal methamphetamine.

His childhood history, combined with his recent troubles and a history of concussions, is seen as a possible explanation as to how the home invasion escalated to a triple murder. According to the Hartford Courant:

All of those experiences could have affected certain parts of Komisarjevsky's brain, Shea said. The effects include irritability, an inability to make decisions, problems socially and the lack of ability to think of the needs of other people.

Update at 5:45 p.m. on Oct. 4

With strong evidence and a graphic confession stacked against murder suspect Joshua Komisarjevsky, experts interviewed by ABC News say the defense is taking unusual measures to keep him off death row.

With little to lose, some think the defense might even put Komisarjevsky on the stand. He previously admitted to sexually assaulted 11-year-old Michaela Petit but distanced himself from accomplice Steven Hayes, who has already been sentenced to death. Evidence showing gasoline on Komisarjevky’s clothing indicates he may have had more of a role in the fatal fire than he confessed to.

ABC News reports:

"They are going to try to hang the jury up on whether or not Komisarjevsky was merely an accessory to the murder of a child or if he had a hand in committing the murders himself. If he's only an accessory, the defense will say he ought not to be killed," said Norman Pattis, one of the highest profile criminal defense attorneys in Connecticut.

Update at 6 p.m. on Oct. 3

A supporter of the Petit family reportedly approached a juror on the murder trial to say, “thank you for what you're doing," reported ABC News. The defense asked on Monday for a mistrial, but the judge turned down the request.

According to ABC News:

Walter C. Bansley, a defense attorney, said that he did not believe Komisarjevsky could get a fair trial. Bansley called the spectator's actions part of a "pattern of intimidation" by Petit supporters.  

New evidence in the case was provided by chemist working for the state. Gasoline was found on Joshua Komisarjevky’s clothing. The Associated Press noted that Komisarjevsky previously blamed his accomplice Steven Hayes for starting the fire that killed two girls.

Under cross-examination, Komisarjevsky’s attorneys noted he did not have gas on the gloves he wore and suggested the fuel could have come from construction work Komisarjevsky did.

Update at 5:37 p.m. on Sept. 29

The judge presiding over the Joshua Komisarjevsky trial denied the defense’s attempt at a mistrial on Thursday.

According to the Hartford Courtant, Defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan said that several members of the Petit family leaving the trial before yesterday’s testimony about the sexual assault and death of Michaela Petit was a “stunt” that warranted a mistrial.

"They left en masse," Donovan said, according the Courant. "It seems to be that is so prejudicial to my client."  

Superior Court Judge Jon Blue reportedly said trial spectators can leave as they please and rejected the notion of a mistrial.

Update at 5:07 p.m. on Sept. 28

Hours before Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes invaded a Cheshire home, the former texted that he was “chomping at the bit to get started” to his accomplice. On Wednesday, jurors also saw graphic photos Komisarjevsky allegedly took of 11-year-old Michaela Petit, who he sexually assaulted.

According to ABC News, the photos were taken to potentially use as blackmail if Michaela’s mother, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, didn’t do as she was asked.

Six images were of "a young, white girl" [state forensic scientist] John Brunetti testified today. And two of Komisarjevsky himself. In his audio taped confession, Komisarjevsky admitted to molesting the girl and ejaculating on her as she was tied to her bed.

All 18 jurors, including 6 alternates, looked at the pictures as the folder slowly passed from one to the next. Several of the jurors seemed subdued after viewing the images.

After Komisarjevsky sent the text saying he was “chomping at the bit,” Hayes responded “Dude, the horses want to get loose. LOL,” reports the Associated Press.

The Associated Press also reported that a medical examiner found no traces of drugs or alcohol in Komisarjevsky and Hayes.

Update at 10:50 a.m. on Sept. 28

A video containing audio excerpts of Komisarjevsky's confession to police has been added to this article. Some of the scenes described are graphic and disturbing.

Update at 4:50 p.m. on Sept. 27

The jurors weighing the fate of accused murderer Joshua Komisarjevky were shown photos of Hayley Petit’s room. The 17-year-old girl died from smoke inhalation after being bound during the home invasion.

According to the Hartford Courant:

Prosecutor Gary Nicholson took jurors inside the Petit home, to Hayley Petit's bedroom, showing photos on a movie screen of the 17-year-old's burned bed and soot-covered walls. Materials resembling nylon stockings were tied around the bedposts of Hayley's bed.

Investigators took samples of burnt rug near the side of Hayley's bed, State Police Sgt. Karen Gabianelli testified, after a police dog trained to identify accelerants hit on the area.

According to the Associated Press:

A dog trained to detect gas found spots believed to be accelerants on the floor of the girls' bedrooms, in the hallway and on a staircase, Connecticut State Police Sgt. Karen Gabianelli said.

Jurors also were shown photos of melted plastic containers that held the gas and the victims' charred clothes. They also saw knit hats with holes cut in them recovered at the scene authorities say the men wore.

Update at 4:25 p.m. on Sept. 26

In the second week of trial against accused murderer Joshua Komisarjevky, a Cheshire detective told jurors that the accused showed “no remorse” about the home invasion that left a mother and her daughters dead.

The witness was Det. Joe Vitello, of the Cheshire Police Department. According to ABC News:

During cross examination, [defense attorney] Walter Bansley asked the detective if Komisarjevsky cried during his confession, and the detective replied, "Never."

When Bansley asked if Komisarjevsky showed any emotion, Vitello said with a tone expressing amazement, "Not once."

The Associated Press said the testimony was damaging to Komisarjevky’s efforts to shift blame to his co-defendant, Steven Hayes. Vitello testified that Komisarjevsky said he may have started the fire that burned down the Petit house. 

Detective Joseph Vitello's testimony undercut efforts by Joshua Komisarjevsky's lawyers to blame his co-defendant, Steven Hayes, for pouring the gas. Hayes was convicted last year and is on death row.


Update at 8:15 p.m. on Sept. 23

The first week of trial has wrapped up and will resume on Monday. A number of photos being used as evidence by the prosecution has been added to this article. Also, the transcript of a 9-1-1 call made by the bank manager has been uploaded.

Update at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 22

For the second day in a row, jurors heard the taped confession Joshua Komisarjevsky gave police about his involvement in the death of three people – including two young girls.

According to the Associated Press:

Komisarjevsky calls the plan to set the house on fire "unconscionable" and says he closed the bedroom doors "to buy them time."

"I, I, I can't imagine anyone being burned alive," he says. "I got myself in this horrible position, but, you know they did every, they did what they were supposed to do. There was no reason for them to die."

Komisarjevsky’s confession blamed accomplice Steven Hayes, who is on death row.

According to ABC News:

Hayes started pouring gasoline around the house, including upstairs where the two girls were tied to their beds, Komisarjevsky told the police. He said it didn't occur to him to untie Hayley and Michaela, and he told police that he argued with Hayes that the girls had been compliant and didn't deserve to die.

Komisarjevsly said he closed the girls' bedroom doors "to buy them time."

The two Petit girls died from smoke inhalation.

Update at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 21:

On Wednesday, jurors heard the taped confession Joshua Komisarjevsky gave police after being arrested for his involvement in the grisly triple-murder. The judge ended the recording early after at least one of jurors had a difficult time hearing the unseemly details, according to the Hartford Courant.

Komisarjevsky's confession included details on his sexual assault of 11-year-old Michaela Petit, who perished when the house was set on fire. He also said that the Petit family was targeted because he saw Jennifer Hawke-Petit, who was also killed, driving a nice car.

ABC News reported on what Komisarjevsky did before he and Steven Hayes, who has already been sentenced to death, attacked the Petits.

Komisarjevsky said on the tape he spent the next few hours with his own daughter and put her to bed. After that he met up with Hayes and they hatched a plan to rob the Petit house.

Update at 4:49 p.m. on Sept. 20:

In the second day of trial against a Connecticut man accused of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, the surviving husband, Dr. William Petit, took the stand to tell his story. Beaten and bloody, Dr. Petit managed to escape his kidnappers and notify police from a neighbor’s house.

According to the Hartford Courant:

He decided to escape. "I didn't think — with a gun, two guys and my feet bound ... I knew I needed help."

With his feet still tied, Petit said he hopped up the basement steps that led to the Bilco door exit. With his heart racing — "it felt like it was going to explode out of my chest" — Petit said he stumbled a few times.

This was the second time Petit gave testimony. Earlier this year he testified against Steven Hayes, who was sentenced to death for his role in the 2007 home invasion.

This trial is for Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, Hayes' alleged accomplice who is also facing the death penalty. The Courant reported that Petit said the second testimony was even “more nerve-racking” than the first.

Defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan questioned Petit about possible inconsistencies between his testimony and the story he told police. According to the New Haven Register, Donovan said Petit initially told police he saw only one attacker instead of two.

“Maybe your mind is playing tricks on you,” Donovan said.

Donovan also suggested Petit’s memory is affected by hearing other witnesses testify.

“I don’t think I agree with that, sir,” Petit replied.

The Original Story from Sept. 19 Follows:

In a packed courtroom full of media, the second trial in the Cheshire home invasion case began on Monday. Defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, faces the death penalty for his role in the killing of a woman and her two daughters in 2007.

His co-defendant, Steven Hayes, was last year.

According to the Associated Press, Komisarjevsky's attorney said his client never intended to kill anyone during the home invasion and shifted blame to Hayes. Attorney Walter Bansley said in defense of his client:

"The evidence you are about to hear will shake your confidence in humanity. The deaths that occurred were senseless, unnecessary and tragic."

On the opening day of the trial, Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of the attack sat in the front row of the courtroom. Nobody was in the space reserved for Komisarjevsky’s family, reports the New Haven Register.

The opening day of witness testimony at New Haven Superior Court brought forth details on how Jennifer Hawke-Petit, Dr. William Petit’s wife, was taken hostage.

Bank teller Kristin Makhzangi testified that Hawke-Petit went to the Bank of America in Cheshire's Maplecroft Plaza to withdraw $15,000 but was unable to provide the necessary ID to the teller. According to the Hartford Courant:

She told the teller she needed the money because two men were holding her family hostage. Makhzangi testified that she then called her bank manager, who approved getting Hawke-Petit the money after hearing about the hostage situation.

Hawke-Petit appeared calm overall, Makhzangi testified, but her hands were shaking.

The teller got approval to give Hawke-Petit the money. The bank manager called 9-1-1. The audio recording and bank surveillance footage were played in court for the jurors.

According to police, Komisarjevsky and Hayes forced their way into the Petit home on July 23, 2007, intending to rob them.

When they found Dr. Petit asleep on the couch, reports show they beat him with a baseball bat, tied him up and restrained him in the basement. Then, police say, the pair tied Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, to their beds, and forced Jennifer Hawke-Petit to make the bank withdrawal.

While Hayes drove Hawke-Petit to the bank, police said Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted Michaela. When Hayes returned, he sexually assaulted and strangled Hawke-Petit, police reports show.

When the two intruders discovered that Dr. Petit had escaped from the basement, according to police, they set fire to the house with gasoline and attempted to escape in the family car. But the pair were unable to elude police, who had been alerted by bank officials and had surrounded the house.

Fred Musante contributed to this report.

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