The father and sole survivor of a vicious 2007 Connecticut home invasion in which two suspects allegedly murdered his two girls and wife sobbed in court as jurors received graphic photos of his slain daughters.
The photos were presented Wednesday at the trial of Steven Hayes, who is charged with murder, sexual assault and other crimes.
Dr. William Petit, the sole survivor of the home invasion, broke down as jurors saw photos of the bodies of his daughters, 17-year-old Hayley, and 11-year-old Michaela. Petit's wife also was killed.
The photos were distributed among the jurors rather than displayed on a screen that was used Tuesday. It was the first time the jurors saw the graphic images from what happened on that fateful day. New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon Blue advised jurors to prepare themselves as best they could.
Still, witnesses in the courtroom could tell by the horrified looks on the jurors' faces when they saw the images that they were ill-prepared for the gruesome, tragic evidence of two lives brutally ended less than two decades after they began.
Another suspect, Joshua Komisarjevsky is awaiting trial.
Petit is the sole survivor of the horrifying ordeal in which his wife and young daughters were killed and their family home was set on fire. Petit escaped. The girls and their mother perished inside the burning house.
Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky are accused of beating Petit in his home and leaving him for dead, and raping and killing his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their two daughters, Michaela and Hayley.
Petit sobbed as jurors were shown photos of Hayley's body at the top of the stairs. Family members sitting with him in the courtroom tried to console him through their own tears.
Firefighters took the stand and described the scene they faced three years ago after walking into the door of the burning home. On the first floor, they had “50 percent” visibility but the second floor was worse. Smoke prevented them from seeing anything.
The scene was also dangerous and a burnt stairwell was structurally compromised.
It was only by using thermal imaging cameras that firefighters found Hayley at the top of the stairs. They found her as they were ordered to leave the house, but a firefighter stayed there, at the top of the stairs, trying to decide whether to take her.
He left without her and told state police outside about finding a woman’s body. It was then that he learned that there might be another victim on the second floor. Again, he entered the Petit’s home. This time with a carbon monoxide detector.
The was the second part of a day of testimony from first responders. The day began with tough questions about police response that day.
As the defense attorneys cross-examined the police captain, they began to raise questions about the police response.
Cheshire Police Capt. Robert Vignola was the first to take the stand as emergency crews laid out the timeline from the first call to arresting the two suspects.
Despite the fact that police had cell phone numbers to the house, police waited until everyone was in perimeter before calling -- which took 10 minutes, according to defense.
Vignola said that, at first, police weren’t sure if this was a hostage situation or a domestic situation.
According to court records, dispatchers received the first call at 9:21 a.m. on July 23, 2007.
At 9:25 a.m., there was an initial broadcast to all units. At 9:26 a.m., there was a broadcast with the address.
There are various reports for what happened at 9:27 a.m., including the captain telling units not to approach the Petit house and dispatching calling Vignola about a possible hostage situation.
He said he assigned three detectives to get into gear and respond, he said.
Vignola drove by the Petit home at 9:36 a.m. and got into position, he said.
Vignola describes a confusing system, defended response, saying they followed protocol and that the entire event was confusing and made no sense that day.
"We took this seriously and moved forward based on protocol," Vignola said.