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Desperate hours

Our story tracks the collision course between a decent, loving family, and a couple of ex-cons who'd been accused of only petty crimes -- until one night this past July.
Photo: Petit family

Evil arrived in Cheshire, Conn., along with the sweet summer corn.

"These are Charlie Manson-like crimes," says former police officer Bill Glass.

It broke right into 300 Sorghum Mill Drive and made itself at home for seven terrifying hours.

"This becomes from what was already a horror story to, you know, likely the worst crime that's ever been committed in Connecticut," says David Altimari.

They were as nice a family as you'd ever want to meet.

Cindy Renn (Mrs. Petit's sister): There is nobody on this earth who deserves what they had done to them...

They were four lives destroyed by totally random selection.

Clint Van Zandt: It was their own private holocaust that they had to have gone through.

No one predicted it could have been the two watchers, halfway house roomies.

The younger one was a local kid, a cat burglar who'd been in and out of trouble and in and out of his neighbor's houses for years.

Tim Totton: He said it was a rush, to be in someone's house while they're home. It was like a thrill to him.Lt. Jay Markella, Cheshire P.D.: We do have three confirmed fatalities at this time. Two of them female, third I don't want to speculate right now.

A safe Yankee town
Cheshire sits in the heart of Connecticut.

A onetime market town for the old Yankee farmers who worshipped at the white-steepled Congregational Church.

Ron Gagliardi, town historian: there are a lot of farms in Cheshire still and many of them provide plants like flowers and small vegetables to other areas.

Local historian Ron Gagliardi says the town is known as the state's bedding capital -- as in bedding plants -- but it's more about all the beds in the subdivision homes that sprouted up from the '60s on.

Ron Gagliardi: Because of its proximity to New Haven and Hartford, it's become a bedroom community.

And a goodly number of the people you see on their morning commute and out on the town trails are professionals, doctors, lawyers, and business execs.

Gagliardi: It's really a safe, family oriented type of a town.

One of those families, one of the most admired in town, were the Petits. Family photos of the four radiate an all-American healthiness.

Deb Hereld: I think because both parents were medical professionals, helping people was literally a way of life.

Dr. Bill Petit is a well-regarded diabetes specialist known throughout the state, the subject of local TV interviews.

He met his wife Jennifer in his medical school days when she was working as a nurse.

That's what she did at the private Cheshire Academy in town. The sometimes lonely boarding students were said to look to her as both the nurse and a kind of proxy mom for TLC when needed. Marilyn Bartoli is a parent.

Marilyn Bartoli: I think people actually tried to be sick in order to be around her. She was that kind of woman.

Sadly, for all her good cheer -- she loved to play guitar and piano -- Jennifer Hawke-Petit, the caregiver, was herself chronically ill, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disorder of the nervous system, at about age 40. Her friend, Deb Hereld, remembers getting the news.

Deb Hereld: Very unusual, she sounded choked up. And she explained that she had just been diagnosed with M.S. But then it was like she kind of said, "I'm just-- I'm just having my little breakdown now, and then I'll just -- I'll be okay." And she was.

Hayley, the older of the Petits' two daughters, made her mother's illness a passion, raising a serious amount of money for M.S. research.

Burch Ford: And over the past few years, independently raised $54,000, which is just extraordinary.

Burch Ford is the head of the top-notch Miss Porter's School where Hayley was a standout student in a class of accomplished young girls. She just graduated in June.

Burch Ford: She performed so effectively in so many different kinds of ways.Deb Hereld: She was the respected girl. She was the girl who the kids would go to if they really wanted to know what was right to do.

Hayley was an athlete, too. Co-captain of the basketball team as well as the crew. Digging oars in for the final sprint was called "giving it the Hayley ten."

She hoped to row for Dartmouth, where she'd be starting in the fall ... Her father's college.

And like the father she so admired -- even, as a kid, following him on his hospital rounds on Saturday morning -- she was going to be a doctor, a healer like both of her parents. College-bound, Hayley was turning the M.S. fundraising work over to her little sister, Michaela.

She was  11 years old. "K.K. Rosebud" was her father's nickname for her and she showed signs of growing up as tall as her sister. Michaela had inherited her mother's musical flair and on a recent Sunday had performed her first flute solo in church.

But it was her smile that she was best known for, a shy grin.

Deb Hereld: It was as though she had a really good secret. She wasn't quite ready to share it with you.

Michaela was a budding foodie and a vegetarian. She loved the Food Network and especially Rachael Ray.

On that Sunday evening in July, Michaela prepared one of her special meals for the family: pasta, with native tomatoes and her own homemade special sauce.

The meal ended a day that had started with the family at church, continued with an afternoon of Dr. Petit playing golf with his father, and the girls getting in a swim at the beach club.

Michaela and her mom got in the Chrysler Pacifica SUV somewhere between 7 and 7:30 that evening to pick up a few items at the Stop and Shop supermarket, things she still needed for her pasta.

As the striking blonde mother and her vibrant daughter headed to the car with their groceries, they didn't know that they were being watched. Appraised. Targeted.

The mother and daughter in the SUV never saw that a truck had pulled behind them as they headed back home to 300 Sorghum Mill drive.

As Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her 11-year-old daughter Michaela drove the few minutes back home from the supermarket on Sunday evening, they passed pleasant homes where their neighbors lived respectable lives.

Their route didn't take them by one of the prominent institutions of Cheshire -- a sobering reminder to a middle-class town that there were other ways to live a life -- the Cheshire correctional institution and the adjacent youth facility.

More than 1,300 of Connecticut's 18,000 inmates were housed there. Statewide, there were nearly 2,500 convicts on parole in 2007.

Authorities now believe one of those parolees was in a truck tailing the Petit family SUV as mother and daughter drove back from the Stop and Shop that July evening. By night's end, they say, there would be two men casing the Petit home -- two felons who knew the prison system drill very well.

One of them, Steven Hayes, 44, five-foot-seven, 170 pounds, was a career burglar who passed bad checks and stole stuff so he'd have money to buy crack cocaine, his drug of choice.

David Altimari is an investigative reporter for the Hartford Courant.

David Altimari: Hayes has a long criminal record going back to 1980 of mostly minor crimes, from forgery to larceny.Dennis Murphy: So he's a petty thief? He's a break a window, grab what you can kind of guy?  Altimari: Pretty much. He has no violent crimes in his history.

A coked-out smash and grab burglary in 2003 netted him five years back in prison.

But Hayes would only serve three and a half years of that sentence. In May 2007 the Connecticut board of pardons and paroles let him out of prison again. Even though six months before he'd violated the terms of his halfway house program by testing positive for drugs, the board paroled Hayes -- giving him one more chance at shaping up.

His mug shot taken last May shows a smiling Steven Hayes about to be released on parole.

By July, while Hayley Petit was attending graduation parties and hitting the beach with her mother who loved the sun, Hayes was working for a landscaping company and living with his mother in a rundown condo building.

He'd kept in touch with the man, 18 years his younger, sitting beside him as they drove the streets of Cheshire that night -- Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, five foot-nine, 130 pounds.

Murphy: And who's Komisarjevsky?Altimari: He is a burglar. That was his trade.

Komisarjevsky had recently spent four and a half months with Hayes at two different halfway houses. He'd been released a month before Hayes, and had been on an electronic monitoring bracelet until only four days before this Sunday evening ride.

Altimari: Once Hayes got out of prison they got in contact with each other, so they clearly made some kind of bond while they were in that halfway house for that short period of time.

They were an odd duo. Younger and older. Tall and squat. But together, authorities believe, they'd hatched a plan.

At a certain point that July evening the two had locked onto the house on Sorghum Mill Drive that the pretty woman and her daughter had driven home to. It was a relatively modest four-bedroom colonial on a treed half-acre. It was by no means a McMansion that screamed money.

Altimari: Staked out the house a little bit, checked out the house a little bit, which was Komisarjevsky's m.o. in most of these cases and decided they were going to come back later that night.

It was a routine Komisarjevsky had down to a science. He had been a burglar since the age of 14, but with a different m.o than Hayes's smash-and-grab. He was a Cheshire local, a townie.

Unlike most burglars who prefer to break and enter a house in the day when the homeowners are most likely to be gone, Komisarjevsky worked at night, with the family asleep in their beds.

Altimari: He was a nighttime burglar. He seemed to be perfecting his craft. He had ordered night vision goggles to use. He wore latex gloves. He only went in at night. Didn't steal very much in most of the cases. Wallets, purses, VCR's, that kind of thing.

Komisarjevsky was a strange one to figure out. He wasn't in it just for the money. He'd worked for a tree service company, did a little construction, even got licensed in 2001 as an emergency medical technician. And what's more, he'd been raised since infancy as the adopted child of a Cheshire family with a colorful history.

His grandfather had been one of Russia's most prominent theatre directors in the early 1900s.

His grandmother, who's still alive, had been a glittering diva of modern dance.

Ron Gagliardi: She seemed very elegant, very statuesque even at the age that I met her which was probably 65 or so.

And Komisarjevsky's elegant grandmother married a Cheshire notable after the death of the first husband.

Gagliardi: The family owned approximately 50-60 acres in this area here of North Brooksvale.

That land was sold off in parcels over the years. Now only his grandmother's dance studio and Komisarjevsky's childhood home remain.

Komisarjevsky lived there with his father, an electrician, and his mother, both described as very religious. The house had seen better days.

Ron Gagliardi: I haven't seen many others in this sad shape.

The picture that emerges in court sentencing documents later is of a boy troubled for much of his life, learning disabled, a cunning mischief-maker on his way to worse in his teenage years.

Bill Glass (former cop): First heard of his name coming up in a couple of investigations in the early 1990s.

Bill Glass is a former Cheshire police officer. The Komisarjevsky kid's name was one that kept popping up in police reports.

Bill Glass: He was charged with a lot of thefts, larceny. He was charged with burglary.

When he was 14, Komisarjevksy admitted to cops that he'd set a local building ablaze.

Bill Glass: I believe he started a fire inside a gas station, a vacant building on south main street.

And the boy –- who, according to court transcripts had been sexually abused by a foster child taken in by his parents -- made his neighbors' lives a misery.

Bill Glass: He terrorized my older daughter's best friend from the time she was probably in seventh or eighth grade right through high school … He'd be peeking in her windows. We had several, two burglaries at their house. At the time, we didn't suspect him. But later on we did find out that he did do it. Several items taken from the house, not just monetary value, but lingerie items missing from the house

When Jennifer Norton was 16, she gave birth to Komisarjesvky's child. Jayda is now five years old and is being raised by Jennifer and her boyfriend Tim Totton.

Jennifer remembers that when she was pregnant, Joshua Komisarjevsky was both abusive and rarely around.

Jennifer Norton: He was always out … He told me stories about jobs that he had done or, you know, robbing houses.

There was a Halloween when they snapped a picture of themselves posing as Bonnie and Clyde.

He was doing coke and crystal meth when he was with her, Jennifer says. Here's a raffish Komisarjevksy with a joint tucked behind his ear. Court records say he'd been smoking marijuana since the age of 14.

Jennifer's current boyfriend says Komisarjevsky told him once about the kick he got planning and executing nighttime burglaries.

Tim Totton: He thought it was boring when nobody was home. He said it was too easy and there was no fun involved, you know?Jennifer Norton: He loved the adrenaline rush and thrill of it. He had said -- "Robbing a house is better than any drug I've ever tried."

Starting in 2001 Komisarjevsky began a particularly intense spree of residential burglaries in his home and surrounding towns, a spree that left local police baffled.

Glass: He was on foot, or he was stealing bicycles in the neighborhood and getting around. And that's why we could never catch him back then. You know, he knew the woods like the back of his hand.Altimari: He would stake out a house. He either usually cut through a screen door with a knife, he always bought a knife with him as well or he, you know, found a door that was open that he could jimmy. Would go in quickly, take things and leave.

But after Komisarjevsky was found with stolen goods in his possession in 2002, local police arrested him at his girlfriend's parent's house. Downstairs they found a stash of loot he'd lifted from people's homes.

Jennifer Norton: When the cops searched my house, they found so much stuff in the basement.

He confessed to 18 break-ins, and eventually pointed out to police officers the houses he'd entered, told them about the experience -- wearing latex gloves, sometimes even using night vision goggles -- popping open glass sliding doors and just listening for fifteen minutes to the sound of a home with a family asleep.

He pleaded guilty in 2002 and got nine years in prison. From inside, he sent Jennifer, the mother of his daughter, flowery love letters, telling her how he'd found religion and rejected his criminal ways. In one he writes: "When I get out, we're taking this life by storm. You, me and our beautiful daughter Jayda, nothing will stop us from living our dreams. You can trust in that my love!!!"

By April 2007 he was out, having served four-and-a-half years of a nine-year sentence. He was done with the halfway house and working as a roofer in East Hartford.

Altimari: He's on supervised parole. So he's living at home.

The fantasy about a family life with Jennifer was long over. Komisarjevsky and the girl's mother had engaged in a bitter custody battle over the child, and had recently gone to court to work out a new visitation schedule. But that Sunday morning in late July, Komisarjevsky wasn't at home when his daughter was dropped off by Jennifer's mom.

Authorities now suspect he'd been out late with his halfway house buddy breaking into two houses in Cheshire. Broke through the back screen of one. Creepy-crawling while the families slept. They got a money clip with $140.

Now, officials believe, Komisarjevsky and Hayes were lining up yet another job that weekend -- this time at the nice house on Sorghum Mill Drive. And they had with them the supplies they'd need: an air rifle. And some rope.

Michaela's pasta was on the boil. The tomatoes were sliced.

Her homemade sauce was ready for the Sunday evening meal she was making for her sister and mom and dad.

The state of Connecticut is releasing few details about the investigation. The story from here on out -- what happened in that house after the Petits' Sunday dinner -- is pieced together from published reports and official sources, based partly on statements the two men -- Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes -- have given to police. They are detailed statements that no one wants to be true.

We think after dinner, the two Petit girls settled in with their books.

Hayley, the older daughter, was in the last book of the "Harry Potter" series.

Michaela, the younger, was just starting the first "Harry Potter."

The watchers -- Komisarjevsky and Hayes -- were closing in. They'd been discussing the pretty blonde woman and the girl from the supermarket and knew which driveway on Sorghum Mill Drive the two had turned into. Now they were forming their plan. It wouldn't be Komisarjevsky's showtime for a while yet.

As a cool summer night settled in over Cheshire, Connecticut, the lights in the Petit house clicked off.

The girls were in their separate bedrooms upstairs, and Mrs. Hawke-Petit was in the master.

Dr. Petit was in the enclosed sun porch, reading, but he too had dozed off.

Altimari: They're all sleeping. Dr. Petit is sleeping on a couch … reading some medical journals. It was not unusual for him to fall asleep on the couch while he was doing work.

Komisarjevsky and Hayes had parked their truck at the Quarry Village condominium complex about a mile and a half away from the Petit house. Zero hour for their plan was 3 a.m.

They began walking through the darkened lanes of suburban Cheshire, the two paroled convicts.

It's believed they went in through the cellar door, Komisarjevsky likely calling the shots.

Altimari: It really fits exactly what he had done many times before. The difference is he had another guy with him this time. He wasn't alone. He had Hayes with him.

Right away they must have encountered the sleeping Dr. Petit.

Altimari: ...and he wakes up or he's somehow either they confront him or he confronts them. So I think they were surprised to find someone right there on the couch.

There's a baseball bat. Did they bring it with them or just find it in the house?

Dr. Petit is cracked across the forehead.

Altimari: He was beaten pretty badly. Unconscious. Left on the floor bleeding. And then at some point awoke. And they beat him some more and they dragged him into the basement and tied him up to a pole in the basement where he basically was left unconscious.

Two petty thieves with no known history of violence had taken their first steps together on a monstrous journey and there was no turning back.

Altimari: What we don't know at that point is does someone wake up when they hear the doctor being beaten? The assumption at this point, without knowing, is that someone else woke up and now they're in a situation where the house, the people in the house know they're there.

Dr. Petit had been on the sun porch. Up the stairs to the right was the master where Mrs. Hawke-Petit was sleeping, and the girls' bedrooms were down the hall from one another, with a bath across from Hayley's room.

The horror was quickly escalating. At some point the women were separated, with Mrs. Hawke-Petit downstairs while Hayley and Michaela were still upstairs. Officials believe the men had tied the girls to their beds.

Murphy: Tied to their beds?Altimari: Tied to their beds and Hayes sexually assaults Mrs. Petit and Komisarjevksy sexually assaults the 11-year-old girl.Murphy: Rapes them?Altimari: Yes.

We know the state police have obtained search warrants for the records of the two cell phones the pair had with them.

Altimari: And we believe that they were text messaging each other inside the house. What they were saying is unclear at this point, but there was some communications...Murphy: I'm, I'm with the mother? Where are you? What's going on?Altimari: One is upstairs. One's downstairs it seems. Because Hayes is, I believe, downstairs with the mother. And Komisarjevksy is upstairs with the 11-year old girl.

At Komisarjevsky's 2002 sentencing for the string of home burglaries, a judge had sized him up as "a predator, a calculated, cold-blooded predator."

And now before dawn on Sorghum Mill Drive, he'd lived up to that description.

He knows if he and Hayes are caught after this rampage, they'll go away for a long time. Maybe life without parole.

Their DNA could be on the mother and daughter.

Altimari: At some point after 5:00 a.m. Hayes takes four containers. And he leaves the house to go get gasoline. And Komisarjevksy's in the house with the family and he takes the time to call his boss and leave a message that that he's not going to be coming to work that day because his daughter was sick…Murphy: And he was just involved in the...Altimari: ...this is right in the middle of this whole thing...Murphy: the rape and kidnapping of a family?Altimari: Right. He, right in the, you know, three hours into this ordeal.

Hayes buys gasoline -- four containers' worth at a local station -- and then gets lost on the way back. He calls Komisarjevsky for directions.

Their plan is heading into the final hours.

Dr. William Petit is unconscious in the basement. Tied to a pole.

His daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11 are tied to their beds upstairs.

Jennifer Hawke-Petit is downstairs. She's been raped by Hayes, the older of the two convicts.

Michaela has been raped by Komisarjevsky.

This is the scene authorities believe is taking place inside the Petit home by 6 a.m. on Monday morning, July 23, 2007.

Steven Hayes has returned with the four containers of gasoline.

Murphy: Is the family doomed at this moment?Altimari: You know, still unclear. Obviously, if he's going to buy gasoline, they have made some decisions on what they're going to do.

But that would come later. First Hayes goes on a final errand, this time with Jennifer Hawke-Petit. Mrs. Hawke-Petit has been described as steely strong. Her husband might already be dead. Her two young daughters are in the control of a man who's already sexually attacked one of them. It was now up to her to try to save her family.

It was 9 a.m. Cheshire was awake on a summer Monday, neighbors walking their dogs. It's less than a 10-minute drive from the Petit home to the Bank of America branch where the next part of the scheme would unfold. Hayes drives Mrs. Hawke-Petit and forces her to withdraw money from her joint account.

It's about 9:20 a.m.

Altimari: They get to the bank. And she goes in -- he stays outside -- and goes in and tries to withdraw $15,000 from their account.

The bank teller hesitates for a moment. It's an odd request, that much cash.

Altimari: And it's at this point that she communicates to them in some way that "My family's being held hostage. I need this money to give to the guys."

Mrs. Hawke-Petit receives the $15,000 and leaves. Debbie Biggins -- who'd come to the bank to open an account that morning -- remembers glimpsing an ashen female customer and a frantic-looking teller with a piece of paper.

Debbie Biggins: I remember the manager taking that piece of paper, whatever it was and she almost ran right down to her office and the next thing I know I turned around and saw a gun in a holster and the police were in the building. I mean, it was like, just time froze. Seconds. And then they were out I don't know, seconds, minutes. I don't even know. They weren't even there that long, it was just long enough to get whatever information they needed and they were history.

Mrs. Hawke-Petit and Hayes were likely back at the Petit home by 9:30 a.m.

Altimari: About the next 25 to 30 minutes … This becomes from what was already a horror story to, you know, likely the worst crime that's ever been committed in Connecticut.

If Mrs. Hawke-Petit thought that the $15,000 cash would buy her family's release, their very lives, she was wrong. She'd only been back in the house for moments.

Altimari: Hayes kills Mrs. Petit, strangles her on the first floor.

At this moment, it's believed that Dr. Petit has come to in the basement where he's still bound hand and foot.

Altimari: Mr. Petit apparently hears his wife literally begging for her life and then he, she goes silent and that's when he breaks free at least with his hands, enough that he's able to literally hop out of the house.

Dr. Petit hobbles across the yard, screaming his neighbor's name. The doctor is so bloodied about the head that he is unrecognizable. The neighbor calls 911.

But the police have already started to arrive, dispatched from the earlier 911 call from the bank.

The Cheshire police are a low key presence at 9:45 a.m. Some patrol cars waiting for the SWAT team to assemble. No one wants to pull a Dirty Harry and kick in the door on a potential hostage-taking situation.

It's a caution the police officers will second-guess in their nightmares because at that point the two girls are still alive.

But only for a few minutes more. There's yet another 911 call from Sorghum Mill Drive. Someone has seen smoke coming from the Petit house. The fire department is dispatched at 9:59 a.m.

Murphy: One of the two has torched the gasoline?Altimari: Yes. Has now lit the bedrooms on fire.Murphy: With the girls upstairs ... Mrs. Petit is dead?Altimari: Mrs. Petit is already dead. They do spread gasoline around her body as well but they literally light the bedrooms on fire while the girls are still alive.Murphy: Tied to their beds?Altimari: Tied to their beds.

With the house exploding around them, Komisarjevksy and Hayes bolt out the door.

Altimari: Get in the Pacifica. They smash into a cruiser at the bottom of a driveway, almost hit a detective that was there and then smash into two cruisers that were set up as a roadblock about 100 yards away. And that's where they're captured.

Firefighters try to knock the gasoline fueled flames down with little success. It will be awhile before anyone can understand just how awful it was, imagining the seven hours of unmitigated terror.

Bill Glass (former cop): They're saying there's one victim. Then there's two victims. Then there's possibly four victims. It keeps escalating. And when it turns out that it's a triple-murder, it's bad. There's nothing else worse and then when, you know everything comes out, it's real bad."

Hayley -- the big strong girl on the rowing team -- had actually gotten free of her ropes and was found outside the bathroom.

Her sister died in her bed. The medical examiner ruled both girls died of smoke inhalation.

Mrs. Hawke Petit's body was found lying on a coffee-table.

Mother and daughters had been massacred. In custody were a pair of lifetime losers -- both fathers themselves -- still under paroled supervision.

Bill Glass: Without even knowing the name, I told my boss: I said, if Joshua Komisarjevsky's out of jail, he had something to do with this. I said, "Mark that name down." And three hours later, they released his name.

Shock, grief and finger-pointing were overlapping in Cheshire, forming a single fist of rage.

The smoldering char of the Petit house and a suburban street in Cheshire, filled with fire trucks and police cars, was chilling evidence that there is no social contract that protects the good people amongst us.

Even if you pay your mortgage, mow your lawn and send your kids to good schools -- live as decently and honorably as the Petits -- evil can still find you, even while you're sleeping in your own bed.

Lt. Jay Markella (Cheshire P.D.): We do have three confirmed fatalities at this time. Two of them female, third I don't want to speculate right now...

What happened inside the yellow crime tape cordon was too much to absorb for neighbors who'd slept well, had morning coffee, unaware that their neighbors just a few dozen yards away were being strangled, set on fire, murdered.

Neighbor: It's one thing breaking and entering -- that's awful enough. But to then murder people? Why, why? What did that accomplish? That breaks my heart.

When Cheshire learned that the ultra-violence done to beloved members of their community had likely come at the hands of two criminals with 38 previous felonies between them, the initial outrage was aimed at the state's eight member parole board which let them out of prison on early release.

And there was second guessing about the cautious strategy of the Cheshire police department. A police officer was reportedly seen near the Petit house by one neighbor as early as 9:40 am, shortly after Mrs. Petit and Hayes returned from the bank and while the two girls were still alive tied to their beds.

That sense that the institutions of state government -- designed to protect -- had failed them came to a head with a "three strikes rally" at a local park. The message was: lock the thugs up and throw away the key.

Bartoli: do what we can in our own small way to see that this atrocity never happens again.

Home burglar alarm installers saw their business soar in the next few weeks.

Applications for gun permits increased eightfold.

Bill Glass: Some people are panicking, I hate to say it. People are panicking. People that hadn't locked their doors in 20 years are locking their doors.

In early August Komisarjevsky and Hayes were brought into Superior Court in New Haven under heavy security. The two men faced a judge as some onlookers shouted "killer" and "scumbag." They were charged with six capital felonies each, and are each being held on a $15 million bond. Neither has entered a plea yet. Prosecutors say they'll seek the death penalty for both.

The two men have reportedly given detailed statements to authorities about "what" they did, but the "why" may always be a mystery.

Clint Van Zandt: If I'm the sociopath, I don't care. I don't owe you anything. I don't have to explain it.

Former FBI profiler and NBC news analyst Clint Van Zandt, after years of cases involving serial killers and mass murderers, has come to know very well the disturbed mind of the sociopath.

Murphy: Clint, how do you read the personalities here? What's the dynamic?Van Zandt: These are two different types of sociopaths. Hayes is someone, he's not sophisticated. He breaks car windows. He steals purses. This guy's a schmuck.Murphy: Career felon.Van Zandt: Career felon. Nickel, dime, snatch and grab and go again.Murphy: And what about Komisarjevsky?Van Zandt: Different breed of cat. Young guy. Smart guy. Talented guy. You know, this is where this bifurcation takes place, where someone is capable of greatness in society or greatness in the criminal world. This guy chose that path of criminal world.Murphy: How do two guys with non-violent history get together and go Manson?Van Zandt: You have this perfect meeting, this perfect storm of sociopaths that come together where one or the other might not be capable of this horrific act. But you put them together, they prey off each other.

And, Van Zandt says, they goad each other on, building to a frenzy of violence in the Petit home, one that might not even have happened had Dr. Petit not nodded off on the sun porch.

Clint Van Zandt: Let's say had Dr. Petit been upstairs asleep in the bedroom, had all the doors been locked, the m.o. is that these guys would have come in, burglarized a house, and left again. Dennis Murphy: So you think if there hadn't been the confrontation with Dr. Petit, this might have been the third type of the burglary that weekend?Van Zandt: You know, this is something I've thought about ever since this terrible thing happened, Dennis. Was the fate of that family sealed once they confronted the doctor? Once they--Murphy: Is that the moment?Van Zandt: Is that the moment when they said, "OK, we beat this guy so badly…"Murphy: Maybe he's already dead.Van Zandt: He may well be dead anyway. So in for a penny, in for a pound. Let's take this house down.Murphy: How do you see those awful seven hours going down? You almost don't want to think about it.Van Zandt: It has to have been one of the more horrific seven hours that anyone has ever lived in their life. You know, you're trying to protect your family. And you're trying to explain, you're trying to rationalize with two sociopaths who could give a damn less what you say that you'd do anything they want. If they want money, if they want belongings, anything. Just please take it. And they're saying, "Oh, yeah. We're going to take it. We're going to take everything we want, lady." And they did, Dennis, to include their lives.

Three lives: wife and mother, two daughters.

Now it was left to the sole survivor of that twisted rampage to somehow try to heal and move forward.

Maybe what makes the horror in Cheshire so chilling is that the family in the photo could have been any of us.

Dave Altimari: It seems to have been a random act, it could have been anybody going to Stop and Shop to get some groceries. It could be anybody, you know, anybody in a suburban town anywhere in America.

Dr. Petit had been brutally beaten with a baseball bat. He'd lost so much blood in the seven hours he and his family were being terrorized that it wasn't a certainty that he'd survive.

The Rev. Ron Rising, a family friend, was a visitor during Dr. Petit's four days in the hospital.

Rev. Ron Rising: It was not the physical wounds and injuries as much as the emotional and how hard it was going to be to get over those. It was just devastating to him.

While Dr. Petit was recovering from his grievous injuries, a tailor came to measure him for a new suit to bury his family in. He'd lost all his clothing in the house fire.

Jennifer Hawke-Petit, daughter Hayley and Michaela -- her father's "K.K." -- were laid to rest in a private service.

Three days later, Dr. Petit lit candles at a public memorial for his family held outside his medical practice.

Hundreds gathered to support the doctor and pay tribute to a wife, a mother and two admired and loved young girls.

His father-in-law, the Rev. Richard Hawke, was among those who addressed the crowd.

Hawke: When they and if they did molest the children and our daughter, mother and wife, they were molesting god.

At another memorial an overflowing auditorium listened to pastors, classmates, and relatives assemble a touching portrait of a loving, humble family. But it was Dr. William Petit's eulogy to his murdered family that will remain etched in the memory of the mourners that day.

Dr. Petit: I met Jen at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh … I was trying to correct Jen on how to take the blood pressure the correct way. Because I'd had about three minutes of experience at that point.

With humor and heart-aching remembrances, he reclaimed his wife and daughters from the final seven hours of their life and restored them as they'd been before they'd walked innocently into the beams of two killers.

Dr. Petit: Hayley, as you've heard, is the first born. Daddy's little girl. She was a lot smarter than me. K.K. Rosebud. She was a wonderful, wonderful little girl. Was going to grow up to be a beautiful woman … If there's anything to be gained from the senseless deaths of my beautiful family it's for us to all go forward with the inclination to live with a faith that embodies action: help a neighbor, fight for a cause, love your family. I'm really expecting all of you to go out and do some of these things with your family in your own little way. To spread the work of these three wonderful women. Thank you.

Toxicology tests indicate the two suspects were not on drugs when they allegedly committed the crimes.

A foundation has been set up to honor the family:
The Petit Family Foundation c/o Farmington Savings Bank 32 Main St. Farmington, CT 06032