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Doctor: Man in fatal home invasion feels guilty

A Connecticut man convicted of a deadly home invasion said he felt guilty and remorseful and wished he could die as a result of the crime, a psychologist testified Wednesday.
Steven Hayes
Steven Hayes faces a possible death penalty after being convicted of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters at their Cheshire home in July 2007.Anonymous / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Connecticut man convicted of killing a woman and her two daughters during a night of terror in their home told a psychiatrist his co-defendant proposed the crime and another expert that he was so consumed with remorse he wanted the state to kill him.

Attorneys for Steven Hayes are trying to persuade a jury to spare him a death sentence by portraying him as a clumsy, drug-addicted thief who had a history of "smash and grab" burglaries of cars and unoccupied houses but no violence until he met Joshua Komisarjevsky (koh-mih-sar-JEV'-skee). They call Komisarjevsky, who faces trial next year, the mastermind of the home invasion who had a long history of nighttime residential break-ins when residents were home.

Dr. Eric Goldsmith, a psychiatrist, testified Wednesday that Hayes told him Komisarjevsky proposed a home invasion in which they would tie up the family and bring the mother to a bank to get $45,000. Hayes called the plan "ridiculous," he said.

Prosecutors have said both men were equally responsibly for the crime and noted that Hayes told police he was financially desperate and called Komisarjevsky the night of the crime. They cited text messages in which Hayes said he was "chomping at the bit to get started."

Hayes was convicted earlier this month of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, at their Cheshire home in 2007.

Authorities said Hayes and Komisarjevsky broke into the Petit house, beat Hawke-Petit's husband, William, with a baseball bat and forced her to withdraw money from a bank before Hayes sexually assaulted and strangled her.

Michaela and Hayley were tied to their beds with pillowcases over their heads and doused with gasoline before the house was set ablaze, according to testimony. Michaela was allegedly sexually assaulted by Komisarjevsky. The girls died of smoke inhalation.

Goldsmith also testified that Hayes had an abusive father and other troubles and turned to drugs to cope.

Goldsmith says Hayes told him his father once punched him in the face, knocking him down, for coming home five minutes late. He says Hayes recounted that his father forced Hayes and a sibling to "duke it out" over who would get a beating for a household infraction.

Hayes turned to break-ins to feed a drug habit so severe that he and a woman went through about $200,000 worth of cocaine in 2002, Goldsmith said.

Hayes said he felt guilty and remorseful and wished he could die as a result of the crime, a psychologist, Dr. Mark Cunningham, testified Wednesday

Cunningham said Hayes told him he sees no end to the depression he feels and does not expect his guilt and remorse, or the hurt to the victims' family, to subside. He said Hayes told him he thinks about it "24/7."

Hayes has attempted suicide in prison, and Cunningham said Hayes told him he still thinks of it but has no plans to kill himself, saying "just let the state do it."

Hayes said he tried to take his life a week before the crime by overdosing on intravenous heroin when he also was taking crack cocaine, Cunningham said.

Hayes also expressed concerns about spending the rest of his life in prison, said he hates the publicity from the case and does not want to put the relatives of his victims through it, Cunningham said.

A parole officer, John Viscomi, testified Wednesday that Hayes missed two required appointments for substance-abuse evaluations a month before the crime, but he didn't send him back to prison. Viscomi said he believed Hayes, a paroled burglar, was attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous during the same period.

A defense attorney asked if there was anything that would lead him to believe Hayes could commit the violent home invasion. Viscomi replied softly, "None."

Goldsmith said Hayes appeared to be trying to overcome his a lifetime of drug addiction, but ultimately relapsed and was using crack cocaine. He met Komisarjevsky in a halfway house where the two men were in a treatment program.

The men initially talked about starting a home contracting business together, but the idea never got past the talking stage, Goldmsith said. Hayes said Komisarjevsky needed money to move out of his parents and live with his girlfriend and his daughter.