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Cheshire, Connecticut, home invasion murders

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The Cheshire, Connecticut home invasion murders occurred on July 23, 2007. Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters were raped and murdered, while her husband, Dr. William Petit, was injured during a home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut. The Hartford Courant referred to the case as „possibly the most widely publicized crime in the state’s history“. In 2010, Steven Hayes was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death. His accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky, was found guilty on October 13, 2011, and sentenced to death on January 27, 2012. In August 2015, the state of Connecticut abolished the death penalty. Therefore, those sentenced before this date will have their death sentences turned into life sentences.

Late in the afternoon of Sunday, July 22, 2007, 48-year-old Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her 11-year-old daughter Michaela Petit went to a local grocery store in Cheshire, Connecticut. They picked up food for Jennifer’s pre-birthday meal that Michaela planned to prepare for her. During their trip to the grocery store, they attracted the attention of Joshua Komisarjevsky, who followed them home.

Steven Hayes messaged Komisarjevsky: „I’m chomping at the bit to get started. Need a margarita soon.“ Hayes then texted, „We still on?“ Komisarjevsky replied, „Yes.“ Hayes‘ next text asked, „Soon?“, to which Komisarjevsky replied: „I’m putting the kid to bed hold your horses“. Hayes then wrote: „Dude, the horses want to get loose. LOL.“

According to Hayes‘ confession, the two men had planned to rob the Petit house under cover of darkness leaving the family bound, but unharmed. Hayes attributed the outcome to a change of plan. Upon their arrival in the early hours of July 23, they found William Petit sleeping on a couch on the porch. Komisarjevsky struck William on the head with a baseball bat found in the yard and then tied him up at gunpoint in the basement. The children and their mother were then bound and locked in their respective rooms. Hayes said that he and Komisarjevsky were not satisfied with their haul, and that a bankbook was found which showed an available balance.

A gas station’s video surveillance shows Hayes purchasing $10 worth of gasoline in two cans he had taken from the Petit home. After returning to the house, and unloading the gas, he took Jennifer to the bank. The prosecution later claimed that this was evidence of premeditated murder. Hayes convinced Jennifer to withdraw $15,000 from her line of credit when the bank opened. Bank surveillance cameras captured the transaction which shows Jennifer Hawke-Petit, on the morning of July 23, as she informed the teller of her situation. The bank manager then called 911 and reported the details to police while Jennifer was still with the teller. The manager reported to the 911 dispatcher, in real time, as Jennifer left the bank and was picked up by Hayes, describing his clothing as he drove away with her. The manager stated that Jennifer had indicated the assailants were „being nice“, and she believed they only wanted money.

The Cheshire police response to the bank’s „urgent bid“ began with assessing the situation and setting up a vehicle perimeter. The police dawdled for more than half an hour, taking these preliminary measures, while the assailants were raping and murdering the women inside the house. The police made no effort to make the assailants aware of their presence.

During this time, Hayes and Komisarjevsky escalated the aggravated nature of their crimes: Komisarjevsky raped the 11-year-old Michaela. Komisarjevsky, who had photographed the sexual assault of the girl on his cell phone, then provoked Hayes into raping Jennifer. While Hayes was raping her on the floor of the living room, Komisarjevsky entered the room and announced that William Petit had escaped. Hayes then strangled Jennifer, doused her lifeless body and parts of the house, including the daughters‘ rooms, with gasoline. While tied to their beds, both daughters had been doused with gasoline; each had her head covered with a pillowcase. A fire was started, and Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the scene. Hayley and Michaela both died of smoke inhalation.

William Petit had been able to free himself, escape his confines, and call to a neighbor for help. The neighbor indicated that he did not recognize him due to the severity of Petit’s injuries. In court testimony, William Petit stated that he felt a „jolt of adrenaline“ coupled with a need to escape upon hearing one of the perpetrators state: „Don’t worry, it’s going to be all over in a couple of minutes.“ Petit then told the jury, „I thought, it’s now or never because in my mind at that moment, I thought they were going to shoot all of us.“

Hayes and Komisarjevsky fled the scene using the Petit family car. They were immediately spotted by police surveillance, pursued, and arrested one block away. The whole invasion lasted seven hours.

The scenario was revealed in a confession by Hayes just hours after the killings. Detectives testified that Hayes smelled strongly of gasoline throughout the interrogation. Each perpetrator blamed or implicated the other as the mastermind and driving force behind the spree. There were even attempts to blame William Petit as an accomplice. Komisarjevsky later kept a diary, entered into evidence, in which he chose to call Petit a „coward“ and claimed that he could have stopped the murders had he wanted to.

Jennifer Hawke-Petit (born September 26, 1958) was a nurse and co-director of the health center at Cheshire Academy, a private boarding school. She met her husband, William Petit, in 1985 on a pediatric rotation at Children’s Hospital when he was a third-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh and she was a new nurse. Their eldest daughter Hayley (born October 15, 1989) had just graduated from Miss Porter’s School and was scheduled to attend Dartmouth College. Hayley had been an active fundraiser for multiple sclerosis research, following Jennifer’s diagnosis with that disease. Daughter Michaela (born November 17, 1995) attended the Chase Collegiate School before her death.

William Petit, the sole survivor of the home invasion filtered glass water bottle, is an endocrinologist in Cheshire. He survived when he escaped via a direct external exit from the basement despite his injuries. He has not returned to his medical practice since the murders, stating his desire to be active in the foundations set up to honor the memory of his deceased family. He contemplated running for Congress as a Republican, but later decided against it. In the following election cycle, he successfully completed a Congressional run and now surves as a state representative.

Steven J. Hayes (born May 30, 1963, in Homestead, Florida) was found guilty on 16 of 17 counts related to the home invasion murders on October 5, 2010. On November 8, 2010, the jury returned with a recommendation for him to be executed. He was formally sentenced to death by Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue on December 2, 2010.

Hayes is an inmate of the Connecticut Department of Correction. His criminal history shows him sentenced for his first offense at the age of 16. Subsequent to sentencing for the Petit murders, and up until August 16, 2016 (when he was transferred to a correctional facility in Pennsylvania as part of an interstate corrections compact), he was incarcerated in the Northern Correctional Institution, which houses the state’s death row for men, in Somers, Connecticut. The method of execution employed by Connecticut was lethal injection, and the state execution chamber was located in the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers. This sentence became an automatic life sentence when Connecticut abolished the death penalty in 2015.

Joshua A. Komisarjevsky (born August 10, 1980) was Hayes‘ co-conspirator in the home invasion and murders. He was born in 1980 to a 16-year-old girl impregnated by a 20-year-old mechanic and was adopted by Benedict Komisarjevsky, the son of theatrical director Theodore Komisarjevsky and dancer Ernestine Stodelle, and his wife Jude (née Motkya). Komisarjevsky remained incarcerated at the Walker Reception Center in lieu of a $15 million bond until his conviction. His trial began on September 19, 2011, and on October 13, 2011, he was convicted on all 17 counts. On December 9, 2011, the jury recommended the death penalty. On January 27, 2012 Judge Jon Blue sentenced Komisarjevsky to death by lethal injection. His sentence also became an automatic life sentence when Connecticut abolished the death penalty in 2015.

As of August 16, 2016, both Hayes and Komisarjevsky were transferred to separate prison facilities in Pennsylvania to serve their sentences. According to Connecticut state prison officials, the transfer was done as part of an interstate corrections compact due to reasons pertaining to safety and security.

The jury in Hayes‘ case was composed of seven women and five men. Following the completion of the trial, the jury deliberated for about four hours to reach its guilty verdicts.

The sentencing phase of the trial began on October 18, 2010, during which the jurors had to decide if Hayes should be executed or imprisoned for life. The second day of these deliberations began on November 6, 2010. Attorney Thomas Ullman told the jury that a sentence of life in prison would be the harshest possible punishment for his client Hayes, because he was so tormented by his crimes and would be isolated in prison. „Life in prison without the possibility of release is the harshest penalty,“ Ullman said. „It is a fate worse than death. If you want to end his misery, put him to death,“ he added. „If you want him to suffer and carry that burden forever, the guilt, shame, and humiliation, sentence him to life without the possibility of release.“

On November 8, 2010, the jury returned with a recommendation that Hayes be executed. The jury recommended a death sentence on each of the six capital felony counts for which Hayes was convicted. In the sentencing phase, the jury had deliberated for about 17 hours, over the course of three and a half days, before reaching a decision.

Hayes had attempted to negotiate a life sentence in a plea bargain. After the verdict, his defense attorney stated: „Hayes smiled upon hearing the jury’s recommendation of a death sentence.“ He then added: „He is thrilled. He’s very happy with the verdict. That’s what he’s wanted all along.“

For the first time in state history, the Connecticut state judicial branch offered post-traumatic stress assistance to jurors, who served for two months on the triple-murder trial, because they had been required to look at disturbing images and hear grisly testimony.

On December 2, 2010, Hayes apologized for the pain and suffering he had caused the Petit family and added that: „Death for me will be a welcome relief and I hope it will bring some peace and comfort to those who I have hurt so much.“ Judge Jon Blue formally imposed six death sentences, one for each of the capital charges; Blue then added a sentence of 106 years for other crimes Hayes committed during the home invasion, including kidnapping, burglary, and assault, before finishing with, „This is a terrible sentence, but is, in truth, a sentence you wrote for yourself in flames. May God have mercy on your soul.“ The judge also gave Hayes an official execution date of May 27, 2011; Blue said that this date was a formality, because if Hayes appealed his case, his execution could be delayed for decades. His death sentence became a life sentence in August 2015 when the state abolished the death penalty.

Komisarjevsky was found guilty on October 13, 2011. On December 9, 2011, the jury recommended the death penalty. On January 27, 2012, Komisarjevsky was sentenced to death by lethal injection. During the hearing, Komisarjevsky insisted that he did not intend to kill anyone and spoke about the shame, hurt and disappointment he had caused: „I will never find peace within. My life will be a continuation of the hurt I caused. The clock is now ticking and I owe a debt I cannot repay.“ He said that forgiveness was not his to have, „and he needs to forgive his worst enemy – himself.“ Blue set July 20, 2012, as Komisarjevsky’s execution date. As with Hayes, Komisarjevsky’s death sentence was turned into a life sentence in August 2015.

In 2009, the Connecticut General Assembly sent legislation to abolish the state’s death penalty to Governor M. Jodi Rell ostensibly to be signed into law. However, on June 5, 2009, Rell vetoed the bill instead and cited the Cheshire murders as an exemplary reason for doing so. On November 8, 2010, Rell issued the following statement regarding the jury’s recommendation of a sentence of death for Hayes:

The crimes that were committed on that brutal July night were so far out of the range of normal understanding that now, more than three years later, we still find it difficult to accept that they happened in one of our communities. I have long believed that there are certain crimes so heinous, so depraved, that society is best served by imposing the ultimate sanction on the criminal. Steven Hayes stands convicted of such crimes – and today the jury has recommended that he should be subjected to the death penalty. I agree.

On April 11, 2012, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted to repeal capital punishment for future cases (leaving past death sentences in place). The Connecticut Senate had already voted for the bill, and on April 25 Governor Dan Malloy signed the bill into law. In August 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court declared all capital punishment inconsistent with the state constitution, effectively commuting the killers‘ sentences to life imprisonment.

In 2007, John Carpenter, an employee of the Chase Collegiate School, ran the New York City Marathon, raising $8,554 for the „Miles for Michaela“ campaign – a scholarship benefit. The same year, William Petit established the Michaela Rose Petit ’14 Scholarship Fund of the Chase Collegiate School. He also established the Hayley’s Hope & Michaela’s Miracle MS Memorial Fund.

On January 6, 2008, over 130,000 luminaria candles were lit in front of thousands of homes across Cheshire in „Cheshire Lights of Hope“, a fundraiser for multiple sclerosis and a tribute to the Petit family. Founded by a local couple, Don and Jenifer Walsh, the event raised over $100,000 for Hayley’s Hope and Michaela’s Miracle Memorial funds.

The murder, and its aftermath, were featured on the news magazine show Dateline NBC, in a segment entitled „The Family on Sorghum Mill Drive“, and on December 9, 2010, William Petit appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in a full-hour episode about the murders of his family and the work of the Petit Family Foundation.

On August 5, 2012, Petit married Christine Paluf, and moved to Farmington, Connecticut. He met her when she was volunteering with the Petit Family Foundation.

HBO broadcast a documentary by filmmaker David Heilbroner called The Cheshire Murders about the murders on July 22 wholesale elite socks, 2013. On August 1, 2013, Petit told station WFSB that he and Paluf were expecting a child together. The baby who was revealed to be a boy and named William Petit III was born on November 23, 2013. In October 2013, Petit announced that he was considering running for Congress for the Republican Party after being approached by the National Republican Congressional Committee, who had asked him if he would be interested in running. Petit ultimately decided not to be a candidate. But in May 2016, Petit announced a bid for Connecticut’s 22nd House District. Petit was elected, ousting 11-term Democratic Representative Betty Boukus, and currently serve as representative in the Connecticut House of Representatives.

Petit condemned the state’s decision to abolish the death penalty in August 2015, saying he believed the court had overstepped its powers and urging it to give greater consideration to the „emotional impact, particularly on victims and their loved ones“ that death penalty cases generate.

Angelina Teny

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Angelina Teny is a South Sudan politician who was state minister of Energy and Mining in the Khartoum-based Government of National Unity between 2005 and 2010. She ran for election as governor of Unity State in April 2010 but was defeated in an election that she claimed was rigged.

Angelina Teny was educated in Great Britain and speaks both English and Arabic fluently. She is the wife of Riek Machar Teny, former Vice-President of South Sudan. They have four children. Angelina Teny is one of the most prominent women politicians in South Sudan. In November 2003 Angelina Teny facilitated a conference of South Sudan women on „The House of Nationalities“, held in Lokichokio, a concept designed to foster peace and national unity through recognition of diversity.

The Second Sudanese Civil War formally ended in January 2005 with establishment of an autonomous Government of South Sudan (GoSS) and a defined process to move towards a referendum on full independence. Angelina Teny was state minister of Energy and Mining in the Khartoum-based Government of National Unity between 2005 and 2010. At a November 2006 conference on Oil and the Future of Sudan, held in Juba, she noted that there had been considerable controversy over the Ministry of Energy and Mining when the Government of National Unity was being formed. The oil industry had been developed during the civil war as a means to finance that war, at great human cost, and military concerns had dictated the structure of the industry. Now the government was struggling to organize the National Petroleum Commission (NPC), but the SPLM had confidence in the process.

She said „Sudan now has the opportunity to develop the oil sector in order to support the peace, to ensure that unity is attractive, to ensure that those aggrieved during war get redressed, and to take our place in the modern world where oil is produced with social responsibility. Now is the time as a nation to put together a vision and strategy for theproper management of this strategic resource“. She noted that contracts had to be reviewed, local people compensated and environmental issues addressed. The expansion of oil production south into the vast Sudd wetlands, protected under the international Ramsar Convention, raised significant challenges.

In a 2007 interview she noted that oil production and sales figures were given to her ministry by the Chinese-led Greater Nile Production Company. The ministry had no way of checking for accuracy. She said: „We have an oil revenue calculation committee, and every month, we look at the production and sales figures, and work out the figures for who takes what … Right now, those figures are just based on production, and then shared between North and South. There isn’t much trust, that’s why you hear complaining from the South Sudan about the amounts they are getting“. In October 2007 she said „GoSS [Government of Southern Sudan] is uncertain about the oil production figures released by the federal government and also feels that its quota is not fair. …GoSS was not given any representation at the strategic stages of oil production and overseas marketing“.

In the April 2010 elections Angelina Teny broke from her party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, and ran as an independent candidate for Governor of Unity State. Her main challenger was the incumbent governor Taban Deng Gai. Early reports showed she was leading by a wide margin against the other six contestants.

The state electoral body announced that Taban Deng Gai won by 137,662 votes, beating Angelina Teny with 63,561 votes. The defeated parties said in a joint statement that there had been widespread rigging and called for a review by the National Elections Commission. Angelina Teny said she would not accept or recognize the results. Angelina Teny detailed many irregularities, including ejection of observers, missing ballot boxes, vote counts in excess of the number of registered voters and so on. Her campaign leader was arrested when he and members of his team tried to enter the State High Elections Committee’s office. Police shot dead two people and four others were injured when police opened fire on a crowd of protesters in the state capital, Bentiu. Angelina Teny called on her supporters to be calm and avoid violence design your own goalie gloves, which has been endemic in Unity State, the main oil-producing area in South Sudan.

The Unity State governor Taban Deng later accused Teny and SPLM-DC Chairman Lam Akol of supporting Colonel Galwak Gai, who led a mutiny against the SPLM Army after the elections. Edward Lino, a member of the SPLM leadership, allegedly accused her of supporting insurgency in Unity State. In response, Angelina Teny said that she was filing a lawsuit against Edward Lino cheap youth football uniforms. Teny was said to have promised to appoint Gai as a county commissioner if she won the election meat tenderizer powder ingredients, and he rebelled when he failed to obtain this position.

Angelina Teny was appointed adviser on petroleum matters to the South Sudan Energy and Mines Ministry, and was the leader of negotiations with the Khartoum government over ownership and management of oil assets. While attending an energy conference in Ghana in September 2011 she spoke on the state of the oil industry in South Sudan after two months of full independence. She said that management of oil resources was largely though not entirely being handled from the south, and South Sudan was in control of most of its oil fields. „Those fields that are producing“ had output of about 300,000 barrels per day.

Angelina Teny said the government had created the outline of a 3-year program to develop infrastructure. This included construction of an oil refinery to meet domestic needs. A new law to regulate the industry was almost ready to be published. South Sudan urgently needed capital to meet Millennium Development Goals and to build roads and pipelines. She said the oil companies were talking to the government, which was reviewing existing contracts wholesale elite socks. More information was needed for Juba to be able to assess reserves.

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