The trial of one of the men charged with the brutal home invasion and murder of a family in Connecticut is underway, revealing tragic new information about the conduct of the police that day. Steven Hayes was one of two men who stalked and kidnapped the Petit family in 2007, eventually murdering all but Dr. William Petit. And his defense lawyer thinks the cops need to share some of the burden of blame.
Hayes had taken Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, who sufered from multiple-sclerosis, to the bank to withdraw money, at which time she was able to signal to the teller that she was in trouble (partner-in-crime Joshua Komisarjevsky stayed home with the daughters, one of whom he raped). At the time, police believed that Jennifer had been killed immediately after that transaction, while her two daughters were tied up and died of smoke inhalation later on. (Hawke-Petit and the 11-year-old daughter were also raped.)
However, court testimony about the day showed that cops waited 40 minutes between their first report of the kidnapping to create a perimeter around the house; it was during those 40 minutes that Hayes and his accomplice had time to strangle Jennifer and burn the house down. Confusion reigned for the police, who didn't realize how severe the situation was inside the house; they didn't call any ambulances, state police, emergency service or even the fire department until well after the fire had spread and already killed the two girls.
Defense lawyer Thomas Ullman is trying to diminish his client's culpability and save him from lethal injection, by establishing that police shared in responsibility for the deaths. "We were building on information we had. There was no violence. The information from the start was very confusing. I was establishing a rescue team...I had no idea if there was any act of violence. If there had been any indication of violence, I would have been the first one through the door," said Captain Robert Vignola.
Today in court, police released surveillance video of Hawke-Petit at the bank. The bank manager, Mary Lyons, said that Hawke-Petit appeared "petrified" at the time.