The New York Times publishes an anatomy of the savage murder of a woman and her two daughters in Cheshire, Conn., by two petty career criminals who invaded their home. Steven Hayes, 44, and Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, trailed the family home from a shopping center, then returned the following night. They bludgeoned Dr. William Petit Jr., raped and strangled his wife, Jennifer, then started a fire that killed his two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, whom they had tied to beds. The killers, serial burglars with drug habits, were due in court today for their first appearance on the capital felonies, which could bring the death penalty.
Interviews with law enforcement officials and lawyers for the men, and friends, co-workers and relatives of all involved, along with a study of court records, paint a picture of what happened that morning and show that there were missed opportunities on both sides of the law leading up to the deaths. The criminal justice system failed to treat Mr. Hayes and Mr. Komisarjevsky as serious offenders despite long histories of recidivism, repeatedly setting them free on parole. The suspects never capitalized on those chances to turn their lives around, instead apparently forming a new criminal alliance after meeting at a drug treatment center in Hartford. “The system didn't work,” Dr. Petit's father, William Sr., said. “It's too late now.”