“I just started to lose it.”
“I just snapped.”
“I wasn’t thinking right; I don’t know what I was thinking. It was so unlike me. I’d never done anything like that.”
Are these the words of someone who threw a sucker punch in a bar . . . cut off another driver in high-speed traffic . . . a man horrified that he slapped his wife in the heat of a domestic argument . . . or maybe an honor student who inexplicably froze when he opened the first page of his SAT booklet?
No, these are the words of 50-year-old Steven Hayes who, along with his partner in crime Joshua Komisarjevsky, 33, in 2007 broke into the Cheshire, Connecticut home of Dr. William Petit, his wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit and their daughters Hayley and Michaela. William, the only survivor, was beaten nearly to death with a baseball bat. Jennifer and Michaela were raped, Jennifer was strangled to death and the two girls were tied to their beds just before the house was set on fire.
Really, though, it was all some big misunderstanding. “To this day I don’t know why it happened. I just wanted money. That’s all I was looking for.”
Maybe we can shed some light on that for you, Mr. Hayes.
Hayes offered these reflections to a reporter for the New Haven Register at his current place of residence, death row at the Northern Correctional Institution at Sommers.
We have just given you the barest outline of this obscenely depraved crime. It is covered in greater detail in our book Law & Disorder. Suffice it to say that the testimony and evidence presented at Hayes’s trial and sentencing hearing were so harrowing that for the first time in state history, the court offered jurors post-traumatic stress counseling.
We cannot respond better to this interview than with the words of Jennifer’s sister, Cindy Hawke-Renn: “How do you plan such behavior and allow people to die at your hands and burn alive, especially when you have children of your own? Snapped? Doesn’t sound like an excuse to me.”
Doesn’t sound like an excuse to us either. Violent predators are generally not the most introspective fellows around, so let’s net it out for him.
You were thinking about getting your own way and how these other human beings were just depersonalized objects, pawns. You were thinking how fulfilling it was to have this power over another human being and to be able to do whatever you wanted to women who would have nothing to do with a lowlife like you if they had their way. You were thinking that once you and Joshua had broken into their house, then forced Jennifer to go to a bank and withdraw money, and you were thinking that once you two had beaten Dr. Petit and violated mother and daughters, it really wouldn’t be a good idea to leave them alive to identify you.
Oh, and as far as this being “so unlike” you and that you’d “never done anything like that” before? When the opportunity presented itself, you grabbed it. That didn’t come from nowhere. It’s who you are and what you are made of. And if your sorry ass weren’t sitting right now on death row, you’d be out looking to do it again.
“I don’t know if there’s anything I could say. I definitely feel sorry but that doesn’t change things.”
No, it doesn’t, Mr. Hayes. And what you really feel sorry for, if you have the guts to admit it, is that you and your monstrous partner got caught.
Hayes told the reporter he doesn’t think he deserves to live.
That’s one bit of insight on which we couldn’t agree with you more.