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Steven Hayes

Steven Hayes

“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.

3 Responses to Losing It

  1. The_Unreturned says:

    war criminals usually festoon their self-accounts of atrocity with repeated and often pretty obviously rehearsed refrains of ‘and this is so not like me’/’i myself would never do something like this’/’this is not the kind of person i am’ – these are basically just last-ditch resorts to still claim innocence even in the face of a stark admission of straightforward guilt. Everyone wants you to think they’re innocent, even when they need you to know what they are guilty of. There are many situations that might make a person not entirely responsable for their actions- poisoning, certain kinds of head injuries, iatrogenic personality disorders, etc- but the fact is, ‘i just snapped’ is a non-excuse. it is a simple statement of fact, laced with the nonsensical suggestions of narcisssism. yes, you snapped. and you committed a heinous violent act, and that means you are a person who does that. the only thing these people are losing is their sense of personal accountability.
    people don’t rape people in order to steal their money. this kind of overkill shows that victimization itself was the ultimate goal, and the diverse methods of victimizing the different members of the family and the estate, to me, indicate that the perpetrator had a more generalized hostility at work, probably towards an entire lifestyle. i mean, the elements of intrusion, control, organization, as well as the burning of the children in their beds, and the methodical categorization of victims suggests a well thought-out philosophy. the whole thing is remeniscent of a military strike or an act of terrorism, including seperation of rank. The King is wounded, the Queen is raped and murdered, and the civilians(the children) are burned alive with their surroundings.
    here’s the thing, normally, i would agree that the lameness of the cop-out, ‘i just snapped/i don’t know what i was thinking’ would indicate a lack of self-awareness, but in this case it already just seems too structured and consciously involved for me to really buy into it. my hunch is that he actually had so much awareness (to the point of probably having some kind of philisophical statement) that he used the ‘i guess i wasn’t thinking’ stance lest he make himself sound like a terrorist. he would much rather be seen as a mindless rampaging moron than let you know what his real plan is.

  2. Tom Mininger says:

    The nitty-gritty details certainly have me agreeing with the death penalty on this unspeakable horror case. But let’s keep in mind the horror stories from the other side.

    John Thompson spent 14 years on death row in Louisiana until advocates discovered exculpatory evidence that the prosecution knew about all along. This was attempted premeditated murder by the prosecution.

    The Supreme Court overturned Thompson’s civil case damages award from a lower courts, affirming that prosecutors have virtual immunity from civil punishment in the case of misconduct.

    I don’t think people realize how extremely rare the punishment of Mike Nifong was.

    There’s a special horror in convicting an innocent person of a death penalty crime. Well-documented research has found that our criminal justice system’s error rate in capital cases is at least 2.3 percent. Jim Petro, the former Attorney General of Ohio:

    Jeffrey Havard still sits on death row in Mississippi based on the testimony of the quack medical examiner Stephen Hayne, who left a trail of destruction in the courtroom during his tenure. He was a prosecution favorite “expert” witness for years. Mississippi Attorney general Jim Hood is a mockery of justice. Real forensic experts have since discredited Hayne’s assertions in Havard’s case and many others.

    Debra Milke spent over two decades on death row in Arizona based on the testimony of an established liar, Armando Saldate. A US court recently threw out her conviction, but the local prosecutor intends to go for the death penalty again and put Saldate back on the stand.

    The list goes on and on, including Damien Echols, an innocent man John Douglas fought so brilliantly to not only save, but finger the real killer.

    If we want the “worst of the worst” executed we have to stop putting innocent people on death row. Advancing forensic science will never fix the problem when prosecutors with tunnel vision seek the death penalty for cases they have no business seeking it for.

    May I ask Mr. Douglas what Damien Echols stance on the death penalty is? I feel that John Thompson has every right to lobby against it.

    What society demands of prosecutors is superhuman. We want them to go into relentless attack mode in the name of justice but just drop it if need be. That’s not easy given human nature and not every prosecutor can do it. Kudos to those that can.

    I consider myself lucky that I have never had a loved one murdered and I consider myself lucky that I’ve never had an innocent loved one on death row.

    My personal opinion is that if a case is to be a death penalty case, you have to go beyond “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” to “proof with no doubt whatsoever”.

  3. Cornerstone says:

    It truly is one of the most depraved and horrific crimes imaginable. It is just inconceivable to most people how any human being could do what they did, much less enjoy it. “Law & Disorder” certainly gives the gritty details that you’ll never find on the evening news and offers insight into the anatomy of these very disturbed monsters. I truly believe if more people read the real details rather than the sanitized evening news version of most of these crimes, there would be a lot less kickback on the death penalty and perhaps even legislation on curbing the appeals process so the victims didn’t have to make this part of their duties for as long as they live.

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