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Medical examiner: Teen Hayley Petit in Conn. home invasion murders took several minutes to die

Dr. William Petit, left, with his daughters Michaela, front, Hayley, center rear, and his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit (AP)

Conn. Home Invasion: Petit Killer Jury To Continue Deliberations
The Petit family
AP Photo
(CBS/AP) NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Hayley Petit, the 17-year-old girl who died in the gruesome Connecticut home invasion that also killed her sister and mother, likely took up to several minutes to die of smoke inhalation. Her death came after her house was doused in gasoline and set on fire, a medical examiner testified on Monday.

Pictures: Petit Family Murders

Dr. Malka Shah testified on Monday in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, who faces a possible death sentence if he's convicted. His co-defendant, Steven Hayes, was convicted last year and is on death row.

Hayley had been tied in her bed and left to die in the fire that prosecutors said both men set. However, her body was found at the top of the staircase. Her 11-year-old sister, Michaela, also died of smoke inhalation in her bed. The girls' mother was raped and strangled.

Hayley's clothes smelled of gas and she had remnants of rope tightly tied on her along with burns all over her body. Her lungs were also filled with carbon monoxide, said Shah, of the chief medical examiner's office. Inhaling smoke and hot air would have been painful and such deaths can take anywhere from a few to several minutes, Shah said.

Shah said she could not say whether the burns occurred while Hayley was alive, nor could she say if the injuries occurred before or after Hayley fell in the hallway.

If the death had taken several minutes, Hayley would have fallen unconscious at some point, she said under cross-examination. But before that, victims typically suffer headaches, nausea, vomiting and disorientation, she said.

Jurors were shown the autopsy photos and a few fought back tears.

Authorities say Komisarjevsky and Hayes broke into the house in Cheshire in July 2007, beat Dr. William Petit with a bat, then tied up him, his wife and two daughters as they looked for money. Hayes later drove the woman, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, to a bank so she could make a withdrawal and then raped and strangled her after they returned to the house, police said.

Komisarjevsky's attorneys tried to show the jury he immediately cooperated with police by telling them two girls were in the house engulfed in fire while Hayes offered no help.

Detective Joseph Vitello's testimony earlier Monday undercut efforts by Komisarjevsky's lawyers to blame his co-defendant, Steven Hayes, for pouring the gas.

Komisarjevsky and Hayes have blamed each other for escalating the violence but prosecutors say both men are equally responsible.

Complete coverage of the Petit family murders on Crimesider

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