NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBS/WFSB) After eight days of grisly testimony about a fatal Connecticut home invasion, a jury found paroled burglar Steven Hayes guilty Tuesday of capital murder in the July 2007 deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters Hayley, 17, and 11-year-old Michaela.
Hayes was found guilty on 16 of the 17 felony counts against him, and acquitted only on an arson charge. The penalty phase is scheduled for Oct. 18, when the jury will hear arguments on whether Hayes should be put to death.
The jury deliberated for over two hours Monday after being read the charging documents by the judge. They sent a number of questions to the judge including asking for the legal definition of "arson" and whether the act of pouring gasoline can be considered starting a fire, according to CBS affiliate WFSB.
The judge told the jury that by law the answer is "no," a fire only starts when it is actually lit.
In their closing arguments the prosecution said that Hayes had multiple opportunities to stop the violence from escalating to the point of murder and rape but did nothing. They say he is the one who purchased the gasoline with full knowledge of how it would be used; he was the one who poured the gasoline down the stairs, effectively cutting off the only possible escape route for the two young girls tied to their beds upstairs.
A fire investigator testified during the trial that he believed the two Petit children were alive when the fire started and that in fact Hayley was able to escape her bindings only to be trapped by the burning stairs. A melted gasoline container was found under her burned body.
"You are the sole judges of the facts," Judge Jon Blue told the jury. "No one will hurry you to produce a verdict."
Komisarjevsky faces a separate capital murder trial, which is expected to begin next year, for his role in the murders in addition to the charge of sexually assaulting Michaela. Hayes' attorney claims that Komisarjevsky escalated the violence and was the mastermind of the invasion.
Komisarjevsky also faces the death penalty if convicted.
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