Thousands Mourn Slain Connecticut Family

A carpet soaked with blood, deep red stains on a couch, and a dozen liquor bottles on the counter - that's the gruesome crime scene that confronted Nashville police when they found the bodies of NFL star Steve McNair and his mistress in McNair's bachelor pad, according to a local newspaper. AP

Thousands of friends and strangers crowded a memorial service Saturday for a slain Cheshire mother and her two daughters, many breaking down in tears as the lone survivor of the attacks eulogized his family.

Dr. William Petit Jr. still bore the bruises, gashes and other injuries inflicted by the attackers who killed his 48-year-old wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, during a home invasion early Monday.

"I guess if there's anything to be gained from the senseless deaths of my beautiful family, it's for us all to go forward with the inclination to live with a faith that embodies action. Help a neighbor, fight for a cause, love your family," Petit told the crowd.

"I'm really expecting all of you to go out and do some of these things with your family, in your own little way, to spread the work of these three wonderful women. Thank you," he said before breaking down.

Mourners filled Central Connecticut State University's 1,800-seat Welte Hall and much of the overflow seating nearby. They included classmates of the girls, the family's fellow churchgoers, co-workers, members of the medical community and countless strangers.

Those who spoke focused on the Petit women's vibrant spirits and their love for each other, their community and their strong religious faith.

"As much as we weep, as much as we mourn their loss, as much as we miss them, God weeps with us," said Stephen Volpe, their pastor at Cheshire United Methodist Church.

Two parolees are charged with capital felony, assault, arson, sexual assault and numerous other crimes in the homicides. Cheshire police apprehended them early Monday as they tried to flee the house, where they allegedly held the family hostage for hours before killing the women and attempting to kill Dr. Petit.

The suspects, 26-year-old Joshua Komisarjevsky of Cheshire and 44-year-old Steven Hayes of Winsted, could face the death penalty if convicted. Both have lengthy criminal records and had been released earlier this year from prison.

One of the suspects forced Hawke-Petit to make a withdrawal at a local bank, an incident that triggered suspicion among bank employees. Police were notified and rushed to the Petit home, where they encountered the fleeing suspects and found the family's home ablaze.

Dr. Petit had been badly beaten and was bound in the basement, but managed to escape the fire. The bodies of his family were found inside.

Hawke-Petit was strangled and her daughters died of smoke inhalation as the house burned around them, according to autopsy results and police.

The crime has unnerved local residents, reports CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston.

"This (type of) thing doesn't happen in Cheshire," said Lt. Jay Markella of the Cheshire Police Department. "We're the type of community where people go to bed and they don't lock their doors."

The family is well-known in the state. Dr. Petit, 50, is the medical director of the Joslin Diabetes Center Affiliate at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain and president of the Hartford County Medical Association.

His wife of 22 years was a health center director at the Cheshire Academy, and daughter Michaela attended Chase Collegiate School in Waterbury.

Hayley Petit, who recently graduated from Miss Porter's School in Farmington, had received an early acceptance to Dartmouth, her father's alma mater.

Dr. Petit, who spoke lovingly about his family for nearly 20 minutes Saturday, read from Hayley's college essay to Dartmouth.

In the essay, titled "My Dad," she told about trailing her father's long, white doctor's coat tails through the hospital hallways on Saturdays, and how he made patients feel safe.

Dr. Petit said he understood that feeling this week while he was being treated at St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury.

"Everybody there was beautiful and angels to me," he said. "I knew I had to leave to get out for the services, but it did feel safe. And part of me wanted to hide there and not face things."
  • James Klatell

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