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Connecticut Home Invasion: Inside the Trial of Steven Hayes for the Petit Family Murders

Connecticut Home Invasion Trial: A Look at the Trial of Steven Hayes for Petit Family Murders
Petit Family (Personal Photo)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBS) It must have been a long weekend in maximum security. When he enters the courtroom on Tuesday morning, defendant Steven Hayes appears worse for the wear. 

PICTURES: Petit Family Murders

His face is drawn and pasty. He is unshaven (his lawyers remedy this at the lunch break.) His civilian shirt hangs loose on his shoulders, his belt pulled tight around his waist. His clothes are several sizes too large, clearly remnants from his former life. It's hard to reconcile this small, almost frail individual with the stout and menacing figure that first looked at us from the mug shots released to the media in July 2007.

He is neither shackled nor handcuffed, but perhaps from muscle memory, he shuffles into the courtroom with his hands together in front of him and his feet stepping tightly. As he listens to the testimony, his chair swivels back and forth, one knee constantly jumping. Every so often he darts his head around and stares at the clock on the back wall of the courtroom. His days may be numbered, and he seems to know it.

Steven Hayes is facing the death penalty for his role in one of the most horrific crimes in recent memory. Along with his friend, Joshua Komisarjevsky, whose trial will take place sometime next year, Hayes is accused of breaking into the Cheshire, Conn. home of a complete stranger, Dr. William Petit, terrorizing the man and his family for hours, raping and murdering his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, then finally murdering his two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, in an inferno. The only survivor was Dr. Petit, who, despite a severe head wound, managed to slip his bindings and escape in the final moments through a basement door. Dr. Petit has been in attendance in the courtroom every day.

It's an unusual case for the producers of 48 Hours | Mystery. Unlike most of our cases, there doesn't appear to be much mystery here. The two men were apprehended as they fled the scene, smashing the Petit family's vehicle into a blockade of police cars. Both men confessed. Earlier in the evening, before the home invasion began, Steven Hayes sent a text message to Joshua Komisarjevsky: "Dude, the horses want to get loose! LOL."

What could drive two men to such unspeakable depths of evil? Perhaps that's our mystery, and it's one we may never solve.

On Friday, the State of Connecticut and Hayes' public defenders will present their final arguments to the jury. But Friday's session will only conclude the first phase of the trial - to determine the defendant's guilt - of which there seems little doubt. The second phase will determine his punishment. According to Judge Jon C. Blue, that phase may last another four weeks. The unrelenting stream of terrifying and heartbreaking facts will continue. By the time it's over, we will not feel redeemed or satisfied, and we will certainly feel worse for having learned what we have learned.

Lincoln Farr is a producer for 48 Hours | Mystery

Complete Coverage of the Petit Family Murders on Crimesider.