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Defense case begins in Petit family Conn. home invasion trial

Dr. William Petit, left, with his daughters Michaela, front, Hayley, center rear, and his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit (AP)
Conn. Home Invasion: Steven Hayes Sentenced To Death In Cheshire Home Invasion
Haley, Michaela, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, William Petit (Personal Photo)

(CBS/AP) NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Lawyers for Joshua Komisarjevsky, who's charged in a brutal 2007 Connecticut home invasion during which the house was doused in gas and set on fire, began their defense Wednesday by trying to show their client could have had gas on his clothes from a roofing job.

Pictures: Petit Family Murders

The defense called a contractor in New Haven Superior Court who testified that Komisarjevsky was doing a roofing job the day before Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela Petit were killed. The contractor, Michael Ranno, said he wasn't sure if Komisarjevsky was cleaning tools or using gas power, but a roofing company representative said roofers use gas-powered machines and flammable products.

Komisarjevsky's attorneys blame his co-defendant Steven Hayes for pouring the gas and lighting the fire. Komisarjevsky had gas on his boots, pants and sweatshirt, a chemist at a state lab testified earlier.

Komisarjevsky faces a possible death sentence if convicted. Hayes was convicted last year and sentenced to death. Authorities say Komisarjevsky and Hayes, both of whom are paroled burglars, broke into the Petit family's home, beat Dr. William Petit with a bat and tied up him and his family. Hayes was convicted of raping and strangling Petit's wife and killing the couple's two daughters, who died of smoke inhalation.

Komisarjevsky's attorneys, who argue that Hayes was desperate for money and feared returning to prison, had a state police detective read a statement Hayes' mother gave after the crime in which she portrayed him as drinking heavily lately. She said she wanted her son out of her house because they weren't getting along and she didn't know what he was up to when he would disappear with her car.

The detective, Francis Budwitz, said authorities seized woman's sneakers from Hayes' residence. Hayes had a fetish for women's sneakers, according to testimony from his trial. Hayley's sneakers were found in a vehicle Hayes had used, according to Komisarjevsky's attorneys.

Hayes' mother told her other son to burn his clothes after she learned of the crime, Budwitz said.

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