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Home Invasion Suspects' Parole Questioned

State officials are re-examining their policies after learning two convicted burglars out on parole are accused of killing three family members during a home invasion and arson.

Robert Farr, chairman of the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parole, said the panel went by the rules, because the suspects didn't have a history of violent crimes.

"That's why this is sort of shocking — because it doesn't fit a normal mode," Farr said.

Farr acknowledged the board did not have as much information as it should have had about the men's records, such as the transcript from a 2002 sentencing. In that hearing, a Bristol Superior Court judge called Joshua Komisarjevsky "a cold, calculating predator."

Farr also said the board has not been receiving transcripts of sentencing hearings, even thought it is supposed to get them.

The board was also unaware that Komisarjevsky had worn night-vision goggles and used a knife to slash window screens in his prior burglaries.

"If we'd had it, we would have a little better picture of the individual," Farr Matt Dwyer of CBS radio affiliate WTIC-AM. "I'm not suggesting these would have made any big difference. Maybe we would have kept them in a little longer, but at some point these guys were both going to get out."

Komisarjevsky, 26, of Cheshire, and Steven Hayes, 44, of Winsted, were arraigned Tuesday on charges of assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, arson, larceny and risk of injury to children. Bond was set at $15 million each. They are being held in separate facilities, and apart from other inmates.

The state medical examiner confirmed that Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, was strangled and that her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, died of smoke inhalation. The deaths were ruled homicides.

The girls' father, Dr. William Petit Jr., a prominent endocrinologist, was beaten and bound in the basement but managed to escape. He remained in serious but stable condition on Wednesday.

"He's doing OK physically. Emotionally he is devastated and still worried about others," said Petit's pastor, the Rev. Stephen Volpe.

Investigators were still uncertain why Komisarjevsky and Hayes chose the Petit family. They know the pair followed Hawke-Petit and Michaela home from grocery shopping Sunday night, then went to a Wal-Mart to purchase a rope and an air rifle, and waited in their car. But was there some connection with the Petits?

Law enforcement sources told the Hartford Courant that while on parole, Hayes was working for a landscaping company. Police were trying to learn whether that company had done work for the Petits.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Michael Dearington said he had not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty.

"I know the public consensus is they should be fried tomorrow," he said.

Dearington has only pursued the death penalty in one case, for the murders of a mother and two young children in 2000. The jury did not sentence the killer to death.

He would have ample grounds in this case: Connecticut law allows the death penalty for murder while committing first-degree sexual assault, murder during a kidnapping, murder of two or more people at the same time, and murder of someone under age 16, as well as in three other instances.

"There's five ways you can charge capital felony in this case," the state's most experienced and successful prosecutor in death penalty cases, Waterbury State's Attorney John A. Connelly, told the Waterbury Republican-American

The suspects entered the Petits' Cheshire home at about 3 a.m. Monday, planning to burglarize it, state police said. When they found the family at home, they beat Dr. Petit, then tied up his wife and daughters, police said.

Employees at a bank called police after one of the suspects forced Hawke-Petit to make a withdrawal around 9:30 a.m., officials said. The men were caught in the family's car after ramming several police cruisers as they fled the burning home, authorities said.

Hawke-Petit and her daughters were found dead inside. Dr. Petit escaped the blaze and told police what happened.

The suspects did not enter pleas Tuesday, and their public defenders declined comment. Their next court appearance was scheduled for Aug. 7.

Hayes and Komisarjevsky each have more than 20 prior burglaries on their records. At the time of the killings, both were free on parole after serving prison time for burglary convictions in 2003, Bail Commissioner Garcia Harris said. They spent time last year in the same halfway house in Hartford before being paroled in the spring.

"We certainly don't get guys with a history of violence in prison," said Robert Pidgeon, chief executive officer of Community Solutions Inc., which runs the halfway house. "There's nobody that would have predicted this."

Prison officials said they reported each week to their parole officers and were employed full-time, a requirement of their release.

While both men have long criminal records, Farr said there was nothing to show that they were capable of such violent crimes.

"They were obviously individuals that had long and extensive records, but they weren't violent records," Farr said.

Komisarjevsky comes from a prominent Connecticut family. His grandfather was Theodore Komisarjevsky, a renowned Russian theater director and designer and his grandmother was Ernestine Stodelle, a former dancer, dance critic, author and studio director.

Komisarjevsky lived less than two miles from the Petits' home, but authorities have not said what they believe led Komisarjevsky and Hayes there.

Petit, president of the Hartford County Medical Association, is a specialist in diabetes and endocrinology and is the medical director of the Joslin Diabetes Center Affiliate at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain. Hawke-Petit, 48, was a nurse and co-director of the health center at Cheshire Academy, a private boarding school.

The attack stunned Cheshire, an upper-middle class community of 29,000 just east of Waterbury and about 15 miles north of New Haven.

"I can't believe this happened," resident Urma Defrancis told CBS affiliate WFSB-TV. "I don't know how anyone could live like this. I can't believe this happened in Cheshire."

The station reports flowers adorn the Petit home that authorities have since boarded up, as investigators pick through the charred remains.