Conn. home invasion defendant challenges argument that he intended to cause sisters’ deaths

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Defense challenges evidence in Conn. home invasion

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Prosecutors in the trial of one of two men accused killing a woman and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion failed to prove he intended to cause the girls’ deaths, his attorneys argued in court papers Thursday.

Hayley Petit, 17, and her sister Michaela, 11, died of smoke inhalation after their house was set on fire. Their mother, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, was strangled.

Prosecutors say Steven Hayes and a co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky (koh-mih-sar-JEV’-skee), who is awaiting trial, tied the girls to their beds and poured gasoline on or around them before burning the house.

Attorneys for Hayes acknowledged prosecutors presented evidence of arson but said the jury could consider the lesser offense of arson murder. Hayes is charged with arson and murder as well as sexual assault.

A telephone message was left Thursday for a prosecutor.

A prison officer testified Thursday that he overheard a conversation in which Hayes told another inmate that he poured gasoline on the stairs but didn’t believe he could be charged with arson because he didn’t light it.

New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon Blue rejected a defense motion asking him to order prosecutors to specify in the murder charges they filed against Hayes that the cause of the girls’ deaths was smoke inhalation.

Closing arguments are planned for Friday.

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