Relative of slain Conn. family offers comfort

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The Rev. Richard Hawke was sitting in a Connecticut court Saturday while a jury deliberated whether a man should receive a death sentence for killing Hawke’s daughter and two granddaughters, when he noticed the defendant’s brother struggling.

Hawke said he approached Matthew Hayes, whose brother Steven was convicted last month of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters — 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela — during a brutal home invasion in 2007 in Cheshire.

“He was like he was in prayer,” Hawke said. “He looked like he was maybe moved to tears.”

Hawke said he introduced himself and shook Matthew Hayes’ hand.

“I said I saw you’re struggling and I just wanted to tell you I was sorry you had to go through this,” Hawke said. “He said he’s also sorry we had to go through this.”

Matthew Hayes declined to comment.

The exchange came as the jury completed a second day of deliberations without reaching a verdict on whether Steven Hayes should receive life in prison or the death penalty. The jury will continue deliberating Sunday for a rare weekend court session.

In closing arguments, prosecutors cited a letter Matthew Hayes wrote to authorities shortly after the crime as they argued that Hayes’ difficult childhood was not a reason to spare him the death penalty. Authorities said it was Matthew who took the brunt of the beatings and turned out fine.

Hayes’ defense is arguing he should be spared the death penalty because his mental capacity was significantly impaired.

The New Haven jury at one point Saturday asked to hear some of the testimony from Dr. Eric Goldsmith.

The psychiatrist testified that Hayes said he felt betrayed and became enraged when co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky told him he had killed the girls. Goldsmith testified that Hayes said he then strangled and raped Hawke-Petit. The psychiatrist concluded that Hayes was in an extreme emotional state at the time, that diminished his ability to control himself.

But prosecutors said Hayes made a confession to state police that showed he knew the girls were still alive at the time.

Hayes was convicted of sexually assaulting and strangling Jennifer Hawke-Petit. Authorities say the men tied the two girls to their beds, poured gasoline on them and set the house on fire. Dr. William Petit, Hawke-Petit’s husband and the girls’ father, was beaten and tied up but managed to escape to a neighbor’s house to get help.

Komisarjevsky faces trial next year.

Outside court, Hawke-Petit’s sister, Cindy Hawke-Renn, said she was trying to stay positive and upbeat.

“It’s the worst thing we’ve ever been through in our lives and I hope nobody ever has to go through it again,” Hawke-Renn said. “I honestly can’t imagine, if the death penalty is not sought in this, when it would ever be used. But that has to be the jury’s choice and not mine.”

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Associated Press writer Everton Bailey Jr. contributed to this story.

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