The State’s Attorney’s office has re-filed the charges against Cheshire home invasion defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky, clarifying whether they are accusing him of being the principal offender or an accessory in each of the 17 counts.
As they were re-filed, the charges now name Komisarjevsky as the principal offender in all but two of the counts—count 1, the murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and count 10, the murder of Hawke-Petit during the course of her kidnapping, which is one of the capital felony charges.
Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue entered not guilty pleas for each of the counts on behalf of the defendant.
Komisarjevsky’s defense lawyers agreed to the pleading arrangement Monday. The New Haven Register said the lawyers oppose allowing him to enter a plea because they believe Komisarjevsky is entitled to a probable cause hearing, in which prosecutors would prove there is sufficient evidence to charge him.
His trial is scheduled to begin Monday in New Haven Superior Court. His co-defendant, Steven Hayes, was convicted last year and is on death row.
The previous charges named him as both the principal offender and an accessory in 13 of the 17 counts.
The capital felony charges carry a maximum sentence of death by lethal injection. State statute allows the same penalty for conviction as the principal offender or accessory offender. But defense lawyer Jeremiah Donovan said in court Monday that charging Komisarjevsky as a principal or as an accessory might make a difference in the defense strategy during the trial.
(See the charges in the attached pdf document).
According to police, Komisarjevsky and Hayes forced their way into the Petit home on July 23, 2007 and kidnapped the family, intending to rob them.
When they found Dr. Petit asleep on the porch, reports show they beat him with a baseball bat, tied him up and restrained him in the basement. Then, police say, the pair tied Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, to their beds, and forced Jennifer Hawke-Petit to withdraw $15,000 from a bank account.
While Hayes drove Hawke-Petit to the bank, police said Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted Michaela. When Hayes returned, he sexually assaulted and strangled Hawke-Petit.
Then they discovered that Dr. Petit had escaped from the basement, according to police, so they set fire to the house with gasoline they had purchased earlier and attempted to escape in the family car. But they were unable to elude police, who had been alerted by bank officials and had surrounded the house.