Man Sentenced to Die for Gruesome Home Invasion

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A New Haven jury recommended the death penalty for the Connecticut man behind a gruesome home invasion that ended with the murder of a mother and her two daughters three years ago.

After enduring days of testimony detailing the torture and murder of his wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit and two daughters - 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, Dr. William Petit said he prays for the strength to go forward minute by minute, day by day. 

"I was very much insulted when people asked me if the death penalty were rendered, would it give me closure. 'Absolutely not!'" Petit said during a press conference following the jury's announcement. "This is not about revenge. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. This is about justice."

Authorities said Steven Hayes and another man broke into the Petit's suburban home in 2007. The men beat Petit and tied him up, but he later managed to escape. They also forced his wife Jennifer to go to the bank to withdraw money. When they returned, Hayes sexually assaulted her before strangling her to death.

The second suspect is accused of sexually assaulting 11-year-old Hayley. Both two young girls were tied to their beds and doused in gasoline. They died of smoke inhalation.

Petit said the horrific crime has left a jagged-edged hole his heart. But he said he's grateful for his loved ones.

"I just know that it's important to have a strong and loving family and friends around you because if you try to go it alone in the world, you have a difficult time," he said. "So I think that's what I had because if I was on my own, I probably would not be standing here before you today."

Hayes gave no reaction as the jury's sentence was announced. With the sentencing, he will soon join nine other men on Connecticut's death row. The state has only executed one man since 1960 so it's likely Hayes will spend years, if not decades, in prison. The judge will impose the sentence on Dec. 2.

New Haven Superior Court voted unanimously to send Hayes to death row after deliberating over the span of four days. His suspected accomplice will be tried next year.

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Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.