The medical condition of Steven Hayes prompted yet another delay in his trial Thursday, halting testimony and frustrating at least one family member.
Thomas J. Ullmann, a defense lawyer for Hayes, said the 47-year-old suspect in the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters had "seizure-like" symptoms at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield on Wednesday night that prompted him to urinate "all over himself."
Ullmann said he thought that Wednesday's testimony might have "triggered" Hayes' seizure. The testimony centered on the horrifying details of July 23, 2007, when emergency workers discovered the bodies of Hawke-Petit, and daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, in their burned-out Cheshire home.
Photos of the victims' bodies — shown only to jurors and not to the rest of the courtroom — rocked the jury. Some cried. Dr. William Petit Jr., who had testified Tuesday about the brutal beating he suffered in the attack at his home, also sobbed, along with several family members and friends.
On Thursday morning, Ullmann told the court that although he was concerned about Hayes' condition and had yet to review Hayes' medical report, he thought that it was OK to proceed with testimony. Hayes, who has lost a considerable amount of weight since his arrest, appeared fidgety Thursday during testimony from a state police official in which photos of the Petits' ransacked and charred home were displayed. He talked with Ullmann more than usual and rubbed his face with his hands.
After the lunch break, Ullmann said he was "concerned" about Hayes' condition and information that he had received from security officers, but he did not elaborate. Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue then adjourned court for the rest of the day.
Hawke-Petit's sister, Cindy Hawke-Renn of Chapel Hill, N.C., told reporters that the delay was "frustrating." She traveled from North Carolina to attend the trial. "Another delay is another day away from my family and from work," she said.
This was not the first time that Hayes' medical issues have delayed the case. Hayes attempted suicide Jan. 31 in his prison cell by overdosing on prescription medication, and was hospitalized. The medical treatment and subsequent court hearings about Hayes' mental health and his prison conditions prompted Blue to halt jury selection for six weeks.
During those court hearings, officials familiar with Hayes's mental health testified that Hayes was hopeless and that he was waiting "for the state to kill him." Hayes faces the death penalty if convicted. However, a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a social worker said that Hayes was competent to stand trial.
Jury selection began Jan. 19. The panel — at the time consisting of 12 regular jurors, six alternates and two backup alternates — was seated June 2. Twelve regular jurors and three alternates heard evidence Thursday.
Prosecutors did not object to Blue's decision to stop Thursday's proceedings. Blue told the lawyers that the trial is "ahead of schedule."
Outside the courthouse, Petit said he thought that the trial was moving "at a reasonable" pace.
"We're happy with the way things are going. It's moving a lot faster than jury selection, so we're pleased about that," Petit said.
There will be no testimony today in observance of Yom Kippur. The trial will resume Monday.
During morning testimony, state police Sgt. Karen Gabianelli — and several crime scene photographs — took jurors inside the Petit home and the getaway vehicle that the intruders used to flee the crime. Petit appeared somber as he viewed the photos, shown on a movie screen in the courtroom.
The charred and ransacked home, littered with rope and a possible "accelerant," suggested that the Petit family members were tied to their beds while intruders robbed the home and set it on fire.
Gabianelli said that a police dog, trained to "hit" on flammable materials, identified possible accelerants in several places in the home, including the girls' bedrooms.
One photo showed Hayley's second-floor bedroom. The once-busy, colorful room was covered in soot and ash. Gabianelli found nylon ties and rope tied to the ornate bedposts of Hayley's bed, the mattress burned and the bedsprings showing. She said police believed that the ties were used as restraints.
On one end of Michaela's daybed, there was a 36-inch piece of rope tied to a post. "We believe it was used as a restraint for Michaela," Gabianelli said.
And on an ottoman, near stuffed animals, there was 11 feet of rope. A baseball bat was found in her room. Police have said that Petit was beaten with a bat.
Inside the Petits' ransacked master bedroom, an open jewelry box lay on the bed. "It looked like it had been gone through pretty good," Gabianelli said.
Clothes littered the closet and all the drawers to the furniture were either removed or ajar, she said.
A cord to a telephone, on a bedside table stuffed with novels and books about fitness and religion, including "The Oxford History of Christian Worship" and the tween book "Twisted," by Laurie Halse Anderson, was disconnected.
Gabianelli also testified that she found a blue and yellow scarf tied to the bedposts and a 42-inch rope lying on top of a family photo collage.
Hayley's body was found at the top of the stairs leading from the first to the second floor. Michaela's body was found in her bedroom, with her wrists bound and tied to her bed. Hawke-Petit's body was found on the first floor.
Gabianelli also testified that investigators found three bulky Bank of America envelopes in a beach bag inside the getaway vehicle used to flee the Petit home. The vehicle belonged to the Petits.
Inside the envelopes, she said, was $15,000 —three bundles of $5,000 each — zip ties, a wool facemask and latex gloves.
The money was returned to the bank, and detectives tried but were unable to get fingerprints off the envelopes.
Gabianelli said that Hayes was in the passenger seat and Joshua Komisarjevsky, the other man accused in the Petit slayings, was in the driver's seat.
Also found was a cellphone belonging to Komisarjevsky. Gabianelli said she tried to get voicemail messages from the phone but the account was "shut down for nonpayment." The phone company said it could not retrieve those messages.
Another vehicle was searched — a red Chevy van belonging to Jude Komisarjevsky, Joshua's mother.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun