Career criminal Steven Hayes, one of two men charged with killing three members of a Cheshire family during a home invasion last week, had a long history of failure in parole and community release programs.
He also was a crack addict, a fact that contributed to at least one dramatic failure in 1996 and his return to prison from a Hartford halfway house last November. The last time Hayes, who has been in and out of prison since 1980, successfully completed a community release program was two decades ago.
Voluminous records released Thursday by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles reveal that the board's former chairman, Gregory Everett, refused to grant Hayes, 44, parole last December, citing his poor community release record.
The parole records of Hayes and co-defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, -- totaling 489 pages -- were ordered to be made public by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Both men face the possibility of the death penalty in connection with the violent home invasion.
Their histories of chronic drug abuse are well documented in those records. The parole board did not release the two men's mental health recordsor any records of arrest that did not result in convictions. The board also withheld 15 pages of parole records for Hayes and one page for Komisarjevsky, which prosecutors asked be withheld pending review.
Hayes had been released to a Hartford halfway house in June 2006, in preparation for his scheduled parole date of Feb. 1 of this year. But after a urine test on Nov. 21, 2006, showed he had used cocaine, he was sent back to prison.
Everett as board chairman had the discretion to review and reject Hayes' parole because Hayes was within 18 months of his release date. Everett deemed Hayes to be a risk based on his past record.
A report from a community release counselor dated Nov. 26 states that Hayes "had been having a tough time in the program since the suicide of his girlfriend's father.'' Another report states that when Hayes was told he had failed the drug test, he "became very anxious, pacing ... and ranting foolishly.'' His behavior was so bizarre that the staff at Silliman House alerted Hayes' parole officer because they thought he was a flight risk.
A panel of parole board members on Jan. 19 rescinded his Feb. 1 parole date, and set a new date two months later. Hayes was paroled May 3, a year and a day earlier than his earliest release date absent parole.
Hayes and Komisarjevsky first crossed paths at a Hartford drug treatment center, Berman House, where they were placed last summer, and later were together at Silliman House from late July until Hayes was re-incarcerated on Nov. 26.
Like Hayes, Komisarjevsky is a drug addict. According to a corrections report prepared in September 2004, in advance of his parole hearing, Komisarjevsky said he broke into upscale homes to steal money and electronics to support his addiction to crystal methamphetamine and cocaine, both of which he started using at age 19.
Neither Hayes nor Komisarjevsky has a criminal history of violence. Whether drugs played a role in the horrific home invasion is not yet known, but could offer some explanation for the brutality and depravity exhibited during the nearly seven-hour long ordeal at the Petit family home in Cheshire.
Dr. William Petit apparently surprised two men who entered the home at about 3 a.m. through an unlocked bulkhead door. He was bound and beaten and left in the cellar, as Hayes and Komisarjevsky allegedly tied daughters Michaela, 11 and Hayley, 17, to their beds. Jennifer Hawke-Petit, the doctor's 48-year-old wife, was raped, as was her 11-year-old daughter, according to the multiple charges lodged against Hayes and Komisarjevsky that could lead to death sentences.
Hawke-Petit was driven to a nearby bank by one of the suspects shortly after 9 a.m. and was forced to withdraw $15,000 as the suspect waited outside. She alerted a bank manager to the hostage situation at her home, and the bank manager contacted police. Police have said he alerted them to a "suspicious withdrawal,'' but have refused to release the tape of the 911 call.
Once back at the house, Hawke-Petit was strangled and the suspects ignited gasoline that had been splashed about the girls' bedrooms and other parts of the house. Both girls died of smoke inhalation in the inferno that engulfed the house as the suspects fled in a family car and crashed into police cruisers responding to the scene. William Petit, beaten beyond recognition and bound at the ankles, escaped through a bulkhead door.
Dr. Walter Ling, director of Integrated Substance Abuse Programs at UCLA, said Thursday that crystal methamphetamine can exaggerate behaviors and tendencies that already exist within a person, including anger and violence.
While Ling said it is certainly possible someone using crystal methamphetamine may have an intensely violent or psychotic episode, he cautioned against blaming the drug as the sole cause of a violent episode, such as what occurred at the Petit home. He said other factors such as behavioral problems and the presence of other drugs may also play a role.
Komisarjevsky had no criminal record prior to his arrest in March 2002 on multiple burglary counts, including nighttime burglaries into occupied homes. He was sentenced to nine years in prison on 21 burglary and related counts.
Hayes has been arrested on 26 different occasions, most recently in May 2003 for breaking into a car parked at the Nepaug Reservoir parking area in New Hartford. He used a rock to break a window and grabbed a purse, but was immediately caught by police who had the area under surveillance due to a rash of car break-ins. Hayes told a Department of Correction counselor it was a Sunday afternoon, and he had been smoking crack.
Crack was at the heart of Hayes' dramatic plunge from the initial success of his community release in 1996 to an 11-day spree of burglaries and crack binges.
Hayes had been released to a halfway house on Wyllys Street in Hartford, after three years in prison for violation of probation. He was working about 70 hours a week at a local restaurant and was looking forward to buying a car, he later told police. He was test-driving the car he wanted to buy and was en route to the bank to cash his paycheck when he stopped to talk to a local prostitute he knew. She asked if he wanted to smoke some crack.
"At first I told her no, then after I thought about it I said OK,'' Hayes later told the police. "It had been five years since I got high. I thought I would do just one hit.''
That hit prompted Hayes to go and buy $50 worth of crack, then another $50. "And all I cared about was getting high,'' Hayes said. For the next 11 days he slept in an abandoned building and broke into cars to get money for the drug. A purse he found in one of the cars contained the keys, and he drove that car for more than a week, before police spotted it as stolen and he led them on a high-speed chase that ended when he drove off the road.
He was paroled to another halfway house in 2000, but had parole rescinded when he was found to have a cellphone and $360 in cash -- both in violation of the rules. The maximum cash allowed was $35.
During his last stint behind bars, stemming from his 2003 arrest, Hayes had no disciplinary reports, or "tickets,'' lodged against him. During previous incarcerations, however, he piled up a total of 23 tickets, most for possession of contraband. The reports do not state the nature of the contraband.
Robert Farr, chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles since February, has said the release of both men was appropriate based on the evidence the parole panels had available to them. He also stressed that the panels did not have the sentencing transcripts that prosecutors are supposed to forward to his agency, including one in which a judge in 2002 described Komisarjevsky as a "cold, calculating predator.''
Some members of the Board of Pardons and Parole have said they don't remember whether they sat on either of the panels that approved the release of the two inmates.
"When I heard the names they really meant nothing to me because we do so many cases,'' board member Carl P. Eisenmann said. "We just did 21 cases last week, and if you asked me, I wouldn't remember any of the names on those cases let alone some from several months ago.''
Patricia Brewer-McDaniel of Waterbury said that she didn't think she was on either panel that paroled the two men but she wasn't completely sure.
Brewer-McDaniel said the administrative reviews are held every Friday at offices in the John Rowland Government Center in Waterbury. She said the number of cases varies by week.
"Sometimes we get nine or 10 cases and other times there's 25 or more to review in one day,'' Brewer-McDaniel said.
The parole records released Thursday show that Eisenmann was on the panel that initially heard Komisarjevsky's bid for parole in 2004, which was granted effective 2007. Brewer-McDaniel was on an administrative review panel in 2004 that had to review the case.
Brewer-McDaniel and Eisenmann both were on the panel that met in July 2005 and granted Hayes parole effective Feb. 1, 2007. Brewer-McDaniel also sat on the administrative review panel that rescinded Hayes' parole on Jan. 19, 2007, and pushed his parole date to May 3, based on his having failed the urine test at Silliman House.
DOC statistics show that the number of inmates getting paroled has increased since Theresa Lantz was appointed commissioner in 2003.
In 2004, there were 2,218 inmates paroled. In 2005 the number was 2,450, which grew to 2,625 inmates in 2006, state records show. So far in 2007, 2,565 inmates have been paroled.
The percentage of inmates who apply for and receive parole rose from 78.5 in 2004 to 86 in 2005, and the percentage has stayed close to that level since, records show. Those numbers include all of those paroled either at a full hearing of the board or through the administrative review process.
There are eight board members, including Farr, who is the only salaried member. The other seven members are paid on a per diem basis.
State records show that board members can make as much as $13,000 a year or as little as $5,700 annually, the amount that Brewer-McDaniel earned last year.
Courant Staff Writer Colin Poitras contributed to this story.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun