CHESHIRE—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.
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A panel of parole board members on Jan. 19 rescinded his Feb. 1 parole date, and set a new date two months later.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.