CHESHIRE—As a small circle of friends celebrated his freedom at a barbecue in July, Joshua Komisarjevsky brooded, burying himself in a bottle of whiskey.
State probation officers had removed an electronic monitoring bracelet less than 24 hours earlier, bringing an end to his four-year prison term for multiple house burglaries.
Komisarjevsky, friends said, was heartbroken that his 18-year-old girlfriend -- the one he liked to photograph during their sexual exploits in the restroom of a Manchester mall -- had recently moved to Arkansas with her family.
"All he talked about was how he was trying to save money so he could pay for her to come back here and then get a place where they could live together,'' said a friend who was at the barbecue.
One person absent that day was Steven Hayes, Komisarjevsky's prison halfway house buddy who police say would later become his partner in the brutal triple slaying of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11 -- one of the most horrific crimes in state history.
Hayes, a 44-year-old father of two and recovering drug addict, was facing his own crisis. His mother and brother suspected he was using drugs again after money he had set aside to buy a new truck suddenly disappeared.
The day of the July 20 barbecue, probation officials visited Hayes' family home in Winsted to check on him. His mother, Diana Hayes, told them it was time for Steven "to go.'' According to one of Hayes' acquaintances, she wanted him out of the house by the following Monday, the day of the killings.
Police say the two men, desperate for money, turned to the only thing they both knew well -- crime. On the next night, Saturday, July 21, police suspect that they broke into two homes in Cheshire. A wallet, credit cards and petty cash were missing, police have said.
Police also suspect that the pair spent part of the weekend plotting a more elaborate heist. Several acquaintances said that the men had mentioned trying to arrange a big business deal and that each had previously talked about their desire for a big score.
By Sunday night, July 22, Komisarjevsky had chosen a target, police said. The unsuspecting members of the Petit family, followed home from a local Stop & Shop, had no idea of the horrors to come.
Interviews with law enforcement sources and friends of the suspects, along with a review of recently released court records, provide new insight into the mindset of the alleged killers and new details of the slayings that shocked a nation and started a major examination of Connecticut's criminal justice system.
An Incongruous Pair
When state prison officials released Steven Hayes from prison and placed him in a Hartford halfway house in 2006, even Hayes was surprised.
With 26 separate prison stints and a history of disciplinary problems, Hayes knew he wasn't a prime candidate for parole. One resident of Hayes' new home, Mike, recalls Hayes telling him, "I don't know how the hell they let me out of jail, but I wasn't going to say `no.'''
Hayes and Komisarjevsky shared a room on the second floor of Silliman House on Retreat Avenue. Komisarjevsky, the thin, soft-spoken kid finishing his first bid in jail, and Hayes, the older, stocky, career criminal, made an incongruous pair.
Their relationship baffled the other convicts in the house.
"They weren't the same type of person,'' said Mike, who requested anonymity. "I don't know why they clicked. Josh was quiet, timid, weird. Murderers stayed away from him, he was that weird. Steve was outgoing, spontaneous, a little perverted. Tell me Josh did this, I believe you. Steve, no. I can't see it.''
Hayes' "hobby,'' Mike said, was cruising Wethersfield Avenue in Hartford looking for hookers.