NEW HAVEN ——During an active and emotional first day of testimony in the Cheshire home-invasion case, a neighbor of the Petit family said Monday that he had just finished walking his dog the morning of July 23, 2007, when he got home and heard someone outside calling his name.
David Simcik, a retired Colchester teacher and neighbor of the Petits for 18 years, said he looked out a kitchen window. No one. He looked out a window in his mud room. No one. Then, he opened the garage door and saw a man laying in the driveway.
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"His face was banged up. It just didn't look like Dr. Petit."
Then, Simcik heard, "Dave, Dave call 911."
Dr. William Petit Jr. — whose wife Jennifer Hawke-Petit and their two daughters, Hayley and Michaela, died that day — had been beaten in an attack at their home but had escaped.
While dialing 911, Simcik saw a police officer, with a rifle drawn, walk up his driveway.
The police told him to get inside "immediately," Simcik said.
Simcik said police asked Petit if anyone was inside his home.
"The girls," Petit told police.
Simcik said he then saw flames and smoke coming from the Petit home.
Steven Hayes has been charged in the three deaths and related crimes and faces the death penalty if convicted. The trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, a second man charged in the crimes, will begin when Hayes' case is finished.
It was a busy first day of testimony, which began with three jurors being excused for various reasons. Besides Simcik, witnesses included an officer at the scene; employees at a bank when Hawke-Petit, under duress, withdrew thousands of dollars; and a nurse who worked in Petit's office and had taken a phone call from his wife that morning. In a related development Monday, a judge clarified a gag order to make clear that lawyers for a second suspect are bound by the same gag order as Hayes' attorneys.
After testimony in the trial concluded for the day, more than a dozen members of the Petit and Hawke families gathered outside the courthouse to address reporters.
Petit's sister, Johanna Petit Chapman, stood in front. "We hope in the end that justice will prevail," she said, visibly shaken. Athough they wanted to comment further, she added, they would instead let the legal system speak for itself.
Alongside her were her mother, Barbara Petit, who had her hand on Johanna's back; and Hawke-Petit's father, the Rev. Richard Hawke. William Petit was behind her but did not comment.
Thomas Wright, a Cheshire police officer, told jurors that he received a call about 9:30 a.m. over his police radio that there was a home invasion on Sorghum Mill Drive.