Inside the Petit Family Murders: An Hours-Long Home Invasion, a Triple Murder, and a Father Who Survived

July 22, 2007, was a seemingly normal Sunday for the Petit family of four

Published Time: 19.05.2024 - 17:31:09 Modified Time: 19.05.2024 - 17:31:09

July 22, 2007, was a seemingly normal Sunday for the Petit family of four. After church, mother Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters,Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela Petit, 11, visited the beach while their father Dr. William Petit Jr. went golfing.

No one could have imagined the horrors that would follow soon after. While the family was sleeping in the early morning hours of July 23, two men — later identified as Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky — broke into the Petit's Cheshire, Conn., home, held the family hostage for hours and assaulted them. What was allegedly supposed to be a burglary turned into a brutal triple-murder involving sexual assaults that left a mother and her two daughters dead and a father reeling.

Before dinner that evening, Michaela and Jennifer went to the store to purchase ingredients for dinner. But Komisarjevsky was also at the store that evening — and he followed them home after choosing them as targets, the Associated Press reported.

Around 3 a.m., Komisarjevsky and Hayes broke into the home, beat William with a baseball bat, then tied up Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela, PEOPLE previously reported. They locked William in the basement, then sexually assaulted Jennifer and Hayley.

“What all of them went through, especially little Michaela, it completely broke me up,” one of the Petits’ neighbors, who lived across the street, told PEOPLE in a 2007 cover story. “The anger and the sadness and the absolute outrage at what happened to that family is beyond description.”

Roughly six hours later, the men drove Jennifer to a bank and forced her to take out a large sum of -

money. There, she tried to subtly get help from the tellers. According to past reporting, the police were called after the bank run, but by the time they arrived to the Petit family home, it was too late.

Jennifer had been strangled to death and Michaela and Hayley died from smoke inhalation after Komisarjevsky doused the home with gasoline and set it on fire. However, William — who remained in and out of consciousness in the basement during the assaults — was able to escape the home with his legs still bound. He had multiple injuries.

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Komisarjevsky and Hayes were quickly apprehended and charged. During their trial, William testified about that horrific night. Komisarjevsky was convicted of 17 charges, CNN reported in 2011. The charges included murder, kidnapping, burglary, arson and assault. Hayes was convicted of the same charges with the exception of arson, which he was found not guilty of.

William has since created the Petit Family Foundation in memory of his wife and daughters. According to the foundation's about page, Hayley was preparing for her freshman year at Dartmouth College and Michaela was a sixth grader.

At the family's memorial, William, "asked those gathered to 'help a neighbor, fight for a cause, and love your family' as a way to honor the memories of his family and make the world a better place to live," according to the page.

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