Segments in this Video

Cheshire, Connecticut (02:58)


On July 23, 2007, a 911 dispatcher receives a call about the Petit family. Approximately one hour later, first responders found the home engulfed in flames. The suspects were arrested while trying to escape.

Bedding Plant Capital (01:59)

Cheshire residents describe the city. Hear news reports on the Petit home invasion. (Credits)

Petit Family (04:10)

Jennifer Petit's sister Cynthia Hawke Renn recalls learning about the home invasion. Her parents Rev. Richard Hawke and Marybelle Hawke recall speaking with Dr. William (Bill) Petit in the hospital. Hear descriptions of the Petit family.

Murder in a Quiet Town (02:09)

A radio program reports that Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes followed Jennifer and Makayla from a grocery store. Cheshire residents reflect on the murders and what should happen to the perpetrators.

Petit Funeral (02:36)

William speaks at his loved ones' funeral. Renn recounts a conversation with William about the murders.

Searching for Facts (01:45)

Lt. Jay Markella discusses the home invasion and murders with a news station. Renn questions details about the murders and states that nobody told the family what really happened. The state charged Hayes and Komisarjevsky with capital felony murder and will seek the death penalty.

Steven Hayes (03:05)

Hayes' defense attorney Thomas Ullmann recalls receiving the case and discusses Hayes' criminal history. Hayes' daughter Alicia discusses her relationship with her father and learning about the home invasion.

Joshua Komisarjevsky (03:18)

Komisarjevsky's uncle Chris Komisarjevsky recalls learning about the murder and his brother's statement to the media. Counselor Michael Daluz shares his perceptions of Komisarjevsky before the murders.

Genius Criminal? (02:05)

Komisarjevsky's former defense attorney William Gerace discusses Komisarjevsky's intelligence and criminal history. In 2002, Komisarjevsky was sentenced to nine years in prison, but released in 2007.

Home Invasion History (01:55)

The Chairman of the Board of Pardons and Parole states there were no indicators that Hayes and Komisarjevsky were capable of committing the Cheshire murders. Rep. Mike Lawlor disagrees; information needed at sentencing did not reach the Dept. of Corrections or the parole board.

Morning of the Crime (03:46)

Deb Biggins recalls seeing Jennifer in the bank. Lt. Paul Vance will not provide detailed information; the court imposes a gag order in November, 2007. Lack of information encourages rumors and innuendos about the Petit murders.

Life or Death? (03:56)

Ullmann state the case against Hayes and Komisarjevsky is overwhelmingly strong but he cannot accept the death penalty; the perpetrators offer to plead guilty for a sentence of life without parole. The prosecution pursues the death penalty and the case must go to trial.

Hayes' Siblings (03:45)

Matthew and Brian Hayes' express anger at Hayes' parole. They describe him as manipulative and deceptive as they look through family photos. The brothers reflect on Hayes' receiving the death penalty or someone killing him outside the courthouse.

Komisarjevsky's Romantic Relationship (03:29)

Rev. Norman Mesel recalls a conversation with Komisarjevsky when he wanted to marry his daughter. Caroline Mesel describes her relationship with Komisarjevsky.

Two Months before the Murders (02:56)

Komisarjevsky and Hayes are released from a halfway house; Daluz saw the men together every day. Ullmann reviews Hayes' therapy notes. Hayes' brothers recall sharing an apartment with him and "things ramping up to something."

Days before the Murders (01:49)

Psychiatric examiner Eric Goldsmith discusses Hayes' realization that his life was going downhill and his attempted suicide. Caroline Mesel discusses her last contact with Komisarjevsky before the crime.

Candlelight Vigil (01:55)

The city of Cheshire holds a vigil in honor of the Petits on January 6, 2008.

Desire for More Information (04:59)

Colin Poitras received a heavily edited transcript from the time of the bank teller's call to the time the suspects were arrested; he questions officer involvement. Renn and Marybelle Hawke believe the police arrived before the house was engulfed in flames and could have done more to save the Petit family; police have not answered their questions. Cheshire Town Manager Michael Milone praises first responders.

At the Scene for Thirty Minutes? (02:34)

Ullmann receives a transcript of the police log. He discusses the timeline and criticizes officers.

Abolishing Capital Punishment? (04:51)

Dr. Petit gives a radio interview about the Petit Family Foundation and the death penalty. He addresses state lawmakers about their consideration of changing death penalty laws. Michael Lawlor stresses the negative consequences of seeking the death penalty.

Seeking Justice (02:47)

In May 2008, workers demolish the Petit home in preparation for a memorial garden. Matthew Hayes writes a letter to Connecticut State Police about his brother. The Connecticut legislature votes to abolish the death penalty in 2009; Governor Rell vetoes the bill.

Insight on Komisarjevsky (03:17)

Renn wants to attend the trials of Komisarjevsky and Hayes from beginning to end. Komisarjevsky keeps a journal while awaiting trial; hear an excerpt. Despite his denial, Caroline Mesel believes Komisarjevsky raped Michaela Petit.

Separate Trials (02:15)

Hayes and Komisarjevsky go on trial in 2010 and 2011; Komisarjevsky's attorney Walter Bansley discusses the difficulty of jury selection. The defense asks to move the trials out of New Haven, but the judge refuses.

Attempted Suicide (03:07)

Matthew Hayes reveals that his brother is in a coma; he swallowed several pills of Klonopin and Thorazine. Ullmann reads a suicide note from a year before. Petit addresses the media as he comes out of the courtroom.

Trials Begin (02:57)

A judge finds Hayes competent and the trials proceed; see news footage outside the courthouse. Renn recalls seeing Hayes in the courtroom; Rev. Hawke would like to address Hayes and Komisarjevsky.

Targeting the Petits (03:44)

Hear excerpts from Komisarjevsky's confession and see text messages from the night before the murders; Ullmann believes Komisarjevsky was attracted to Michaela. Attorney Jeremiah Donovan states Komisarjevsky was doomed by biology and fate; Goldsmith discusses a theme of betrayal in Hayes' life.

Home Invasion: 3:00 A.M. (03:51)

Hear excerpts from Komisarjevsky's confession. Fran Hodges met Komisarjevsky at church and they dated for two years. She discusses Komisarjevsky's home life and history of behavior.

Home Invasion: 4:00 A.M. (02:10)

Hayes and Komisarjevsky drink beer from the refrigerator and find bank information. Hayes worried about DNA evidence and Komisarjevsky suggested fire; Hayes gets gasoline. Komisarjevsky photographed his sexual abuse of Michaela.

Komisarjevsky's Psychiatric Instability (02:14)

Komisarjevsky spent two weeks Elmcrest Psychiatric Hospital in 1995. His parents refused prescription treatment and therapy, and sent him to a Christian camp; Komisarjevsky broke into Hodges' room and was excommunicated. Mark Middebrooks allowed Komisarjevsky to join a Christian tour.

Home Invasion: 8:30 A.M. (02:33)

Hayes and Komisarjevsky untie Jennifer and Hayes' takes her to the bank. Hear excerpts from Komisarjevsky's confession; he admits to sexually assaulting Michaela. Renn is angry at Komisarjevsky's use of Michaela's nickname.

Murder and Arson (04:43)

Bank surveillance video shows Jennifer at the bank at 9:10 A.M. Goldsmith states that Hayes believed the crime was over once he and Jennifer returned from the bank, but Komisarjevsky told him he had to kill Jennifer. Hear excerpts from Komisarjevsky's confession.

Arson Details (02:26)

Renn learned details about the murders of her family members at the trial. She discusses the accelerant pattern and learning her nieces burned alive. A reporter discusses the defense's questioning of Cheshire police.

Penalty Phase (03:33)

Komisarjevsky and Hayes were found guilty of multiple capital offenses. Ullman states that Hayes admitted to rape, murder, and arson; Komisarjevsky tried to blame Hayes as the instigator of the arson. Komisarjevsky's defense team maintains that he never intended murder.

Community Support (02:38)

Bikers rally for the Petit family; William addresses the crowd. Ullmann states that William's outspokenness affected the ability for Hayes and Komisarjevsky to receive a fair trial. Sen. Edith Prague discusses William's address to the legislature about repealing the death penalty.

Life or Death? (05:12)

Hayes' daughter discusses seeing her father in prison; she wants Hayes to spend life in prison. Hear news reports on the penalty phase of Hayes' trial. Family and friends of the victims pray before dinner and discuss the upcoming verdict.

Sentencing Verdicts (04:55)

In November 2010, jurors recommend death for Hayes; Ullmann reflects on the verdict. In December 2011, jurors recommend death for Komisarjevsky; his attorneys will appeal. William and Renn address the media.

After the Verdicts (02:58)

Donovan reflects on Komisarjevsky's willingness to plead guilty without a death penalty and the pursuance of capital punishment. Rev. Hawke reflects on burying his loved ones. Loved ones visit the site of the former Petit home, now a garden memorial.

Cheshire Murders Update (00:41)

Hayes' request for immediate death was denied. In 2012, Connecticut abolished the death penalty, making it unlikely Komisarjevsky and Hayes will be executed.

Credits: The Cheshire Murders (00:0-6994)

Credits: The Cheshire Murders

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The Cheshire Murders

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Using exclusive interviews and spanning half a decade, The Cheshire Murders reveals the shocking police failures and untold personal dramas behind the notorious rape-arson-homicide case that shook Cheshire, Connecticut in the summer of 2007. In this quiet, bedroom suburb, Jennifer Petit and her two daughters, age 11 and 17, were killed in a home invasion gone horribly wrong; husband and father William Petit was the only member of the family who escaped alive. Framed by the media as a parable of good versus evil, the case and its perpetrators, Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, became a rallying cry for the death penalty. However, much of the story has been hidden from the general public, and alarming failures in the system reveal another tragedy: this crime could have been prevented at many turns. Told intimately by the victims’ and perpetrators’ friends and families, as well as the attorneys, journalists, and mental-health professionals involved firsthand in the case, the film takes viewers from the morning of the crime, through the death-penalty trials five years later. Directed, produced and edited by award- winning filmmakers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner, the film suggests that “eradicating evil” is perhaps not the solution, and that larger forces must also be held accountable – or else we pave the way for more senseless tragedy.

Length: 118 minutes

Item#: BVL118736

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

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