NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The tearful mother of a convicted Connecticut home invasion killer told a jury Tuesday her son is shocked at his role in the crime and she blames it on sexual abuse he suffered as a child.
Joshua Komisarjevsky (koh-mih-sar-JEV'-skee) and co-defendant Steven Hayes were convicted of capital felony, murder and sexual assault in the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters at their Cheshire home in 2007. Hayes is on death row after he was convicted last year of raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and killing her daughters, who died of smoke inhalation after they were tied to their beds and left to die in a fire.
"He was just in shock that he was involved in something like this," Jude Komisarjevsky said of her son. "He was asking how did this happen, how did I get to this point? He eventually got to the point, I can't retrace the steps. So he's just trying to see what he can salvage for himself."
The defense says Komisarjevsky was sexually abused between the ages of 4 to 6 by a foster teen his family had taken into the home.
"I think we basically feel that we wished we had said no to being foster parents, because we don't think we'd be here today," Jude Komisarjevsky said, crying.
Jude Komisarjevsky, wearing a pink sweater, was called to testify again a day before Komisarjevsky's nine-year-old daughter testifies by videotape as the defense tries to convince the jury that convicted him last month to spare him the death penalty. The girl was interviewed earlier by a child psychologist and the defense is expected to play about 20 minutes of her nearly hour-long interview.
Jude Komisarjevsky, who testified at the beginning of the sentencing phase, testified Tuesday about bringing his daughter to see him in prison when he was sentenced for earlier home burglaries. The defense showed jurors a photo of Komisarjevsky with his daughter during one visit as his mother described how she would sit on his lap as he read her stories.
Jurors also saw photos of Komisarjevsky with his arm around his daughter opening a Christmas present. One daughter smiled as she viewed the photos.
Jude Komisarjevsky recalled her son putting his daughter to bed the night of the crime.
"He talked about her, how sweet and precious she was," his mother said. "I had a sense he felt things were not good and this was like a goodbye."
Komisarjevsky told a psychiatrist hired by the defense that the crime got out of control and that he felt so remorseful he was suicidal.
Dr. Richard Dudley Jr. testified that Joshua Komisarjevsky told him the situation became increasingly out of control but he didn't know what to do.
"He explained that the victims certainly didn't have to die," Dudley said. "He talked about how bad he felt about that. And he talked about how at the end of it all how suicidal he was."
Prosecutors have questioned Komisarjevsky's remorse, noting he blamed the sole survivor, Dr. William Petit, for not doing more to help his family even though he was beaten with a bat and tied up. In his taped confession to police, Komisarjevsky spoke matter-of-factly and laughed occasionally.
Dudley said he believed Komisarjevsky's remorse was sincere. He said his feelings about Petit were more related to believing he was not protected as a child from sexual abuse he suffered by his foster brother.
Dudley testified that Komisarjevsky is "extremely attached" to his daughter.
"He saw her response to him as just kind of unconditional acceptance," Dudley said.
Under cross examination, Dudley said Komisarjevsky only spent weeks with his daughter before he was charged with the home invasion. He had been in prison earlier for a string of residential burglaries.
Komisarjevsky portrayed himself as reluctant to commit the burglary with Hayes because in the past he always acted alone and didn't know Hayes well. But he also described the thrill he got from home invasions, Dudley said.
Prosecutor Michael Dearington reminded jurors that Komisarjevsky targeted the Petit house and sexually abused Petit's 11-year-old daughter. He pressed Dudley on whether the crime was motivated not only by money but also by sexual assault.
"I think the possibilities are open," Dudley said.
Dudley testified Monday that Komisarjevsky has suffered from a mood disorder since he was a child that includes periods of profound depression. He said Komisarjevsky told him he would engage in risky behavior, including Russian roulette, to pull himself out of depression.
He also said Komisarjevsky, who was adopted, has a family history of mental illness.
Dearington pressed Dudley on why he relied on an anonymous letter about the family's history. Dudley said his diagnosis was based on his own evaluation of Komisarjevsky and that the letter was consistent with his findings.
At least 10 percent of the population suffers from mood disorders, Dudley said.
Dudley said Komisarjevsky's judgment was impaired by his mental condition, but it was not a direct cause of the crime.
The defense is expected to rest next Tuesday. The sentencing phase began Oct. 25.