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Connecticut Murderer Gets Death Sentence Commuted

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A Connecticut man who murdered a woman and her two daughters in a home invasion has gotten his death sentence commuted to life in prison.

Steven Hayes, who committed the murder in 2007 with accomplice Joshua Komisarjevsky, was re-sentenced to six consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole plus 106 years in prison following a court proceeding on June 15, the Daily Mail reported.

In 2010, Hayes was originally sentenced to death for his role in the crime. However, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted to repeal the death penalty in 2012, preventing the sentence from being handed down in future cases.

Although the 11 men who were already on the state's death row were originally still scheduled to be executed, in August 2015 the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled to commute their sentences to life in prison.

The proceeding at which Hayes had his sentence commuted was the first of a series of hearings to re-sentence the current death row inmates. Ten more men, including Hayes's co-defendant Komisarjevsky, who received the death penalty in 2011, are yet to be re-sentenced.

On July 23, 2007, Hayes and Komisarjevsky broke into the Cheshire, Connecticut, home of Dr. William Petit and his family. The doctor was badly beaten with a baseball bat and tied up in the basement of his home while the men ransacked the house and held his wife, 48-year-old Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and his daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, hostage.

At one point during the ordeal, the men forced Jennifer to drive to the bank and withdraw $15,000. Once they returned to the house, Hayes raped and strangled the woman to death while Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted Michaela. The men tied the girls to their beds with pillowcases placed over their heads and set the house on fire before making their getaway.

Although Petit was able to escape from the basement and run to a neighbor's house for help, both of his daughters died before police arrived. Hayley had managed to free herself from her bed but then collapsed from fumes in the hallway. Michaela's body was found on her bed.  

Hayes received the death penalty after being convicted of murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree sexual assault, and 13 other charges.

Petit, the sole survivor of the home invasion, expressed his disappointment and outrage at the news that one of his family's killers had his sentence commuted.

"It is a very sad day when a prolonged trial and decision and sentencing by a jury that took 4.5 months to seat is overturned by a legislature that ignores the wishes of the people of CT," he wrote in a Twitter message on June 15, according to the Daily Mail.

"The insult is compounded by [the Connecticut] Supreme Court that rules on not one but two cases based on personal opinions and politics and not the law." 

Connecticut is one of five states to abolish the death penalty in recent years, along with New Mexico, Illinois, Maryland and Nebraska, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. As of 2016, 20 U.S. states no longer have capital punishment. 

Sources: Daily Mail, National Conference of State Legislatures / Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police via Daily Mail

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