Memorial Mass for Petit Women Today

Today marks six years from the tragic home invasion in Cheshire.

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013  |  Updated 7:43 AM EDT
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A New HBO Documentary,

George Colli, Sean Tallant

A New HBO Documentary, "The Cheshire Murders," questions the response by Cheshire Police to the Petit home in July 2007.

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Six years ago, the state of Connecticut was rocked to the core by the home invasion in Cheshire that ended in the triple murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. Dr. William Petit, was the only victim to survive.

Those who knew the family will honor the women today with a memorial mass at Our Lady of Mercy in Plainville.

Last night, HBO aired a documentary about the tragic events that ended with the deaths of the Petit women

A film-making team spent five years conducting interviews and research to create the documentary, “The Cheshire Murders,” which takes a hard look at the home invasion and those most affected by it.

HBO calls this a “universal human tale of the search for justice in the face of a crime that seemed to have permanently upended small-town life.”

The film included interviews with the victims’ family members and friends, including Dr. William Petit and the Hawke family.

Lifelong Cheshire residents, Joe and Marilyn Bartoli, are featured in the documentary several times.

"The devil walked amongst us that day," Joe said.

Marilyn said the film brings back all of the good deeds her friend, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, did in her lifetime.

Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, are on death row for the murders and the film examined what would make these two men carry out such a horrific crime.

Marilyn said it also left her questioning her perceptions of one defendant.

"I've been thinking a lot about Joshua and about how the system failed him from a child," she said.

The film also raised questions about the Cheshire police department's response to the crime.

According to court testimony, police surrounded the Petit family’s home for more than half an hour and people who knew the victims said they’re torn about how police handled it.

“I do think it’s important that the questions are asked, because out of this horrible tragedy, they can learn how to better handle similar situations,” Joe Bartoli, of Cheshire, said.

Other people who knew the victims said they believe police acted professionally.

NBC Connecticut asked the Cheshire Police Department about their response to the home invasion but they wouldn’t comment. 

HBO posted a question-and-answer column on its Web site with David Heilbroner, one of the filmmakers.

“We wanted to show the effects and causes of this crime from different perspectives.  Everyone focuses on the perpetrators.  But there are other forces involved that are just as interesting, like the lives of the victims, the Petit family, who were so extraordinarily good that they made an almost mythical contrast.”

The filmmaker also spoke with those who knew Komisarjevsky and Hayes.

"It was difficult to watch, but I believe that both Kate and David an amazing job at bringing a human touch to something that is quite inhumane," Steven's brother, Matthew Hayes said in a phone interview with NBC Connecticut.

"For myself and my family, I would go back, what if maybe two months prior, into May, and what if he wasn’t released, or what if my mother didn’t give him a place to stay," he added.

Filmmakers also spoke with attorneys, journalists and mental health professionals for the film, according to HBO.

More on what filmmakers say about the documentary is posted on the HBO Web site.

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