Investigator: Gas Poured on Youngest Victim

Gasoline was poured on an 11-year-old girl and on her sister's bed before their house was set on fire during a home invasion, a blaze that led to their deaths from smoke inhalation, a state fire investigator testified Friday.

Paul Makuc testified in New Haven Superior Court in the trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky, who faces a possible death sentence if convicted of the 2007 crime in Cheshire, which also killed the girls' mother.

Authorities say Komisarjevsky and his co-defendant, Steven Hayes, tied up the family and doused the house in gas before lighting a fire. Hayes was convicted last year and sentenced to death for strangling the woman, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and killing her two daughters, Hayley and Michaela.

Makuc said there was evidence that gas had been poured on Michaela and in 17-year-old Hayley's bed. He said Hayley was found in a hallway where she had apparently fallen down. One of the gas containers was found under her body, attached to a remnant of her clothes, he said.

Jurors were given a metal can with the gas container in it to smell the gas that Makuc said was still detectable. Jurors, who appeared weary, also saw photos of the girls' charred beds and a room ransacked for jewelry and other valuables.

Dr. William Petit, the girls' father who was beaten and tied up but managed to escape to a neighbor's house to get help, kept his eyes cast down at the floor at times. Petit and other relatives left the courtroom earlier in the week when the autopsies were detailed.

"That's not just a burned home and burned remains, that's my sister's house.  It's where a lot of beautiful wonderful memories took place for us, and our family and I think it's such a shame the hellhole it was turned into," said Cynthia Hawke-Renn, Jennifer's sister.

In an audiotaped confession played for jurors last week, Komisarjevsky blamed Hayes for pouring and lighting the gas and insisted Hayes wanted to kill the family. But Makuc said a continuous pattern of poured gas could have been poured by more than one person.

A detective who interviewed Komisarjevsky said he initially told the investigator that he might have poured gas.

Komisarjevsky also said he had closed the bedroom doors to buy the girls' time to escape, but couldn't explain why he didn't untie them. Makuc said Michaela's bedroom door appeared to be closed.

The gas created a distinct line of fire from where Hawke-Petit's body was found on the floor of a family room on the first floor racing up the stairs and into the second floor bedrooms and up the side of the beds where the girls had been tied to their bedposts with rope and pantyhose, Makuc said. He repeatedly referred to unusually low burn patterns close to the floor because of the accelerant.

Makuc said it was difficult to determine if the smoke or fire came into Michaela's bedroom first.

"That fire would travel very quickly and create smoke as it came under the door," he said.

Hayley's bed was most heavily burned in the center, he said. "You'll see a distinct demarcation line of burning to the comforter," he said.

Asked if the pattern was consistent with an accelerant poured on her bed, he said "absolutely."

There was no evidence of gas in other rooms on the second floor aside from where the girls were tied up, Makuc said.

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case Monday, then defense attorneys will put on their case.

"I think we’ve learned a lot about the truth of what has happened so far, and I’m really not interested to stay on and hear the lies of what the defense may present. I feel they’re going after a boy-scout kind of attitude from Mr. Komisarjevsky, and it’s nothing I could believe to be true," Hawke-Renn said. She will not be in court to hear the defense's version of what happened.

Closing arguments could come late next week or early the following week, Judge Jon Blue told jurors.

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