Psychologist: Hayes Tried to Take Own Life Week Before Slayings

The penalty phase goes on for man convicted in Petit murders.


A psychologist says Steven Hayes him he tried to take his own life a week before killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, in 2007.

Dr. Mark Cunningham testified on Wednesday that Hayes said he tried to overdose on intravenous heroin when he also was taking crack cocaine.

Cunningham said Hayes told him he sees no end to the depression he feels and does not expect his guilt and remorse, or the hurt to the victims' family, to subside. He said Hayes told him he thinks about it "24-7" but does not plan to take his own life.

The defense is trying to persuade a jury to spare their client the death penalty.

Cunningham took the stand after the defense called John Viscomi, Hayes' parole officer.

He started supervising Hayes in 2007, while Hayes was living in his mother’s home and sharing living room space with his brother.

Viscomi said he was supposed to begin helping Hayes find a new place to live. That search was supposed to begin the day Hayes broke into the Petits’ home and killed three of the four family members.

Hayes and Viscomi met once a week, face to face, and there was no indication that Hayes would one day be involved in a horrific crime, Viscomi said.

Testimony also centered around Hayes' criminal history, which includes 26 convictions in the state of Connecticut for offenses including drug possession, bad checks, forgery and burglary. He has two unsuccessful community releases followed by two that were successful, according to testimony.

In his years as a parole office, Viscomi said his caseload has never dropped below 70 parolees -- people who were convicted on charges from driving under the influence to manslaughter.

As they worked together, Viscomi referred Hayes to Catholic Family Services for substance abuse because of problems with alcohol in the past. Hayes was discharged from alcohol treatment with a “dissatisfactory” rating.

The jury is hearing testimony before it decides whether Hayes should get a death sentence or life in prison after being convicted of killing the Petits.

On Tuesday, psychologist Mark Cunningham said Hayes would likely serve his sentence without seriously hurting an inmate or prison staff since the 47-year-old has already served 25 years in prison without committing serious violence.

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