Dr. William Petit and his family had every reason to feel safe and secure living in Cheshire, Connecticut, birthplace of John Holmstrom and Legs McNeil, and one of the more classic All-American towns in New England. However, since 2007, Cheshire has been known as the site of a gruesome home invasion eerily similar to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. And it’s funny how we’ve learned so little since that book came out, as revealed by a spell-binding HBO documentary so powerful it takes you deep into the dark side. I missed this film the first time around when it appeared two years ago, but the documentary is back in rotation on HBO this month and I urge you to watch it provided you have a strong stomach.
“KK” is the smiling 11-year-old blonde in the above picture, and also the reason Joshua Komisarjevsky decided to visit the Petit house that night. He spotted the little girl with her mother at a supermarket and followed them to their nearby home. Because it was a nice, big house, he decided to target them for his next creepy-crawly adventure. Joshua had recently met fellow ex-con Steven Hayes at a halfway house and Steven was desperate for money having just been kicked out of his mother’s home for falling off the wagon. Stealing money was easy for creepy-crawly Josh. He was probably more interested in raping KK.
The part about psychos many people don’t understand is how easily they mimic compassionate people and use fake empathy to get inside someone’s head before launching some devious plot designed to inflict emotional and physical distress. Josh obviously has a high IQ and talents as an artist, but preferred donning a black hoodie and black jeans, putting on night-vision goggles, and creepy-crawling around the neighborhood, sometimes just to listen to people breathing in their sleep, but mostly to steal whatever he could.
Like many psychos, Josh had been sexually abused as a child. His initial tormentor was an older foster brother, and soon Josh was abusing his younger foster sister as well. This is the real vampire culture because many children who are sexually abused go on to abuse other children, perpetuating an endless cycle of terror and violence on kids. Josh was an adopted child himself and raised by a famous Russian family of the arts. He’d also become a father after impregnating a teenage girl, and was in the process of trying to wrest sole custody of his daughter, probably so he could rape her.
Here’s an example of Joshua’s art, so you can see his skills. Perhaps with the right therapy, he might have been rehabilitated, but probably not. Josh didn’t get therapy, however, because his parents were devout Christians who felt the solution to problems could be found in prayer. Steven was also the father of two young children, although he’d spent most of his life either behind bars or on drug binges. He’d managed to stay sober for four years before flying off the handle. Like Josh, Steven had been having emotional problems since early childhood.
Aside from three violent deaths and two rapes, there are two other sad elements to this story. The police response is a scandal never properly addressed. The police established a perimeter around the home before anyone was killed, and had they gone immediately into the house everyone might have survived. But when the two perps realized the house was surrounded, they lost it. Steven went into a rage and strangled the mom for ratting them out at the bank. They poured gasoline on the two girls who were tied to their bed posts upstairs. Then they set a massive fire in the kitchen, got into their vehicle and tried to drive away, although they ended up ramming a police car while exiting the driveway. At that point, both girls were still alive, although police would soon hear screams from the upstairs. They seemed far more interested in catching perps than saving victims. A lawsuit could have been filed against the police for ineptitude, but that never happened because the family was more interested in getting “justice.”
If you understand In Cold Blood, you realize it’s a passionate plea to end all state-sanctioned murder, and fortunately that’s the direction our country is moving in. The two killers were willing to plead guilty and receive life imprisonment with no hope of parole to spare the agony of a long, protracted trial, but instead the state spent over $7 million to secure a death sentence. It’s eerie how hard the surviving family pushed for execution, believing it was needed to provide closure, when, in fact, closure only comes when survivors forgive perpetrators.
One of the children’s grandparents is a United Methodist minister who’s church has fervently opposed the death penalty for over 50 years, yet he also ended up fighting hard to get the two killers executed, something that will likely never happen, and it shouldn’t because an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.