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Petit Family Murders: One Year Later
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Flower Garden Taking Shape In Cheshire: Photo by Michael Kodas of the Hartford CourantFlower Garden Taking Shape In Cheshire: Photo by Michael Kodas of the Hartford CourantToday marks the one-year anniversary of the Cheshire home invasion that ended with the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters last July. The murders prompted stronger criminal justice laws at the capitol and community action in Cheshire.

One year after Cheshire police apprehended parolees Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, the two still await trial on charges of capital murder, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, and arson. Prosecutors say that the two men broke into the home of Dr. William Petit, Jr. on July 23, 2007, where they severely beat Dr. Petit, assaulted and held his family hostage and demanded a large sum of money before setting the house on fire.

Dr. Petit was able to escape the home, but his wife Jennifer, and their daughters Hayley and Michaela were murdered.

The case prompted Connecticut lawmakers to pass legislation this year creating a full time Board of Pardons and Paroles, which will now include a staff psychologist. Legislators also approved new funding for state criminal justice agencies and created a new law designating home invasion as a class A felony.

There’s no longer a home at 300 Sorghum Mill Drive, where the Petit family lived a year ago. Dr. Petit had the house torn down last month. Despite early rain, neighbors gathered on the corner lot to help build a garden and memorial for the family and the neighborhood.

Sue Clarke lives adjacent to the Petit property and she and her son were there to help with the planting. She says the new view out her window is already healing.

“Now that I’m here, I was afraid to walk on the property, to be honest with you. We’ve all been so ambivalent and frightened but it’s wonderful to be here. It’s so healing and so positive. It’s full of colors and walkways and benches and the trellis and an arbor. It’s going to be full of color and beauty and peace and life.”

Clarke says she hopes the site will become a positive place for the community of Cheshire, a living memorial to celebrate three beautiful lives.