NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) – The mother of a Connecticut man facing a possible death sentence for a brutal fatal home invasion broke down crying Friday as she told jurors her son was raped as a teenager and described her frantic efforts to save him after his behavior changed dramatically.
Jude Komisarjevsky said her son Joshua had run away when he was nearly 15 and when he came home, he looked transformed.
“There was tremendous pain in his expression,” she said. “His eyes were absolutely dead.”
Komisarjevsky was convicted of killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in their Cheshire home in July 2007. The girls died of smoke inhalation after the house was doused in gas and set on fire.
He faces life in prison or the death penalty. His accomplice, Steven Hayes, is on death row.
The defense filed a motion to subpoena Komisarjevsky’s 9-year-old daughter to testify, possibly by videotape. An attorney for the girl filed a motion to quash the subpoena, and a hearing is planned next week.
His mother, testifying during the sentencing phase of her son’s trial, said she didn’t know at the time what happened, but noticed her son grew angry and had satanic symbols in his room along with the words “death, die and suicide.” She said she learned years later from her son _ when he was in prison _ that he was raped by someone he trusted.
But under cross-examination, prosecutors showed a police report on the incident that made no mention of satanic symbols and asked whether her son could have been under the influence of drugs. Komisarjevsky’s mother also said she was describing an incident weeks earlier.
Prosecutors also said Komisarjevsky’s defense cited the same incident a decade ago as a possibly contributing factor to 19 burglaries he committed.
Joshua Komisarjevsky was hospitalized a short time later after he set a vacant gas station on fire. The psychiatric hospital recommended he be medicated, but his mother said she was concerned about the drug’s effects and that her son would abuse it.
“I wouldn’t give that to an enemy,” she said. “I’ve seen the effects of it.”
The hospital also wanted to put Komisarjevsky in a program, but his mother said there were insufficient details. She also said they suggested the family give up her son for foster care.
“We weren’t giving him up, we were dedicated to him,” she said.
Jude Komisarjevsky said she packed suitcases and took her son to New Hampshire to get him into a religious residential treatment program.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen, but we were going to save Josh,” she said, sobbing.
The defense says Komisarjevsky’s deeply religious family opposed psychological counseling or medications that could have helped him. The defense says he was raped for years as a child by a foster teen the family took into their home.
Jude Komisarkevsky also described an incident when her son was about 16.
“He said he saw demons and they were after him,” she said.
His mother said she couldn’t recall a probation officer recommending her son get a psychiatric evaluation and counseling.
Under cross-examination, she said her son may have had pending court cases when he claimed to see demons.
The defense also showed a series of letters Komisarjevsky wrote to his mother in 1999 after he joined the Army Reserves. He said he was doing well and thanked her for instilling discipline in him.
“Prayer really does work,” he wrote. “I’m finding things work out better when you do it God’s way.”
His mother said her son went through cycles of progress followed by setbacks apparently caused by depression.
“He said because I’m not really worth anything good,” she said, crying.
The family’s pastor, John Bubar, testified earlier that Komisarjevsky was smart and caring as a teenager, but he admitted he saw only one side of him and was heartbroken by the crime.
Bubar said Komisarjevsky was so smart he could take apart and reassemble engines. He said he would volunteer to help others, such as the time he cut his firewood.
But under cross-examination, he described the home invasion as “horrible” and said he was heartbroken for Komisarjevsky and Dr. William Petit, the victims’ husband and father and the sole survivor of the attack.
Prosecutor Michael Dearington reminded jurors that Komisarjevsky was convicted within a few years of 19 nighttime residential burglaries.
Komisarjevsky’s mother detailed Christian materials she used to home-school her son. The materials focused heavily on the importance of scripture, moral purity, idolatry and, on a section on rebellion, referred to Satan’s downfall.
Komisarjevsky’s uncle, Chris, attended the trial Friday and said he and his wife talked to the Petit family “to express our sorrow and to apologize for this horrible crime.”
“We support them 100 percent,” said his wife, Reina. “Wonderful people.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)