Jul 27, 2008

Petit Family crimes: One Year Later | Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network

Petit Family Murders: One Year Later Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network

The link above brings you both a written transcript as well as an audio taping of a story that Public Radio recently aired about the demolition and subsequent renovation of
the Petit family property, into a memorial garden on Sorghum hill Rd in Cheshire.

The house, where the crimes occurred, had stood partially burned and empty for many months. I often thought of Dr Petit and the quandary that faced him in any decision to tear it down; On one hand, what was left of his home was
a sad visual reminder of the violence that took place there, resulting in the loss of his wife and daughters and a vicious assault upon his own body and psyche.
On the other hand, this was his family home for many years, a happy home by all accounts and as such, many good memories must also reside there.

As a spiritual person, I would say that the former Petit family homestead must carry a great deal of spiritual energy from the three special people who lived there and passed and ultimately I firmly believe that this would prevail over any negative energies from the crimes.

From all that I have heard from friends and family alike, Mrs hawke-Petit was an intelligent strong woman of character, who was also inordinately kind and compassionate.

Their eldest daughter Hayley would seem to have inherited the same combination of strength of character and a sensitive and giving nature. In fact the more that I read about Hayley, the more I learn just how uncannily mature this 17 year old girl really was-
Poetry is a very personal form of creative writing, it will often give the reader a peek into the inner most depths of the writers heart and soul. The following link takes us to a poem that Hayley wrote shortly before her death. She apparently wrote the poem for and about, a beloved coach who had mentored her . http://www.courant.com/services/newspaper/printedition/sports/hc-hayleypoem0715.artjul23,0,5047503.story
This young woman so clearly a remarkably sensitive and intelligent soul and this kind of presence, by its nature is eternal.
Little Michaela too at only eleven was also in possession of a myriad of traits that seperated her from most Her conscientous sensitivity was made quite clear on her internet facebook page where she quoted the likes of Mahatma Gandhi proclaiming; "You must Be the Change that you wish to see in this world" This kind of enlightenment is altogether uncommon for an 11 year old child.
Her quote, and the sentiment within, have become legendary as the Petit family foundation's
"Be The Change" logo and mission statement. Indeed, those three potent words have served as powerful impetus and fueled thousands to take more pro-active roles insofar as charitable endevours as a regular part of thier daily lives.

It is really no wonder that every visitor to the small park that now sits on the sorghum rd property, has found it to be a strikingly peaceful place, without a trace of anything sad or frightening, as some had feared.
It is a testament to the goodness of these three ladies, who even in death, continue to make this world a much better place.

Jul 22, 2008

Road Race Honoring Petits Draws over 3000

Today, a small rural town in Eastern Connecticut became a shining example
of humanity at its finest.
On display, the stalwart idealism and commitment of a wounded and proud community, that despite a deep and lingering pain, continue to draw a well-spring of good from the unconscionable evil that stole three of their own one year ago today.

3000 came to run and walk in the first ever Petit Family Foundation 5k Race day.
www.petitfamilyfoundation.org . Another 500 plus attended, despite oppressive heat and humidity in order to honor the memory of a gracious and giving family and to support the work of a foundation that not only carries their name, but their values and ideals... ever so lightly upon its shoulders.
Road Race Honoring Petits Draws 3,000 -- Courant.com

Jul 15, 2008

Road race participation boosts Petit foundation

This is a lovely article about the upcoming 5k race & fitness walk scheduled for this Sunday in Plain ville Connecticut- The event is benefiting The Petit Family foundation, started by Dr Bill Petit after the deaths of his wife and two children in a home invasion last July.

The foundation contributes to a wide array of excellent causes, including helping victims of violent crime and those who suffer with chronic illness.

The event is co sponsored by GE, Stanley and many other Ct companies and has drawn record applicants for any 5k race in State history- As the linked article intones, this is possibly the result of so many being struck with the desire to do "something" to show support for The Petit and Hawke families after the awful crimes that stole their loved ones nearly a year ago.

Many of those signing up at the pre-registration related that they were thus inspired by Dr Petits now infamous memorial speech for his slain family last July, in which he gave an emotional plea to follow the example of the three wonderful women and" live with a faith that embodies action; help a neighbor, love your family, fight for a cause."

These heartfelt words indeed would seem to have inspired a state-wide movement -of -sorts; record numbers of people performing good works through activism, which only continues to grow upon itself and serves as an iron clad example that we can rise above hate, violence and injustice, and together thus defeat them.

Jul 10, 2008

Hawke Family Question Police Actions In Petit Murders

Hawke Parents Question Police Efforts In Petit Slayings -- Courant.com

There is good deal of understandable frustration and regrets for the Hawke family over the Cheshire Police depts handling of their loved one's murders last July.
I know that many people familiar with the details of the Petit crimes have done the what-if's a hundred times over the sequence of events that occurred on the morning of these murders.

I myself have had a good many sleepless nights wondering why the Police rescue wasn't handled differently, always playing out alternate scenarios with happier endings. As such, one can only imagine what the immediate family's burden has been with these same tortuous realizations.

Of course we all have the benifit of hindsight now, and the Cheshire Police did not, and were responding as they were trained to do, given the information they had up until that point.
That said, It clearly was not the response neccessary to save the lives of the Petit mom and her children.

After reading the recent articles about the Hawke family letters to The Cheshire Police department and Prosecutor, regarding the Polices handling of that fateful morning-- I had an important remembrance; Just after the crimes occurred last summer I was reading an article about a Dateline episode covering the crimes, and within the comments section there was a very interesting write- in, regarding the police's handling of the Petit hostage situation on the morning of those crimes.
It was by a Police strategist of some kind and he'd written very pointedly and intelligently about why and how the police mishandled the situation, and went on to explain that many small town Police departments desperately needed to be trained in these varying types of hostage situations, for this very reason. There was no judgement of The Cheshire Police, but rather an experienced summation of how and why this happened ; The way that most Police departments are trained to deal with anything resembling a hostage situation and the inherent probelms with following one basic protocal of calling in a swat team and the time- consuming setting up of perimeters etc.

This made tremendous sense to me at the time and I can recall tucking the information away in my brain to be followed up on when all the people involved had a chance to heal just a bit.

This week With the advent of the articles about the Hawke family's pained and unanswered questions regarding the handling of thier family members lives, I see that now is that time...
I am certain that the hawke family would derive comfort in at least knowing that nothing like this is ever likely to happen again due to police unpreparedness. And please Let me be clear on this; I cannot fault any one member of the Cheshire Police Dept. as they were each acting under orders, as they must, in order to maintain a working unit.
I also know that many officers at the scene that day were deeply disturbed by the course of the crimes and felt that they should have done more-but there hands were tied by orders.. I am certain that those regrets still linger to this day and may for thier lifetimes.

This is a complex and painful issue, but one that must be addressed to ensure that we are never ill prepared for a situation like this where lives hang in the balance.

After scouring the Internet, I found the original article as well as the comment with the authors name and when clicking upon his name one is brought to the site below which is a Police training Company which specializes in handling high risk and hostage type situations, where the need for immediate intervention separates them from others, ie where the standard protocol which is to set up perimeters and so forth, eats up valuable time, which the victims may not have.

I propose that we begin the process of urging our Legislators to fund this type of training for each Police dept within this state. Or at the very least one dept per a certain geograp[hical area, so that each town in the state has a department close enough to come in swiftly should anything resembling this occcur again.
Once again If as a people and a government we can learn from this set of crimes, other lives will be saved in the future.

The italicized text below is the comment by the Police strategist Rick Armellino

Thank you Dateline for the accurate accounting of this tragedy. There is a little more to this story that has so far been unreported.

Many people may wonder why the police first responders did not initiate an immediate rescue of this family once they were on the premises. Training and equipping police officers to improve response to armed invasions is my profession. The web address below will direct you to a police column I author which discusses the problems with traditional police responses that require "containment" of a dangerous situation rather than entry into the hazardous environment to assist innocents trapped inside a structure.

The horrific tragedy that occurred to the Petit's may have been partially averted if first responders were authorized, trained and equipped to make fast entry into the structure to quickly help those trapped on the inside.

Over 70% of our nation's police agencies (especially those located in residential suburbia) DO NOT ALLOW first responders to practice a police procedure named "Immediate Action Rapid Deployment" (IARD).

The Petit incident is only one of many examples where local political and police leaders have failed to keep up with changing technology and tactics to vastly improve assistance to endangered citizens.

Bureaucracies rarely improve on their own, they need pressure from the outside. Only concerned citizens and the media asking hard questions will improve local police response services to those endangered by society's predators

Comment written by Rick armellino Aug 2007 within dateline web-story
"'knocking on doors in Cheshire Ct"

Jul 8, 2008

GE 5kRoad Race for Petit Family Foundation

A reminder that the 5k Road race, which is raising money for the Petit family foundation- is coming up on July 20th. There will be a separate run for children under eight, as well as a 1.3 mile "fitness walk" for those who wish to participate who are not neccesarily long-distance runners.

Winners and awards will be given at a Post race ceremony which will include refreshments and activities. The race, sponsored by GE, Stanley and a gaggle of other Connecticut based companies will be raising money for the Petit Family Foundation, which donates to M.S research and people affected by violent crime, among other excellent causes.

The foundation was set up by Dr William Petit after the violent series of crimes that took the lives of his wife and two children last July.

The entire state of Connecticut has been deeply affected by these crimes and the local support and charitable effort in the Petit and Hawke family names continues to be steadfast, this nearly one year after the crimes occurred.

There have been multiple memorials and honorariums raising both money and awareness for different charities over the past 12 months, each organized with the core intention of keeping the Petit women and children's memory and spirit of activism alive, and in the forefront of our collective conscience.

Since the judge that is presiding over the criminal case has placed a gag order on those involved in the case, little has been written in the traditional press re the crimes and the ongoing criminal cases since the order took effect in October 07.

There has however been a great deal of attention and debate over the States woefully ineffective criminal justice system, which in retrospect, clearly aided and abetted these crimes in happening.

The Connecticut legislature, urged by Governor Rell, convened in a special emergency session addressing judicial reform in January and managed to pass some immediate judicial reform bills, but not without a fair amount of dissent and grumbling by some state legislators as well as members of the appropriations committee, the latter lamenting the costs to the state and debating the neccesity.

The general assembly met again in their regular session early May and passed a snaller number of crime reform bills, including a persistent offender law that is more likely to actually be used than the convoluted version that has stood largely unused by prosecutors, since its inception years ago. A publiclly supported tho hotly contested version of the three strikes law did not pass muster within the senate or house,leaving minortiy republicans and the Governor very dissapointed and vowing to redress the issue.

Dr Petit has made it clear that he wishes to focus on who his family members were and what they stood for during their lives, rather than the focusing upon the senseless violence of their deaths.
In this way it seems that he may restore them to a positive place in his and our memory, rather than their being forever relegated to "victims"

Area Connecticut residents have honored this and responded sensitively-with events running the gamut from a area-wide candlelight display, basketball and golf fund raiser, the former organized by friends of Haley Petit, who at 17 was an avid basketball player and fan.

And recently, Cheshire, Plainville and Litchfield were among several towns where Volunteers turned out in record amounts for the annual "MS walk", an event that was a yearly tradition for the Petit clan.

This year, friends of the Petit children organized and sponsored walk groups in the Petits name and helped the area to raise record funds for the MS Society, a charity in which the whole family was involved with since Jennifer Hawke Petit was diagnosed with the disease at age forty.

See the link above and below for details regarding the upcoming Race.
You may pre-register for the race and the fitness walk via the race Website, although same day registration is also available, beginning 2 hours prior to the start of the Race.
Pre- race registrars and the first 100 same day counterparts will receive Race day T-shirts commemorating the event.

Jul 6, 2008


Please be advised that the accompanying article contains some graphic and upsetting details regarding a young victim's fight for her life after being sexually assaulted and tortured then left to die in her off- campus apartment at columbia university, just last year.

I linked to this story because I vividly remembered when it happened-I was at once deeply disturbed over the horrific brutality involved in the crime and then, so moved by this young girls courage and will to live during the course of such a nightmare.

The memory of this story never left me (how could it?) and So to now read about this same woman now transcending the gap between victim and survivor--summoning that same extrordinary courage, to now testify against her rapist/torturer, all in an effort to insure that he never again harm another woman....This is what I call a hero.

Jul 1, 2008

Deadly Home Invasion Leads To New Laws in Connecticut - NYTimes.com

Hallelujah! Now lets see to it that our prosecutors and judges begin to use these sentencing laws to increase prison terms for violent crime and in doing so help prevent these offenders from harming more innocent people in the future.

The state of Connecticut now faces the crucial second phase of making certain that these new sentencing laws are not rendered near useless via our courts continued use of the plea bargain model as their primary means of adjudicating violent criminal cases.

What This means is that the violent felony charges that are eligible for the repeat offender rule, all violent crime charges (including home invasions that occur at night time here in Ct ) historically wind up routinely dropped down one level or more within plea deals, and once dropped down a level they fall out of eligibility for the repeat offender status. The repeat offender rule is concerned with the criminal charge that an offender is convicted of, not charged with and herein lies the problem of this kind of sentencing law.

The state of Connecticut Plea bargains approximately 96 percent of all its criminal cases,
a rather high proportion even in a country where plea bargaining has become the resolution of choice in many courtrooms, as opposed to pursuing a trial to determine guilt of the original charges. And thus, what began as a serious violent felony and in fact was a serious violent felony will almost always be reduced to either a lesser felony... or more often merely a misdemeanor.

This means that the end result will be that particular criminal's conviction record will only bear the results of that plea bargain, rather than what he or she was actually charged with, and more importantly-committed.
This is a double whammy of danger to the law abiding people of this state.

Another pertinent consideration in all of this is that most violent criminal cases involve multiple charges, one criminal event, but several laws broken within the commission of that criminal act. Ie Both defendants in the Petit crimes had histories of arrests with numerous charges per arrest. Now in this situation, one or more those multiple charges will be dropped completely, within the same plea bargain "process" described above. Poof , that charge is simply gone. Usually we'll only come to know about it when this same offender committs murder down the road and all of his arrest records are dredged up.

This is not the exception in Connecticut courts-it is the rule.

Statistically it is more than one charge that is dropped outright . And In the case of both defendants in the Petit murders, their litany of life time criminal convictions did not include several serious charges of which they were charged upon arrest; In one case ILLEGAL Gun possession, in another resisting arrest and a smattering of robbery charges were dropped for no apparent reason other than " THE DEAL"

The prosecutors office will invariably try to plea bargain a case rather than have to prepare for a time consuming trial. This way they will still obtain some kind of conviction" albeit charges and corresponding sentences for much less serious crimes than were actually committed. Its basically a compromise between prosecutor and the defendant's attorney-be it public defender or private.

The problems with plea bargaining violent crime are obvious but in situations where the original charges are eligible for repeat offender status these issues become augmented ten-fold;
each and every one of a criminal's serious charges have become diluted down as to no longer fall under the repeat offender statute,time and time again, rendering the repeat offender law pretty much moot within our Connecticut courts depending on the whim or conscience of the prosecutors office in charge of the case.

The answer lies in affording some kind of consistent accountability for our Connecticut prosecutors actions within the sea of plea bargains given to violent criminals every year.
For years I' ve been told there has existed an unspoken directive from somewhere high above our courts to only incarcerate the worst of the worst, our prisons were bulging with no relief in sight-other than to build another prison and that is another quandary with another set of problems for the state, not least withstanding, monetary. I cannot help but think that our judicial system could save money by handling non violent crimes in a less punitive manner ie avoid incarceration for crimes that are not pre-cursors to violence or further violence.

In any event It's clear that we need to bring some fresh thinking into our state's criminal courts. I believe that for our citizenry to be properly protected, our judicial system in Connecticut needs an overhaul in how they view and deal with violent crime. This must include the dismantling of the plea bargain model as the auto pilot choice for processing our states most serious crimes. This will mean hiring many more prosecutors and the re-training of existing prosecutors in becoming more trial ready.

If the crimes have yet to involve loss of life , it would seem that our state is too ready to deal even in instances of serious violence and even sex crimes that are often pre-cursors to These types of crimes often pinpoint criminal personality types that will often escalate to murder or at the very least- further violence.

This is an awesome responsibility in which our state has bungled badly in the past. It has only now come to the general public's attention because it has ended three times in one year in brutal loss of life to innocent citizens. There have been many, many other cases of violent criminals being sentenced irresponsibly with perhaps less drastic results, but always, there is a victim suffering at the nucleus of these crimes, as well other people at risk of becoming victims to this same offender, who was not sentenced or paroled responsibly.

I propose that we keep an eye and pressure on our courts and our legislators to make certain that they finish the good work they began back in January and May sessions. The actual implementation of these sentencing laws now rests within our Connecticut courts. We've had other sentencing laws that were admittedly never used in the past. We must stop the methods that have been proven to dis-serve the people of this state and learn from our tragic missteps of the past.

Deadly Home Invasion Leads To New Laws in Connecticut - NYTimes.com