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Home Invasion Suspects Appear In Court

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Home Invasion Suspects Appear In Court

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBS) ― Under heavy security, two suspects in a deadly burglary and arson that left three people dead and rocked the suburban town of Cheshire last month appeared in court briefly Tuesday to face a slew of charges.

Joshua Komisarjevsky, 26, of Cheshire, and Steven Hayes, 44, of Winsted, did not enter pleas and spoke only to answer yes or no questions. A judge set a probable cause hearing for Sept. 18.

Streets near New Haven Superior Court were closed off and police presence was heavy as the two suspects arrived Tuesday morning. In the courtroom, they were monitored by members of a Department of Corrections special operations team wearing fatigues and heavy black vests.

The two have been held on $15 million bond since July 23, when they allegedly took the Petit family hostage, killing 48-year-old Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11.

The state medical examiner said Hawke-Petit, who was taken to a bank and forced to withdraw money during the ordeal, was strangled. The girls died from smoke inhalation after the family home was set ablaze.

The lone survivor, Dr. William Petit Jr., was badly beaten but managed to escape. He did not attend Tuesday's hearing.

Police presence was heavy around New Haven Superior Court on Tuesday morning. Petit family members filled two rows reserved for them in the packed courtroom. A man was escorted from the courtroom after he yelled "killer" as Komisarjevsky faced the judge. Otherwise, the brief hearing was quiet.

Family members issued a statement but did not speak to reporters.

"We understand that these men being arraigned have committed horrific acts of violence against our beloved family members, and that because those acts also violate numerous laws the state has a responsibility to hold these individuals accountable for what they have done," the statement said.

State's Attorney Michael Dearington, who is prosecuting Komisarjevsky and Hayes, said in a statement that Tuesday's proceeding was the first step in a long legal process.

"Our thoughts and sympathy are with Dr. Petit and family members," he said.

Jeremiah Donovan, the attorney appointed to represent Komisarjevsky as a special public defender, acknowledged the challenge of working on such a high-profile case.

"I myself live with a beloved wife and two lovely daughters, but I'm going to defend Joshua with all the ability and all the vigor that I might have," he said. "The court expects that of me. The prosecutor certainly expects that of me, and I think the people of Connecticut expect it of me. If I do that, then whatever result is reached in this case, I think we can be confident it will be reached with due deliberation, fairness and justice."

Komisarjevsky and Hayes, who met in a halfway house and were on parole when the crime occurred, are charged with capital felony, kidnapping, sexual assault, assault, burglary, robbery, arson, larceny and risk of injury to children. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

Charles Turnier, whose home had been burglarized by Komisarjevsky in 2002, said that police told him that Komisarjevsky had been watching his family for days before the crime.

"When police questioned him, he told them he studied our routine by hiding in the bushes. He knew when my wife left the home," Turnier told CBS affiliate WFSB-TV.

The incident has raised concerns about the state's parole system. As nonviolent offenders, both men served more than the required 50 percent of their sentences needed to be considered for parole. State officials said Komisarjevsky served nearly 60 percent of his sentence when he was paroled in April. Hayes served about 75 percent of his sentence on burglary charges before being released in May.

(© 2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)