CHESHIRE—A judge getting ready to send Joshua Komisarjevsky to prison in 2002 called him a "cold, calculating predator.''
Equipped with night-vision goggles and armed with a knife, he would slash his way through screens into houses around his hometown of Cheshire, stealing mostly electronic equipment and petty cash to pay for a drug habit.
Steven Hayes had a record more noteworthy for its length than the severity of the crimes -- decades of larcenies, burglaries and check forgeries. Hayes committed most of his crimes in the northwest corner, near his home in Winsted -- far from Sorghum Mill Drive in Cheshire, where the horrific events that landed him back in court played out early Monday.
The two met in Hartford in 2006, at a residential drug treatment center, and then again in a halfway house where they lived for nearly five months.
This spring, Komisarjevsky and Hayes, listed as nonviolent offenders by the state Department of Correction, were both paroled -- Komisarjevsky, 26, released in April, and Hayes, 44, in May.
On Tuesday they appeared together again, this time in Superior Court in Meriden to face a litany of charges stemming from a home invasion that left a mother and her two daughters dead and a community in shock.
Although it is still unclear why they chose the home of Dr. William Petit Jr., one thing is certain, police say: The "calculating predator'' and the career criminal descended to a level of violence that is almost unfathomable.
When the ordeal was over, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters, Hayley Petit, 18, and Michaela Petit, 11, were dead. The girls, sources said, were tied to their beds and raped, then left to burn after gasoline was poured around their beds and ignited.
Late Tuesday, the state medical examiner's office said Hawke-Petit was strangled and her daughters died of smoke inhalation. Their deaths were ruled homicides.
William Petit was beaten almost beyond recognition with a baseball bat, tied up in the basement and left for dead, only to make his way out of the house and to a neighbor before his home exploded into flames.
Komisarjevsky and Hayes were arraigned Tuesday. Each is charged with aggravated sexual assault, arson, robbery, kidnapping and risk of injury to a minor. Komisarjevsky was also charged with felony assault, possibly in connection with William Petit's beating. Bail for each was set at $15 million, and they are being held.
Authorities are believed to be considering whether to bring murder and capital felony charges against both men, which would make them eligible for the death penalty.
William Petit is recovering at St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury.
"Our precious family members have been the victims of horrible, senseless, violent assaults. We are understandably in shock and overwhelmed with sadness as we attempt to gather to support one another and recognize these wonderful, giving, beautiful individuals who have been so cruelly taken,'' the Petit family said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Komisarjevsky lived 2 miles from the victims' home in Cheshire. His parent's house at 840 N. Brooksvale Road is a small, 1 1/2-story bungalow with an overgrown front yard and children's toys -- a rocking horse and a plastic slide -- on the side.
Associates of the family said Komisarjevsky has a 5-year-old daughter, Jayda, who has been living with him and his parents. An older man was seen carrying a small child into the house Tuesday afternoon followed by several police detectives. Komisarjevsky's family released a brief statement later:
"This is an absolute tragedy. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the Petit family (and all those whose lives they touched). We cannot understand what would have made something like this happen. There is nothing else we can say at this time.''
State police detectives and members of the state fire marshal's office combed through the Petit home all day Tuesday, and new details of what happened inside emerged.
William Petit may have confronted the burglars shortly after they broke in, sources said.