EW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut man facing a possible death sentence for killing a mother and her two daughters in a gruesome home invasion admitted he had molested his sister when he was nearly 12, his mother testified Thursday.
Jude Komisarjevsky said her son Joshua initially denied it, but ultimately admitted during a tense family meeting that he had molested his younger sister.
"Josh ultimately said 'OK, OK, I did it," she testified during the sentencing phase of her son's trial.
Komisarjevsky was convicted on Oct. 13 of capital felony killing, kidnapping, arson and sexual assault for killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, who died of smoke inhalation after the house was doused in gas and set on fire. The same jury must now decide whether he should get life in prison or the death penalty.
His accomplice, Steven Hayes, was sentenced to death last year after he was convicted of raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and killing the girls.
Komisarjevsky's defense attorneys say his devoutly religious family opposed traditional psychological counseling and medication that could have helped Komisarjevsky. The defense says Komisarjevsky himself was molested when he was a young child by a foster teen that they took into the home.
His mother admitted she was concerned the state could break up her family and take the children away. The family adopted Komisarjevsky as an infant.
She said on the witness stand that "there is a place for counseling" but she couldn't recall if the family confided in anyone outside the home. She expressed concern that any counselor would blame the family's religion.
She said her daughter was cutting herself after the abuse but ultimately forgave her brother.
Jude Komisarjevsky said her son denied he was molested by the foster teen. Her husband, Benedict, testified earlier that his wife told him Joshua and his siblings were sexually abused by the teen.
The defense says Komisarjevsky suffered a series of concussions starting around age 9 that changed his personality. His mother said he was caught peeping in a neighbor's window and stealing panties after that.
Komisarjevsky was hospitalized when he was 15 after setting a vacant gas station on fire. He was having homicidal thoughts about his devoutly religious father and had upside-down crosses on his arms and a marking declaring Jesus is dead, according to a hospital evaluation.
The hospital wanted to put him on Prozac and other treatment, but his parents were uncomfortable with medication and sent him to a religious residential treatment program instead.
Benedict Komisarjevsky testified that he didn't know his son was that angry. He knew he had markings on his arms but didn't know the details.
Benedict Komisarjevsky testified earlier that he was opposed to his son receiving medication.
But he told jurors Thursday that the state should have helped his family with the issues that arose after the boy was molested as a young child or told him what help was available. Komisarjevsky said he was not blaming the state for his son's crime.
Komisarjevsky said his son's young daughter had to be relocated after a threatening letter arrived at his house addressed to her after the crime. He said he used to bring the girl to see her father in prison for earlier crimes, but his son has not seen his daughter since the home invasion more than four years ago.
Komisarjevsky said he continues to visit his son in prison every two weeks. He said his son spends his time drawing, reading and studying Latin.
"We haven't been able to touch him in four years," he said.
Under cross-examination, he said he tried to provide his son a good home and took him on nice vacations. He also said his daughter turned out fine even though she was molested as well and raised in the same religious household.
Jude Komisarjevsky described numerous photos the defense showed to jurors of Komisarjevsky as a baby and young child eating popcorn, standing next to his birthday cake, putting on his father's clothes around Christmas and playing on a toy horse. Prosecutors objected several times and at one point the judge suggested the number of photos might be "overkill."
Jude Komisarjevsky later broke down crying as she described a collage of photos her son did as a child.
Prosecutors brought up Joshua Komisarjevsky's earlier convictions for 19 nighttime residential burglaries and noted that a judge at the time called him a "calculating cold-blooded predator."
The home invasion occurred days after Komisarjevsky's electronic bracelet was removed.