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Cheshire Murders Trial Opens with Bank Teller's Testimony

Defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, faces the death penalty if convicted in the 2007 killing of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters.

In a packed courtroom full of media, the second trial in the Cheshire home invasion case began on Monday. Defendant Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, faces the death penalty for his role in the killing of a woman and her two daughters in 2007.

His co-defendant, Michael Hayes, was last year.

According to the Associated Press, Komisarjevsky's attorney said his client never intended to kill anyone during the home invasion and shifted blame to Hayes. Attorney Walter Bansley said in defense of his client:

"The evidence you are about to hear will shake your confidence in humanity. The deaths that occurred were senseless, unnecessary and tragic."

On the opening day of the trial, Dr. William Petit, the lone survivor of the attack sat in the front row of the courtroom. Nobody was in the space reserved for Komisarjevsky’s family, reports the New Haven Register.

The opening day of witness testimony at New Haven Superior Court brought forth details on how Jennifer Hawke-Petit, Dr. William Petit’s wife, was taken hostage.

Bank teller Kristin Makhzangi testified that Hawke-Petit went to the Bank of America in Cheshire's Maplecroft Plaza to withdraw $15,000 but was unable to provide the necessary ID to the teller. According to the Hartford Courant:

She told the teller she needed the money because two men were holding her family hostage. Makhzangi testified that she then called her bank manager, who approved getting Hawke-Petit the money after hearing about the hostage situation.

Hawke-Petit appeared calm overall, Makhzangi testified, but her hands were shaking.

The teller got approval to give Hawke-Petit the money. The bank manager called 9-1-1. The audio recording and bank surveillance footage was played in court for the jurors.

According to police, Komisarjevsky and Hayes forced their way into the Petit home on July 23, 2007, intending to rob them.

When they found Dr. Petit asleep on the couch, reports show they beat him with a baseball bat, tied him up and restrained him in the basement. Then, police say, the pair tied Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, to their beds, and forced Jennifer Hawke-Petit to make the bank withdrawal.

While Hayes drove Hawke-Petit to the bank, police said Komisarjevsky sexually assaulted Michaela. When Hayes returned, he sexually assaulted and strangled Hawke-Petit, police reports show.

When the two intruders discovered that Dr. Petit had escaped from the basement, according to police, they set fire to the house with gasoline and attempted to escape in the family car. But the pair were unable to elude police, who had been alerted by bank officials and had surrounded the house.

-Fred Musante contributed to this report.

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