updated 10/05/2010 AT 1:15 PM ET
•originally published 10/05/2010 AT 1:20 PM ET
After only a few hours of deliberation, a Connecticut jury found Steven Hayes, a former parolee with a long history as a petty criminal, guilty of killing Dr. William Petit Jr’s. wife and two daughters in a 2007 home invasion.
The verdict capped four weeks of testimony, much of it centered around descriptions and photographs of how the Petit women died. The testimony and evidence were so graphic that family members had to leave the courtroom.
Outside the courthouse after the verdict was read Dr. Petit told reporters he feels “some relief.” But he added, “My family is still gone. It doesn’t bring them back. It doesn’t bring back the home that we had but certainly a guilty verdict is a better sense of relief than a verdict of not guilty.”
Hayes was found guilty on 16 out of 17 counts: The only charge he was found not guilty of was arson, reports the New Haven Register. Of those crimes for which he was found guilty, six make him eligible for the death penalty.
Dr. Petit himself testified about how he awoke in the middle of the night to find blood streaming down his face – from being hit in the head with a baseball bat – and two intruders in his home .
Hayes, 47, and Joshua Komiserjevsky, 30, are accused of holding the Petit family hostage for hours before setting the house on fire. Dr. Petit’s wife, Jennifer-Hawke-Petit, 47, was strangled to death. Their daughters, Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17, died of smoke inhalation.
Komiserjevsky goes on trial for the crimes next year.
Next, the case will head into the penalty phase, which could take up to two months. The prosecution will present reasons why Hayes should die and his defense attorneys will try to convince the jury he shouldn’t be subject to the death penalty. Dr. Petit is expected to testify again, but this time as a victim, not a witness.
Legal experts say Hayes’s attorneys will have a tough time saving their client’s life. “The defense’s only hope is if someone snuck on the jury who is adamantly opposed to the death penalty no matter what,” Hugh Keefe, a prominent Connecticut criminal defense attorney, told PEOPLE.
Richard Brown, another prominent defense attorney in Connecticut, agreed. “I don’t think there s anything I could say or do to get beyond those photographs and that testimony, he says. “That’s how powerful that is.”