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Connecticut town finds hope, healing 10 years after gruesome Petit family murders

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By Kelly Terez

Stephen Dunn/Hartford Courant/MCT via Getty Images(CHESHIRE, Conn.) — This weekend marks 10 years since a horrific crime shocked a suburban Connecticut town. In the middle of the night on July 23, 2007, two men broke into a house in Cheshire, killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters and setting the house on fire. Only the victims’ husband and father, Dr. William Petit Jr., escaped alive.

That July day was “the single worst day I’ve ever had in 40 years of municipal government,” Michael Malone, who was Cheshire town manager then and still is today, told ABC News Thursday. “I can still vividly remember that day. It was horrible. It was surreal. I felt like I was sleepwalking.”

Tragedy in Cheshire

The tragedy in Cheshire began when one of the killers targeted Hawke-Petit, 48, who had multiple sclerosis, and her youngest daughter, 11-year-old Michaela, at the grocery store. He followed the pair home unbeknownst to them and later returned to the house at night with a second man to break in, according to testimony.

Dr. Petit was asleep in the sun room when the attackers smashed his head with a baseball bat and then tied him up in the basement.

The attackers next bound Michaela and her 17-year-old sister, Hayley, to their beds, and in the morning, one of the intruders drove Hawke-Petit to a bank to withdraw money.

Hawke-Petit and the intruder then returned to the home, where the mother and her 11-year-old daughter were sexually assaulted. Hawke-Petit was strangled to death, according to testimony. Hayley and Michaela died of smoke inhalation, according to testimony.

Petit, still bound in the basement, managed to free his hands, and hop up the stairs and out the front door, according to testimony.

“My heart felt like it was beating 200 beats per minute,” he later testified at Hayes’ 2011 trial, “like it was going to explode out of my chest.”

Somehow, he said, he crawled, then rolled to a neighbor’s house. Doctors said later Petit had lost as much as seven pints of blood. He said his neighbor didn’t even recognize him at first because he was so bloody.

Police surrounded the area, but Komisarjevsky and Hayes were still able to flee the scene. The men were caught on the street.

In the aftermath, authorities faced criticism for not rushing into the house during the ordeal, but “police did what they were trained to do,” Malone told ABC News Thursday. A police captain said at trial that standard procedure was followed.

“Still to this day some people blame us, blame the police,” he said, “and they do it in a very hateful way … with profanity-laced hate email.”

A town recovered and giving back

Now, 10 years later, the town of Cheshire has “really fully recovered and put this behind them,” Malone said. “But [the town] has never forgotten it because as a result of this tragedy, a couple of pretty significant charitable organizations have sprung up.”

One of those organizations is Cheshire’s Lights of Hope, started by Cheshire resident Jenifer Walsh and her husband. Walsh told ABC News earlier this week that after the tragedy “people in the town were so devastated by it and everybody wanted to help,” so she and her husband hoped to bring the town together.

Walsh said the purpose of Cheshire’s Lights of Hope, which hosts an annual event that places luminaries on each street in town, is to bring people together so neighbors know each other.

“The neighbors of the Petits didn’t know this was going in the middle of the night on their street,” she said. “Half the time everyone is so busy in their own little world … you just wave to your neighbors, you don’t even know your neighbors.”

Each of the town’s streets participates in the event every year, lining the roads with lights, Walsh said.

Malone said the sight of the luminaries is “incredible” and called them a “reminder of hope and the message that Dr. Petit had presented when we had a memorial service for his family.”

According to the Hartford Courant, Petit said at an emotional memorial days after the killings, “Help a neighbor. Fight for a cause. … Love your family.”

Malone said Cheshire’s Lights of Hope truly has fought for a cause as Petit wanted by providing “financial support for so many nonprofits in this town, many in the name of the Petits.”

The first year after the tragedy, Cheshire’s Lights of Hope raised money to help the Petit family, but the organization has since become a nonprofit, turning its focus away from the crime and toward the needs of the town, Walsh said. The organization donates to town needs including social services, the food pantry and scholarships, Walsh said, with some money still going to the Petit family.

“Some people think we do it every year because it’s for the Petits … but it’s not really about that anymore,” Walsh said. “It’s focusing back on the whole town, which is what Dr. Petit wanted.”

A survivor moves forward

Komisarjevsky and Hayes were convicted in the killings and are serving life in prison. Outside the courthouse after Hayes’ guilty verdict in 2011, Petit said of his decision to attend court throughout the trial, “if your family was destroyed by evil I think that you would all try to do the same thing and be there for your family. It’s the one thing that you can do.”

“There is some relief,” Petit said of the guilty verdict, “but my family is still gone. It doesn’t bring them back. It doesn’t bring back the home that we had.”

“We did our best to keep our faith in God that justice would be served,” he added.

After the tragedy Dr. Petit re-married, and he now has a …read more

Source:: National News

      

Governor Abbott Announces Growing Support For Legislation Prohibiting Use Of Taxpayer Dollars To Collect Union Dues

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By lauren.mccanse@gov.texas.gov Governor Greg Abbott today announced that his call for legislation that prohibits both state and local governments from deducting union dues from public employees’ paychecks is generating growing support across Texas. Governor Greg Abbott today announced that his call for legislation that prohibits both state and local governments from deducting union dues from public employees’ paychecks is generating growing support across Texas. Prohibiting the use of taxpayer dollars to fund the collection of union dues is part of the Governor’s 20-item agenda for the ongoing special legislative session.

“It is unconscionable that public entities would collect dues and PAC funds from their employees to fund unions that turn around and use that money to lobby the public entity and elect public servants. If unions cannot survive without public assistance, it is because the union is not adding value for its members. The practice of public entities collecting union dues must be stopped.” – Jon Fisher, President, Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas.

“We know that those funds are used to push policies that undermine job providers in Texas, and in some cases, used to fund campaigns against individual businesses. Our NFIB/Texas small business members are already at a disadvantage when it comes to burdensome regulations. We don’t need our government giving labor unions even more of a leg up. We applaud the Governor for standing up for small business and working to preserve the Texas business-friendly environment for all.” – Annie Spilman, Legislative Director, National Federation of Independent Business – Texas

“The state of Texas currently collects membership dues for private organizations such as labor unions. This is not an appropriate role of government and we are proud to stand alongside Governor Abbott to remove state government from this practice in the upcoming special session.” – Jerome Greener, State Director, Americans for Prosperity – TX

”Despite Texas being a Right to Work state, the Foundation’s research has identified numerous state policies that favor unions over workers, employers, and taxpayers – including allowing state and local governments to serve as dues collectors for unions. This is not the proper role of government and Texas should join with other states that have prohibited this and require unions make private arrangements with their members like most other organizations.” – Bill Peacock, Vice President of Research, Texas Public Policy Foundation

…read more

Source:: Office of the Governor

      

Governor Abbott Announces Growing Support For Abortion-Complication Reporting Legislation

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By lauren.mccanse@gov.texas.gov Governor Greg Abbott today announced that his call to improve abortion-complication reporting is generating growing support across Texas. Governor Greg Abbott today announced that his call to improve abortion-complication reporting is generating growing support across Texas. Improving abortion-complication reporting is part of the Governor’s 20-item agenda for the ongoing special legislative session.

“We are especially excited to work with Governor Abbott to reform the reporting of abortion complications, ensuring that Texas continues to lead the nation in protecting women seeking abortion, based on the most accurate data.” – Kyleen Wright, President, Texans for Life

“Transparency in government is good policy. To stop efforts to hide important information from the public, we support strong reporting requirements when abortions are performed.” – Jonathan Saenz, President, Texas Values

“Passage of legislation to eliminate loopholes in reports on abortion complications will produce more accurate data and result in more sound policy decisions. We are grateful that Gov. Abbott has called on the legislature to address this and other important pro-life issues.” – Jennifer Allmon, Executive Director, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops

“The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission strongly supports legislative efforts to improve the reporting of abortion-related complications. Accurate information is critical to our ability to make good public policy decisions. We commend Governor Abbott for adding this important issue to the special session cause and all of his work to create a culture of life in Texas.” – Gus Reyes, Director, Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission

“Data shows that Texas lags behind when it comes to the accuracy of abortion reporting when health complications arise — true and accurate reports will protect women. We are grateful that Governor Abbott recognizes this and has added it to the special session call.” – Joe Pojman, Ph.D., Executive Director, Texas Alliance for Life

“The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention supports increasing existing reporting requirements when complications arise during abortions. When complications to a woman’s health and safety arise in an abortion this should be promptly disclosed and reported.” – Gary Ledbetter, Communications Director, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention

…read more

Source:: Office of the Governor

      

ICYMI: Governor Greg Abbott: Protecting The Vulnerable

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By lauren.mccanse@gov.texas.gov Governor Greg Abbott wrote an op-ed featured in the McAllen Monitor yesterday that expressed his commitment to fighting for the most vulnerable among us — the unborn. Governor Greg Abbott wrote an op-ed featured in the McAllen Monitor yesterday that expressed his commitment to fighting for the most vulnerable among us — the unborn. There are a number of pro-life items included in the Governor’s special session call.

Protecting The Vulnerable
By Gov. Greg Abbott
The McAllen Monitor

Because we cannot hear their cries, it is perhaps our most sacred calling to protect the most vulnerable among us — the unborn. And I celebrate all that we have accomplished together to promote a culture of life in Texas. There’s now an entire generation of young women who recognize that a sonogram is their baby’s first picture.

Thanks to my partners in the Legislature, Texas is again leading the way in protecting innocent life, and improving health and safety standards for women.

In the wake of the videos exposing horrific and cruel practices by Planned Parenthood, I called for action.

At the end of the 85th Texas regular legislative session, I was proud last month to sign bills finally banning partial birth abortions and dismemberment abortions, prohibiting the sale or donation of baby body parts, and requiring the burial or cremation of babies lost to abortion — the basic dignity that human life demands.

I am grateful to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops for offering to bury fetal remains at no cost.

But there is more we can do. There is more we must do.

During the special session, which began on Wednesday, I am directing the Legislature to enact more critical reforms to further protect Texas values and Texas lives.

Not one more penny of local and state taxpayer funding should go to abortion providers and their affiliates.

No Texan should be forced to pay for insurance that covers elective abortions.

To protect the health and safety of women, the state must ensure it is receiving accurate information when it comes to reporting complications that result from an abortion.

And finally, we must find solutions to end the compounded tragedy of pregnancy-related deaths of women. That is why the maternal mortality task force must be renewed with urgency.

Protecting the unborn and women in crisis will always be a priority for me as your governor. Because for me, it’s personal.

Of all the titles I have held, the title that matters most to me is dad. Our lives were blessed and forever changed the moment Cecilia and I held our daughter on the day she was born. Each day, we thank God for the precious gift of Audrey’s life — and for the woman who was strong enough to give Audrey a new life with our family.

That’s why I’m proud that in addition to the other pro-life victories in the regular legislative session, funding was renewed for the Alternatives to Abortion program that helps to support crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes and adoption agencies.

But we are still called to do more.

In this upcoming special session, I applaud all of the men and women leading the charge for life in the Texas Legislature.

And I ask for your continuing support of their efforts.

…read more

Source:: Office of the Governor

      

Attorney for family of Australian woman killed by police calls for justice

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By Jeanette Torres

STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty Images(MINNEAPOLIS) — The attorney representing both the fiancé and family of the Australian bride-to-be who was fatally shot by a Minneapolis Police Department officer on Saturday says “the family wants justice in its largest sense.”

Justine Ruszczyk, 40, who went by her fiancé’s last name, Damond, was killed by a police officer on July 15 after she called 911 to report what she believed was a sexual assault occurring near her home.

“I think Justine is the last person you’d expect to be killed by police,” Robert Bennett, the attorney representing Justine Damond’s family and fiancé, Don Damond, told ABC News.

“Of the cases that I’ve been involved in over the years she doesn’t fit any of the patterns,” Bennett, who represented the family of Philando Castile, a black man who was fatally shot by Minnesota police in July 2016, said. “Her life’s intersection with the police is totally bizarre.”

Authorities said officers Matthew Harrity and Mohammed Noor responded to Justine Damond’s 911 call, but never found a suspect. They were startled by a loud noise and then Justine Damond approached the driver’s side of the car and Noor, who was on the passenger side, fired his gun through the open driver’s side window, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Harrity’s attorney, Fred Bruno, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that it was “certainly reasonable” for the police officers to assume they could be the target of an ambush.

Bennett said that the idea that Justine Damond could have been thought of as a threat is “patently, utterly, ridiculous.”

“If that’s the excuse they want to use to shoot people, I guess they can use any excuse they want, we’re all in danger,” the attorney said.

Bennett also called it “inexplicable” that there was no video or audio from the officer’s body cameras, a sentiment echoed by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who told ABC News earlier this week that a “key question” for investigators was why the officer’s body cameras were not turned on when Justine Damond was shot and killed.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said in a news conference Thursday that Justine Damond “didn’t have to die.” She added that Mohamed Noor, the officer who shot Justine Damond, has not made any statement to investigators.

Bennett said the “strangest part of the case,” was that “someone so good, so peaceful, so pacifistic, gets shot by a police officer in her pajamas, in her ally, in a good neighborhood in south Minneapolis.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

…read more

Source:: National News

      

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