August 3rd, 2011
11:24 AM ET

Girl's hair-raising kidnap tale a hoax, police say

A 10-year-old girl in Hanover, Germany, told neighbors and police that a scissors-wielding man had tried to kidnap her and cut off her hair Tuesday, but that wasn't quite true.

In fact, it wasn't true at all, the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported.

After police spent several hours searching the girl's neighborhood for the perpetrator and guarding her house against his return, the girl admitted she had made the whole thing up.

The real story, the paper reported, was that the girl and her younger brother had found a pair of scissors in their basement and haphazardly cut off each other's hair. Realizing their parents would be upset, she told the kidnap story to a neighbor, who called police.

However, the police became skeptical when the girl's story changed after a couple of hours. She at first said the man had entered the house and confronted her; she later said she had run into him outside, and he followed her into the house, intent on stealing her hair.

The newspaper didn't say whether the girl would face any punishment from police - or her parents.

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Filed under: Crime • Germany • Hoax • Home invasion
November 8th, 2010
11:40 AM ET

Jury recommends death for Connecticut killer

Steven Hayes, a man convicted of killing three members of a Connecticut family during a home invasion, should receive the death penalty, jurors decided after more than 16 hours of deliberation.

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Filed under: Connecticut • Crime • Death Penalty • Home invasion • Justice • U.S.
November 4th, 2010
10:43 PM ET

Defense seeks life sentence for Connecticut home invasion

The man who killed two sisters and their mother during a 2007 home invasion in Connecticut would suffer more if sentenced to life in prison than if put to death, his lawyer told jurors Thursday.

"Life in prison without the possibility of release is the harshest penalty," said Steven Hayes' attorney, Tom Ullmann. "It is a fate worse than death."

Ullmann then had his 47-year-old client stand directly in front of the jury, put his hand on Hayes' shoulder and said to the five men and seven women, "He isn't a rabid dog that needs to be put to death. He has lost 80 pounds. He will never have a private bath. He goes to the bathroom in public. He will never eat a dinner that he makes but one that they provide. He has a rec cage for an hour a day. Like an animal at the zoo."

As he stood, Hayes - who did not testify during the trial - looked down at the floor.

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Filed under: Connecticut • Crime • Home invasion
October 25th, 2010
06:59 PM ET

Jury picked in trial of 'ninjas' accused of killing Florida couple

Eleven women and two men have been selected to hear the case of the alleged ringleader of a group of "ninjas" who shot and killed a Florida couple known for adopting special-needs children.

The jury, which includes one alternate, was selected Monday in the trial of Leonard Gonzalez Jr. Prosecutors said that he and six others put on black masks and dressed as ninjas before creeping into the Beulah, Florida, home of Melanie and Byrd Billings on July 9, 2009.

Opening statements are set for Tuesday morning in Escambia County Circuit Court in Pensacola, and the trial is expected to last three to four days. Gonzalez, 35, could be sentenced to death if he is convicted of first-degree murder.

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Filed under: Courts • Crime • Florida • Home invasion • Justice
October 25th, 2010
01:25 PM ET

Prison record of convicted killer reviewed in penalty phase of trial

Stephen Hayes, convicted of killing three members of a Connecticut family, was written up in 24 disciplinary reports during a stretch in state prison, the jury was told as the penalty phase of Hayes' trial resumed Monday morning.

Fred Levesque, former director of offender classification and population management for the state Department of Correction, said the 24 disciplinary reports included one for hoarding medication, a charge to which Hayes voluntarily pleaded guilty.

But when the defense asked Levesque if he had any knowledge of whether Hayes was a threat to the general population, he answered "no."

Hayes, 47, was convicted this month of 16 of the 17 charges against him - including nine counts of murder and capital murder and four counts of kidnapping - in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit.

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Filed under: Connecticut • Courts • Crime • Death Penalty • Home invasion • Justice
October 18th, 2010
10:25 PM ET

Jurors to decide on death sentence in home invasion

A man convicted of killing a mother and her two daughters during a 2007 Connecticut home invasion can be "quite likable," but has struggled with drug addiction for years, a defense attorney told jurors Monday.

The same jurors who convicted Steven Hayes of capital murder and other charges convened Monday for Hayes' penalty phase. They will decide whether he should be sentenced to death for the slayings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley Petit and 11-year-old Michaela Petit.

Attorney Patrick Culligan told jurors in his opening statement they will hear testimony from "people who know Steve Hayes, whose lives have crossed paths with Steven Hayes ... to try to give you some insight, some understanding of who Steven Hayes was prior to the crimes of July 23, 2007." Some of the testimony, he warned, will not be flattering to Hayes, but he said that despite his long history of criminal convictions and drug abuse, Hayes could be "quite likable."

"There is no presumption at this point that the death penalty is the appropriate punishment," Culligan said. "... You must keep an open mind."

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Filed under: Connecticut • Crime • Home invasion