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Family wants review of police response to fatal hostage-taking of W.Pa. native, family in Connecticut

| Thursday, July 25, 2013, 6:18 p.m.
Dr. William Petit Jr. (left) was severely beaten daughters Michaela (front) and Hayley (center rear) and his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, were killed in a home invasion six years ago in Cheshire, Conn.

HARTFORD — Six years after a deadly home invasion, officials still refuse to answer questions about the emergency response, and — unlike other communities where notorious killings have occurred — there apparently has been no formal review of the police department's actions.

Two paroled burglars broke into the Cheshire home on July 23, 2007, and killed Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, after holding them hostage for hours. Hawke-Petit's husband, Dr. William Petit, was severely beaten with a baseball bat but survived.

Hawke-Petit's family has been seeking answers from police ever since. They want to know why officers didn't enter the home before Hawke-Petit was strangled and the intruders set a fire that killed Hayley and Michaela.

“All I've ever wanted is for the truth to come out about this,” Hawke-Petit's sister, Cynthia Hawke-Renn, said Thursday. “This was like our own personal 9/11. If 9/11 had happened to our country and there were no reviews that were done ... it's like 9/11 happened and everybody walked away and said ‘oh well.' ”

Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, is the daughter of the Rev. Richard and Mary Belle Hawke of Slippery Rock. She met her husband in 1985 on a pediatric rotation at Children's Hospital when he was a third-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh and she was a new nurse.

Questions about the police response resurfaced this week after HBO aired a documentary on the killings Monday and The Hartford Courant reported about audio recordings of police dispatch and phone calls it recently obtained.

Police Chief Neil Dryfe and Town Manager Michael Milone declined to comment about the police response.

“To say anything about this is not going to serve any constructive purpose,” Milone said.

The recordings obtained by the newspaper showed that a town hostage negotiator was told not to report to the Petits' home and that a police official initially had doubts about whether the family was in danger.

The Courant also reported, citing Milone, that police have never reviewed their response to the home invasion.

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