Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Connecticut Nightmare

An Orphan

Joshua Komisarjevsky
Joshua Komisarjevsky

Joshua Komisarjevsky's mother, Jude, was the librarian at Norton Elementary School. When her son was in fifth grade, she heard that he had been flinging desks at a teacher. Joshua had been having problems with the teacher, and, according to Komisarjevsky, his mother was appalled at the teacher's sternness and became convinced she could do a better job teaching her son.

She pulled him from Norton Elementary, and from then on he was home schooled. The young man learned about history by visiting New England Revolutionary War battlefields and about art by going to museums in Hartford and Boston. Jude Komisarjevsky had the means and imagination to make the world Joshua's classroom.

Jude Komisarjevsky, however, was not Joshua's birth mother. He was born on Aug. 10, 1980, immediately given up for adoption, and within days went home with Jude and Ben Komisarjevsky. The couple are devout Christians who by all accounts live modestly, but come from a storied and wealthy family.

After the bloody home invasion of the Petit home, the Komisarjevsky family said in a news release that "it was a monstrous, deranged act, beyond compehension." They expressed sympathy for the Petit family. Though Joshua Komisarjevsky's alleged and confessed crimes put his name in papers across the world, his family was already well known for something quite different.

Christopher Komisarjevsky, Joshua's uncle, told The New York Times that Joshua's grandmother "was a beautiful avant-garde dancer who danced with the seminal dancers of modern dance and my father had left Russia at the time of the revolution to escape the Communists and directed theater in London and New York...that was the kind of environment we grew up in."

After her husband died in 1954, Joshua's grandmother the dancer married John Chamberlain, a writer who published in conservative opinion magazines and lived on a 65-acre estate in Cheshire. On this wooded land, with its pond and copses of oaks and cedar, Joshua Komisarjevsky first began to explore the night, moving silently and swiftly to avoid being caught by his parents. He enjoyed the outdoors and would practice tracking animals through the woods and trying to remain as silent and unobserved as possible.

According to the accused killer, he committed his first crime when he was 12 years old, stealing a car. He says he did it by taking advantage of Cheshire's unlocked doors, plucking the keys from inside an unlocked house, in order to get home in time to avoid being caught violating his curfew.

Among the several houses on the property, young Joshua lived with his parents in a pre-Revolutionary War home they referred to as The Homestead. This home, still in use, is less than two miles from the Petit home at 300 Sorghum Mill Drive.

Most burglaries occur in the daytime. Criminals generally don't want trouble and prefer to rob homes during the day when no one's home. But according to his own confessions to police and a journalist, Joshua Komisarjevsky enjoyed the rush of breaking into people's homes at night while they slept.

Komisarjevky sought out dangerous situations and seemed to get an almost erotic thrill from his trangressions. He describes breaking into other people's homes at night, waiting, standing still, and listening to sleeping strangers slowly breathing in their beds. He would wear latex gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints and, at least on one occasion, he told police, he used night-vision goggles to see in the dark.

Komisarjevky's predilection for the night may have begun when he was young but over the years developed into a criminal modus operandi. When retired Cheshire police officer Bill Glass first heard about the early morning home invasion on July 23, 2007, no one had to tell him who was involved. "I knew it was Komisarjevsky," he said.


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