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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Steven Hayes Confesses to the Route 8 Murders

Maybe Steven Hayes' conscience was getting the best of him. While he sat on death row in October 2011 for the barbarous home invasion murders of a mother, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and her two daughters, he wrote a series of letters boasting about committing seventeen other unsolved murders. All of the Route 8 victims were included in the list. Not only did Hayes confess to the Route 8 murders in writing, he provided detailed and grisly descriptions of the alleged crimes.

The convicted murderer knew full well that the Connecticut Department of Corrections would get hold of his letters and forward them on to the state prosecutors. Which they did. In turn, what did Hayes have to gain for his written statements?

Pizza, soda, and a plate of oysters with hot sauce.

No doubt, the food on death row must be awful. For this reason, a traditional "last dinner" is served to inmates just prior to lethal injection or the electric chair. That meal consists of steak, eggs, hash browns, toast with butter and jelly, and juice, unless the prisoner requests differently. Some death row inmates prefer the turf variety of meats. Southerners often request fried chicken. However, many Dead Men Walking lean towards the surf side of the menu: lobster tail, fried clams, scallops, and the like. And then there are the last meals with no rhyme or reason. Timothy McVeigh ate two pints of mint-chocolate chip ice cream. A kidnapper from Iowa requested a single olive with a pit in it.

As with many psychopaths, there was more than mere hunger behind Hayes' bargaining chip. In confessing to seventeen additional murders, and thereby elevating his heinous status from home invasion killer and rapist to serial killer, Hayes' hoped to one-up the authorities by killing himself before they got the chance to kill him via lethal injection.

Turns out, Hayes' was deathly allergic to oysters. The dozen that he ordered would most certainly do him in and Hayes would perish on his terms, not the terms of the people of the state of Connecticut. It would be his final coup d'├ętat- a message to the world that even murderers have the right to live free or die.

Hayes is not a particularly intelligent man. He incorrectly assumed that the authorities were unaware of his fatal allergy to oysters. In his simple way of thinking, his love of food, including oysters with hot sauce, would dupe prosecutors into believing that his intentions were sincere. After all, in between prior incarcerations Hayes worked as a cook for J&Ds restaurant in Torrington, and even at some high end establishments like Apricots in Farmington and the White Hart Inn in Salisbury.

The higher ups in the state corrections system did not buy it. Hayes was known as a notorious manipulator and liar.  Moreover, killing seventeen people (and getting away with it), in addition to the three victims of the Petit family, was not in keeping with Hayes' criminal character. A psychological evaluation provided to the court during Hayes' trial states that Hayes' "compulsive drug seeking led to repeated criminal activity, mostly burglary and larceny." In profiling terms, Hayes was a two-bit thief who got in over his head in the Petit family murders. He and his accomplice, Joshua Komisarjevsky, apparently entered the upscale Cheshire home intending to get some quick cash for drugs. The violent rape and murders that ensued unfolded with a kind of haphazard fury typical of "impulsive" offenders. Such individuals are reckless brutes who let their evil take over all sense of rational in the heat of moment.

In the end, Hayes wasn't smart enough – or conniving enough – to be The Route 8 Killer. The psychologist who interviewed Hayes in March 2009 described him as alternating "between a focus on his extensive failings and worthlessness and a perspective in which he had no choices and his criminal activity seemed to just happen." Basically, Hayes would have made a good Nazi in Hitler's regiment of non-thinking, non-questioning robots. According to the psychologist, Hayes "depends on others to organize his thinking and behavior." Seems Hayes is self aware of this trait. He wrote to the Parole Board in 2001, "I need someone to tell me what to do."

Not exactly the makings of a ritualistic and highly organized serial killer who has escaped detection for decades.

A year following his bogus confessions, Hayes admitted to the Hartford Courant that he made up the stories as part of a plan to kill himself with oysters. To date, Hayes remains on death row and his obsession with food has not waned. He recently filed suit in federal court against the state Department of Correction and several officers because he was not being served kosher food on death row. Hayes states that he has converted to Orthodox Judaism. His death row meal plan has, in fact, been modified to comply with certain jewish dietary laws. However, in his suit Hayes demands that more should be done to honor his newfound religious beliefs. His food must be truly kosher: prepared using separate cooking utensils.

The lawsuit is a farce, of course, as are most suits filed by death row inmates with far too much time on their hands. According to Jewish Prisoner Services International, Hayes is not a Jew in any shape of the word. First, he has not undergone the intense period of study required by a rabbinical court for conversion. Second, if he attempted to do so, any Rabbi in his or her right mind would reject Hayes' self-serving request to convert.

Although Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy recently signed the state's death penalty repeal bill into law, Hayes and Komisarjevsky, as two of eleven convicted killers on death row in Connecticut, will not be grandfathered into that legislation.

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