By Marianne O'Donnell, Dateline Producer
My car wipers were fighting back a steady rain as I peered through the windshield, trying to get my bearings in a place called Cheshire, Connecticut. I was beginning to wonder why I picked this day to slog up I-84 from New York City to knock on doors in a distant town. Would I find anyone out on a day like this? And even if I did, would they talk about what had happened here?
Eventually, I found the street I was looking for: Sorghum Mill Drive. As I turned onto it I stopped the car almost instantly. There was a sign up ahead that warned would-be speeders to slow down. "We love our children," it read. I was getting a serious case of the creeps.
Evil comes to all types of people all over the world. But it's not supposed to trespass here, in leafy enclaves that proudly demand their children's safety. Yet somehow in the early, dark hours of July 23, the devil slipped through the back door at 300 Sorghum Mill Drive and into the heart of the Petit house. It's believed that two intruders, parolees, broke into the home and terrorized a doctor, his wife and two daughters over the course of seven hours before ending their rampage with gasoline and a match.
Now, weeks later, I was walking this traumatized neighborhood, looking for people willing to recall the horror they woke to that morning. I must have knocked on 15 doors. The people who opened them promptly closed them again once they heard why I was there. Drenched and discouraged, I was heading for my car when I spotted a woman on her driveway. I walked up and began my introduction.
"I'm Marianne from..." The woman flashed an open hand. "I am sick of you media coming around here knocking on our doors," she said. Yes, she explained, she had been talking to reporters. But now she was done with us. "We're trying to heal," she said, the anger in her voice rising. "But how can we when you guys keep coming asking these questions?"
I apologized to the woman and thanked her for her time. I had driven more than two hours to Cheshire in the rain to find someone willing to talk about what had happened here, and all I had to show for it were soaked pants and squishy shoes. The reporter in me recoiled at going home empty-handed. But I also knew that the residents of Sorghum Mill Drive wanted -- maybe needed -- nothing more than to see my taillights fading in the mist. I clicked my car open. For today, at least, I was done knocking on doors.
Dateline will air a special piece on the killings in Connecticut tonight, Sept. 10, at 10 p.m. Eastern/9 Central.
UPDATE: Read the full story here. A foundation has been set up to honor the family:
The Petit Family Foundation
c/o Farmington Savings Bank
32 Main St.