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Death-Row Cheshire Killer Sues for Kosher Diet

HARTFORD, Conn. (CN) - One of the men behind a brutal home invasion in Cheshire, Conn., where a woman and her two young daughters were raped and murdered, says he is being denied a kosher diet on death row.

The U.S. District Court made the handwritten amended complaint that Steven Hayes filed last week public on Wednesday. His original federal complaint against the Connecticut Correction Department, filed in August, alleged denial of access to properly prepared kosher meals.

Hayes was sentenced to death along with another man for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela. The women were sexually assaulted and the home was set on fire. Dr. William Petit, the husband and father, was beaten, but survived.

Hayes' amended complaint says that the Correction Department has been denying him a kosher diet since May 2013.

"No D.O.C. kitchen has a reliable Orthodox certification that guarantees with certainty the food and process is kosher," the pro se filing states.

"As an orthodox practicing Jew it is mandatory I eat kosher food prepared and service according to the laws of Kashrut," Hayes wrote in block letters.

He added: "I must daily choose between following God's law and starvation or the commitment of sin to survive, because D.O.C. is intentionally denying me kosher food."

The Attorney General's office is representing the Correction Department in the lawsuit. Through a spokeswoman it declined to comment on pending litigation.

"All pots, pans, utensils, prep areas, cooking appliances, washing facilities, etc. can cause cross contamination making all hot food coming out of this serving kitchen not kosher," Hayes wrote.

Rabbi Robert Schectman, who worked as a Jewish chaplain for the Correction Department for more than 14 years and oversaw the "Common Fare" food program for inmates, submitted an affidavit disagreeing with Hayes' assertions.

"The Common Fare diet does not provide Kosher meat, but it is obviously not totally vegetarian since there is ample provision of fish," Schectman said in an affidavit. "The Common Fare diet is permissible for Kosher inmates."

Schectman said he oversaw the preparation of the food before he retired. "The Common Fare Menu as produced here in the Connecticut DOC conforms with Kosher requirements," his affidavit states.

But Hayes doesn't trust the preparation of the food.

Hayes said he has not eaten non-kosher food since Aug. 24, 2014, and is now under 120 pounds. State prison documents showed he weighed 170 pounds back in 2007.

"The lack of proper food and nutrition causes physical pain and suffering," Hayes wrote in his amended complaint.

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