What we learned in Michelle Troconis’s trial as she’s found guilty of conspiracy to murder her lover’s ex-wife

What we learned in Michelle Troconis’s trial as she’s found guilty of conspiracy to murder her lover’s ex-wife

After 27 days of dramatic testimony in the trial of Michelle Troconis, jurors found her guilty of all charges over the killing of her lover’s estranged wife, Jennifer Dulos.

The Connecticut mother-of-five was last seen alive on 24 May 2019 as she waved her children off to school in the wealthy enclave of New Canaan. And while her body has never been found, she has been officially declared dead – with police finding that she died a violent death at the hands of Fotis Dulos, the man she had filed for divorce from just two years earlier.

In January 2020, Fotis died by suicide after being charged with her murder, leaving his girlfriend Ms Troconis to take the fall.

Venezuelan socialite Troconis, 49, went on trial in January on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, hindering prosecution, two counts of tampering with physical evidence and two counts of conspiracy to commit tampering with physical evidence.

On Friday 1 March, she was found guilty on all counts. After the verdict was read out, Troconis laid her head on the table as her defence attorney comforted her.

Her sentencing hearing is now scheduled for May 31. She could face up to 50 years in prison.

In a statement to WTNH, family members of Dulos said the verdict was “a crucial attribution of accountability” but “not a victory.”

“There can be no victory when five children are growing up without their mother,” the family wrote. “This verdict represents the meticulous collection, analysis, and presentation of evidence to illuminate an unconscionable series of crimes.”

“That immense body of evidence also serves to highlight the gaps that remain in this case — most important, that Jennifer Farber Dulos still has not been found,” they wrote. “We have lost a mother, daughter, sister, cousin, and cherished friend. Jennifer’s loved ones cannot bury her next to her father.”

Michelle Troconis is on trial for her alleged role in the murder plot (AP)
Michelle Troconis is on trial for her alleged role in the murder plot (AP)

Troconis had pleaded not guilty and insisted she did not know Fotis was doing anything nefarious as she watched him toss garbage bags into random bins, or as she helped him write up a timeline of their whereabouts on the day his estranged wife disappeared. Troconis decided not to testify in her own defence.

In closing arguments in the trial at Connecticut Superior Court in Stamford, the court heard from the state how she was a murderous conspirator who wanted her boyfriend’s estranged wife dead and helped him cover up her killing.

They also heard from the defence that she was an innocent bystander who unwittingly became ensnared in one of Connecticut’s most enduring missing person and alleged homicide cases.

Deliberations went on for three days as jurors were tasked with going through 27 days of testimony and more than 200 exhibits before making their decision.

Here’s what happened during the high-profile trial:

Prosecutors say Jennifer’s murder was ‘deliberate and intentional’

Prosecutors Michelle Manning and Sean McGuinness told jurors on Tuesday that Troconis was angry and fed up with the divorce case and had called Jennifer Dulos disparaging names.

“Jennifer is dead, and Fotis and Michelle Troconis intended that to happen,” Ms Manning said.

“They agreed to work together to make it happen, and unfortunately they were successful in making it happen. But they got caught. This trial is very simple. It’s about a conspiracy and a coverup.”

Defence claims Fotis Dulos is ‘ultimately responsible,’ not Michelle Troconis

Defence attorney Jon Schoenhorn said the prosecution did not prove any of their allegations beyond a reasonable doubt, including whether Fotis Dulos killed Jennifer Dulos or even if he was in New Canaan that morning.

“She did not know that Fotis Dulos planned to harm her,” Mr Schoenhorn told the jury in his closing arguments.

“The state has made, what I would suggest, are unfounded and unfair assumptions and have speculated that Michelle Troconis had to know what was going on because she was romantically linked with Fotis, that she was somehow involved in this nefarious, murderous plot.

“But that’s not reality,” he added. “That’s more like one of these cable TV movies, scripted movies. It’s not based on the facts that you heard during this trial.”

Mr Schoenhorn again stressed that Fotis is “ultimately responsible” and that Troconis was not involved nor did she know.

“Whatever Fotis Dulos did, it was not for or because of Michelle, and it was not with her. Fotis put up a façade until his last, poisoned breath, and he died without ever acknowledging his actions or admitting his role, even to his own children. He never gave answers,” Mr Schoenhorn said. “Everyone wants closure. Michelle is not the remaining half of a scheming plot, she was never part of the equation. That is pure speculation.”

Jennifer Dulos’s five children watch grandmother testify

Gloria Farber, Jennifer’s mother, took the stand as the state’s final witness.

Her five grandchildren, who were orphaned after Jennifer’s disappearance and presumed death and Fotis’s suicide, have been living with Ms Farber and their nanny in New York City.

The children were in the courtroom for the first time as they watched their grandmother on the stand. Her testimony only lasted 10 minutes.

Jennifer Dulos' mother, Gloria Farber, testifies during Michelle Troconis' trial at Connecticut Superior Court in Stamford (Hearst Connecticut Media)
Jennifer Dulos' mother, Gloria Farber, testifies during Michelle Troconis' trial at Connecticut Superior Court in Stamford (Hearst Connecticut Media)

Ms Farber testified that the mother of five had “never” missed one of her children’s birthdays or “name days,” which is a Greek tradition.

The testimony appeared to take aim at defence attorney Jon Schoenhorn’s argument that Jennifer left on her own, a theory Fotis reportedly claimed she had done in the past.

Michelle Troconis may be held in contempt of court

Troconis could be held in contempt of court after she was reportedly spotted looking at sealed custody documents on her laptop during proceedings, according to NBC Connecticut.

Officials in the courtroom said the document Troconis had on display is sealed because it has confidential information about Fotis’s five children.

Michelle Troconis sheds a tear as her first interview with Connecticut State Police is presented as evidence (AP)
Michelle Troconis sheds a tear as her first interview with Connecticut State Police is presented as evidence (AP)

“The concern the state has is this notion that she would have access on her device to a report that it starts off that a member of the audience is able to see, which is clearly under seal,” Michelle Manning, the state’s assistant attorney, said when speaking to Judge Kevin A Randolph.

“That is concerning. The second major point is that it was displayed for the public with a news camera behind us and that she couldn’t even have read it to begin with.”

The judge told the courtroom that only counsel would be able to have access to a computer during proceedings and that the court would not become a “hallway monitor”, adding that anyone who makes an attempt to communicate with the jury or a witness would be removed.

An inquiry has been launched to determine how she got the report and how the person in the gallery recognised it.

A contempt of court hearing will be held on 5 March.

Fotis Dulos’s former employee reveals Michelle Troconis’s ‘b****’ comments

Pawel Gumienny, who was the project manager for Fotis Dulos’s company Fore Group, testified that he heard Troconis say that Jennifer was a “b****” and that she “should be buried next to this dog.”

He said he heard the shocking statement when they learned the Dulos’s family dog was sick and needed to be put to sleep.

“He [Fotis] said something like, ‘Can you believe that Jennifer won’t even let the kids come over and say goodbye to the dog before we put him to sleep?” Mr Gumienny said.

Mr Gumienny said Troconis then responded with: “That b**** should be buried right next to this dog.”

When prosecutors asked Mr Gumienny about Troconis’s demeanour when she said this, he responded: “I think she was trying to cheer Dulos up. He was heartbroken that his dog was about to be put down.”

In the days that followed the Connecticut mom’s disappearance, Troconis allegedly told Mr Gumienny “I’m going to kill that f****** b**** when she turns up” after he said she had gotten upset about her photo being used in the news reports.

Pawel Gumienny (Hearst Connecticut Media)
Pawel Gumienny (Hearst Connecticut Media)

Police believe Fotis borrowed Mr Gumienny’s red Toyota Tacoma on the day that he allegedly murdered Jennifer in the garage of her New Canaan home.

Blood evidence with Jennifer’s DNA was found in the garage and on items found in various trash cans around Hartford.

Mr Gumienny also testified that Fotis had the pickup truck cleaned inside and out at a car wash and pressured him to replace the front seats of the truck with other ones. Mr Gumienny said he was growing suspicious as Jennifer remained missing, but he didn’t think Fotis was capable of killing her.

When he asked Fotis why he had the truck cleaned, he said Fotis replied, “Don’t worry about it. There’s nothing going on. ... I just want to clean everything. The police might come in. They find something, they destroy my name, destroy the company name,’” Mr Gumienny testified.

Mr Gumienny said he then asked Fotis why he wanted to change out the truck seats, which Fotis told him to get rid of so they wouldn't be found.

“He said, ‘Can we not talk about it? Can you just do it?’ He kept on pressing me and pressing me on it. … He was growing angry," Mr Gumienny said.

Mr Gumienny did replace the truck seats, but he kept the old ones and gave them to the police. Authorities later said testing indicated Jennifer's blood was on one of the old seats.

Michelle Troconis included intimate detail in ‘alibi scripts’

Documents dubbed “alibi scripts” by police found at the Farmington home of Fotis Dulos and Michelle Troconis were read in court on 24 January.

Three photocopies – two of which outline the couple’s movements the day Jennifer disappeared – were found inside a black computer bag during a search of the home on 9 June 2019.

Troconis previously told police that they had been advised by a divorce attorney at the time to write out the timelines.

The first document presented to the court mentioned sending emails to “Jennifer” and “Michelle,” a trip to Starbucks at 7pm in which she wrote, “West Hartford Starbucks ... Two frappuccinos ... I did not like the sandwich.”

The trip to Starbucks was made after Troconis and Fotis were seen driving the route of Albany Avenue as Fotis tossed trash bags that police later discovered contained Jennifer’s DNA.

Three photocopies – two of which outline the couple’s movements the day Jennifer disappeared – were found inside a black computer bag during a search of the home on 9 June 2019 (Law&Crime)
Three photocopies – two of which outline the couple’s movements the day Jennifer disappeared – were found inside a black computer bag during a search of the home on 9 June 2019 (Law&Crime)

A second document was a detailed timeline that began with “take a shower with Fotis” at 6.40am, a description of an outfit and cooking scrambled eggs for her daughter.

The third photocopy appeared to be a call log which documented the incoming, outgoing and canceled calls and the duration of each one.

A fourth document, found in an office in the home, appeared to be the original version of the first photocopy.

It was dated 25 May 2019 and noted a meeting with an officer from the New Canaan Police Department and what vehicles “Michi,” “Fotis” and “Pawel” drove.

The defence previously asked the judge to ban any mention of the writing as “alibi scripts.”

Prosecutors clarified that they don’t intend to call the documents “alibi scripts” during the evidentiary portion of the trial, and also have advised their witnesses to call the documents “timelines.”

However, the state will be able to call the documents “alibi scripts” during closing arguments.

Kent Mawhinney does not testify as expected

Kent Mawhinney, another defendant in the case and Fotis’ longtime friend, was expected to testify for the state, but Assistant State’s Attorney Sean McGuinness ended the state’s case without him.

“Kent Mawhinney of course is a co-conspirator in this matter, he’s been arrested, the charges remain pending,” Mr McGuninness told the court. “He undoubtedly has Fifth Amendment privilege, therefore, is unavailable to both parties. Given that we are going to be resting, I just wanted to indicate that for the record, obviously, there shouldn’t be any sort of missing witness arguments during closing arguments ... in light of that fact, he’s unavailable.”

Mr Mawhinney’s attorney, Jeffrey Kestenband, later said his client had not invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not testify, so the reason as to why he didn’t testify remains unclear.

Mr Mawhinney will stand trial on his own conspiracy to commit murder charge in the case. He’s accused of trying to create an alibi for Fotis on the morning of Jennifer’s disappearance.

No presumptive blood found in Fotis Dulos’ truck

Det Matthew Reilly testified on 24 January that presumptive blood tests police conducted in Fotis’ truck – believed to have been the vehicle used when Fotis dumped evidence – were negative.

Fotis was seen on surveillance footage driving the truck along Albany Avenue, stopping at multiple trash bins to dumb bags that were later found to contain bloodstained clothes, zip ties and ponchos.

Some of the items tested positive for Jennifer’s DNA, according to Fotis’ arrest warrant.

The truck was searched by police on 31 May 2019, and police used Luminol to search for traces of blood.

While several areas were illuminated, police conducted presumptive tests but they came back negative for blood.

Loved ones say it was ‘brutal’ seeing bloody evidence

Jennifer’s family released a statement about the grim evidence presented at the trial of the woman accused of helping her then-boyfriend in the cover-up of killing his estranged wife.

“For Jennifer’s family and loved ones, seeing the physical evidence on Tuesday was brutal but also crucial,” Carrie Luft said in a statement to NBC.

“Witnessing Jennifer’s blood-soaked clothing, knowing it was the shirt, the bra, she wore on the last day of her life, made us imagine, again, what she must have endured.”

“We hope that seeing this evidence in three dimensions can put an end to any suggestion that Jennifer is ‘missing.’ She died a tragic death, and her loss is felt beyond what words can express,” she added.

Jennifer Dulos has not been seen or heard since 24 May 2019 (New Canaan Police Department)
Jennifer Dulos has not been seen or heard since 24 May 2019 (New Canaan Police Department)

‘Blood-soaked’ clothing, zip ties, ponchos shown in court

On day eight, investigators testified that they recovered several items covered in “blood-like substance” stuffed into trash bags and dumped into bins along a four-mile stretch of Albany Avenue in Hartford.

Grim photos of the items were shown in court before the state carefully held up each piece to show to the jury.

State Police Sgt Kevin Duggan testified that the items were pulled from trash bins in Hartford where, according to prosecutors, surveillance video shows Troconis sitting in a black Ford Raptor truck with Fotis as he tossed the bags just hours after Jennifer vanished.

A white bra and Vineyard vines shirt, both of which were cut down the middle and appeared to be soaked with blood, and believed to have been Jennifer’s, prompted a reaction from her close friend Carrie Luft who buried her head in her hands, CT Insider reported.

The state asked Sgt Duggan to describe the shirt. He pointed out the lettering that read, “EDSFTG.”

A bloodied Vineyard Vines shirt, believed to be Jennifer’s, was found cut down the middle (Law&Crime)
A bloodied Vineyard Vines shirt, believed to be Jennifer’s, was found cut down the middle (Law&Crime)
A white bra stained red was found with the shirt (AP)
A white bra stained red was found with the shirt (AP)

“It’s a Vineyard Vines slogan, ‘Every day should feel this good,’” Sgt Duggan responded, at which point Ms Luft let out an audible exhalation, the local paper reported.

The items were recovered on 30 May 2019, after police discovered the video footage showing Fotis making multiple stops to dispose of the trash bags.

According to Troconis’ arrest warrant, DNA from both Fotis and Jennifer was found on items in the trash and Troconis’ DNA was found on some of the trash bags. That evidence is expected to come later in the trial.

In the trash bins in the area of Albany Avenue and Green Street, where Fotis was seen stopping on 24 May 2019, Duggan testified about a slew of items covered with a “blood-like substance.”

Besides the bra and shirt, other items included zip ties which had been cut and appeared to be sized for something larger than a wrist or ankle; two plastic ponchos covered in apparent blood spatter; a white towel covered in reddish stains; the handle of a mop that was coated in red specks and twisted into the shape of an “N.”

Also found coated in a “blood-like substance,” was a broken razor blade, two pairs of black gloves, a screwdriver, and a sponge.

A ‘detour’ on the way to Starbucks

Troconis’ attorney Jon Schoenhorn argued that she was taken by surprise when her then-boyfriend Fotis Dulos took “an extra half-a-mile detour” from what was supposed to be a trip to a Starbucks in West Hartford.

Instead, Troconis found herself tagging along with Fotis as he dumped several trash bags in bins along Albany Avenue on 24 May 2019 – the same day his estranged wife Jennifer was allegedly killed.

The defence insists his client had no knowledge of any ulterior motive for the trip and did not know what the bags contained.

“She did not know what was in any of those bags,” Mr Schoenhorn told reporters during a court break.

He explained that Troconis was on the phone with her mother and later her daughter as they drove along in the Ford Raptor truck on Albany Avenue.

At one point, according to Mr Schoenhorn, she looked up and asked Fotis, “What are we doing here?”

Defence admits surveillance video shows Michelle Troconis in Fotis’ truck

The state presented surveillance footage of what appeared to be Fotis and Troconis in the Ford Raptor dumping trash in various bins in Hartford.

Former Connecticut State Police Detective Steve Soares, who was tasked with reviewing surveillance footage from the plaza where Starbucks is located, testified that two separate cameras that night captured what appears to be Fotis’ truck driving past the plaza at 7.27pm and heading toward Hartford. City cameras then captured the truck on its four-mile route in the area of Albany Avenue.

It wasn’t until a half-hour later, at 7.54pm, when the truck was spotted pulling into the Starbucks plaza parking lot.

During cross-examination of the witness who was taking the court through the timeline of the footage, Troconis’ attorney Schoenhorn admitted the videos depicted Fotis and Troconis, but disputed her culpability.

Troconis has pleaded not guilty to the charges she faces and insists she did not know Fotis was doing anything nefarious as she watched him toss garbage bags into random bins.

The surveillance footage showed Fotis Dulos driving his black Ford Raptor pickup truck down Albany Avenue with Troconis riding as a passenger as he threw out trash bags.

In one video, as Fotis was seen getting out of the truck and slipping an envelope down a sewer drain, Troconis is seen opening the passenger door – which was right over the sewer – and reaching down to the sidewalk.

The envelope was later discovered to contain license plates that were once registered to a vehicle owned by Fotis, police said.

Video shows man removing seemingly bloody object from trash

The prosecution showed surveillance footage of what appeared to be a homeless man removing trash from a garbage can where Fotis had been seen discarding something earlier the same day.

The man appeared to remove an item with a large blood-like stain and then he put it back before walking away.

Trooper Brett Attmore, who was on the witness stand at the time, confirmed to the court that law enforcement has been able to identify the person, but details were not revealed.

Two jurors dismissed within a week

Judge Kevin Randolph dismissed two alternate jurors in a span of less than a week.

The first juror was dismissed after reportedly saying “We love you” to two prosecutors involved in the case, outside the courtroom during a lunch break.

The comment gave the appearance of favouring the prosecution, the judge explained before excusing the juror and warning the others.

“The appearance that there was a favourable opinion to the state’s case indicates to the court that it would be difficult to proceed with him as a juror because the impartiality and fairness of that juror can reasonably be questioned,” Judge Randolph said.

The second case of alleged juror misconduct in the trial came just days later when the judge got word that a juror had allegedly likened the case to the novel and movie “Gone Girl.”

Judge Randolph received an unsigned note from a juror accusing another member of the panel of making the comment in the presence of other jurors.

The juror “discussed something about the case and it was all over social media,” Randolph said the note read. “Said it was like ‘Gone Girl’ — a brief mention. Several other jurors said, ’Don’t discuss this.’”

“Gone Girl,” a 2012 novel by Gillian Flynn that was turned into a 2014 film starring Ben Affleck, is about a woman who fakes her own disappearance and her husband, who becomes a suspect.

The judge questioned jurors about the comment before ultimately dismissing the juror, identified only as “Juror 186,” who acknowledged making the “Gone Girl” comment.

“Every (other) juror indicated that they would be able to afford the state and defence a fair and impartial trial,” Judge Randolph said after reconvening the trial.

The trial now has three alternates remaining, along with six regular jurors.

Jennifer Dulos confided in nanny about Fotis’s affair with Michelle Troconis

Lauren Almeida, the nanny who cared for Jennifer’s five children, and still does to this day, testified in court over the course of two days revealing her day-to-day time with the family, how Jennifer confided in her about Fotis’ affair and the bad feeling she got the day Jennifer vanished.

Ms Almeida, who often travelled with Fotis and the children, had returned home from a trip in 2017 while Fotis stayed behind with a woman named Michelle Troconis, who he called a friend.

Jennifer reportedly confided to Ms Almeida that she believed Fotis was having an affair and eventually confirmed her suspicions.

“Through email and receipts, she found out that he went to Utah with Michelle,” Ms Almeida said. “She was just like, ‘I knew it.’ She was, again, very soft-spoken. She seemed sad but also like she was trying to figure out what to do.”

Ms Almeida said that Jennifer told her she was no longer in love with Fotis but for the sake of their five children, the Dulos’ would “try to work out what they could”.

When Jennifer confronted Fotis about the affair, she said he admitted it and things became tense in the household.

Ms Almeida said Fotis had threatened Jennifer that he would take the kids to Greece and never come back.

After that, Jennifer asked Ms Almeida to start secretly moving things out of the home – things that Fotis “wouldn’t notice.”

“Her anxiety was really bad. She lost weight. She was just afraid,” Ms Almeida said.

Missing mom hired armed bodyguard before filing for divorce

Ms Almeida testified that Jennifer had hired an armed bodyguard to stand outside her hotel room while she filed for a divorce. It was all part of the plan to get away from Fotis.

“She was afraid of what Fotis would do to her and the kids if she filed for divorce while they were living under the same roof,” Ms Almeidasaid. “She was terrified.”

So Jennifer created a plan to leave the family home without Fotis suspecting her intentions.

Jennifer, Ms Almeida and the five children spent a week in Manhattan, where the divorce was filed, before moving to New Canaan. Jennifer had told Fotis that she and the children would be visiting her father’s grave in New York.

“We went to New York often because that’s where Jennifer’s parents were,” Ms Almeida recounted. “Her plan was to file for divorce, once we were in the city.”

That night, Ms Almeida said, Jennifer hired an armed bodyguard to stand outside the room she, Ms Almeida and the children shared at the Mandarin Oriental. Fotis then called Ms Almeida and accused her of kidnapping the children.

“He was angry, yelled at me, and told me the only reason I was there for Jennifer was because she paid off my student loans, which is an absolute lie,” Ms Almeida said. “He was yelling in front of the kids.”

Bodycam footage reveals ‘blood spatter’ found in house

Bodycam footage has revealed that police officers spotted what appeared to be blood spatter and a cleaned-up bloodstain inside Jennifer’s garage on the day she was last seen alive.

Footage played in court on the first day of the trial showed law enforcement officers searching Jennifer’s home in New Canaan after she was reported missing.

The officers are seen noting that there appears to be blood spatter on the front of her vehicle in the garage.

New Canaan Police Lieutenant Aaron LaTourette testified that he “noticed what appeared to be red blood in the front of that vehicle”.

“A red mark in the grill part of the vehicle. And it caught my attention because it did not match the colour of the grill,” he said.

Bodycam video of Jennifer Dulos search shows damage to SUV

Lt LaTourette and the officer are heard on the video discussing the possibility that the driver may have hit a deer. But noted there was no fur.

“It doesn’t sit well with me,” one of the officers says in the footage.

The footage played to jurors also showed red specks on the concrete floor, and a pinkish-reddish area that looked smeared, as if someone had cleaned a large blood stain, he said.

Defence blasts ‘junk science’ in case

Michelle Troconis’s attorneys took aim at what they described as “junk science” presented by the state as blood evidence in her conspiracy to murder trial.

Troconis’ legal team questioned the science of the substance used to illuminate blood – suggesting it could illuminate certain types of cleansers or rust and is “essentially junk science”.

During a break, the judge heard the motion from the defence arguing that it should not be presented at trial.

“There’s such danger with the misapprehension or misunderstanding of what is essentially junk science,” attorney Jon Schoenhorn said.

He called the process of the blood testing “junk science” and said that it didn’t need to be introduced into evidence by the detective “any more than if he said he used a Ouija board to choose where he was going to choose these samples.”

Fotis Dulos and Michelle Troconis in their 2019 booking photos (AP)
Fotis Dulos and Michelle Troconis in their 2019 booking photos (AP)

“What you have to understand is the Supreme Court of Connecticut has said is that chemical is so unreliable that it has no value to put it into a case,” he said, adding that a detective tasked with taking samples from Jennifer’a car and garage “doesn’t need to talk about a chemical that is basically junk science.”

But the judge ruled in favour of prosecutors, finding that jurors can hear testimony about presumptive blood testing.

Retired Connecticut State Police Sgt Matthew Reilly, who responded to the scene and was present when the photos were taken, took the stand in the afternoon and told the court that a “Blood-like stain” had been found on the inside cardboard of a paper towel roll.

Jurors were also shown photos of what appeared to be blood on the paper towel roll as well as on the floor of Jennifer’s garage.