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Mom-of-five murdered, husband dead by suicide and his lover on trial: The Jennifer Dulos case

Michelle Troconis, Jennifer Dulos and Fotis Dulos (left to right)  (Getty/Supplied)
Michelle Troconis, Jennifer Dulos and Fotis Dulos (left to right) (Getty/Supplied)

“I am afraid of my husband,” Jennifer Dulos wrote in 2017 court documents as she filed for divorce from husband Fotis Dulos.

“I know that filing for divorce and filing this motion will enrage him. I know he will retaliate by trying to harm me in some way.”

Two years later, the mother-of-five’s ominous prediction appeared to come true.

On 24 May 2019, Jennifer dropped the former couple’s five children off at their elite, private school in New Canaan, Connecticut.

She hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Her body has never been found.

Months later, Jennifer’s estranged husband Fotis was arrested and charged with her murder.

The luxury home builder, originally from Greece, insisted he was innocent – with his attorney even making the wild claim that Jennifer staged her own disappearance akin to the plot in the movie Gone Girl.

But the case against Fotis never went to trial as he killed himself one morning when he was due to appear in court.

With Jennifer and Fotis both dead, the truth of what happened appeared to go to the grave.

Jennifer Dulos disappeared after dropping their five children off at school in New Canaan. She hasn’t been seen or heard from since and is presumed dead (New Canaan Police Department)
Jennifer Dulos disappeared after dropping their five children off at school in New Canaan. She hasn’t been seen or heard from since and is presumed dead (New Canaan Police Department)

But, two other people also allegedly know at least in part what happened to Jennifer as they stand accused of helping Fotis cover up his murder plot.

Michelle Troconis, Fotis’ girlfriend, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, tampering with physical evidence and hindering prosecution in Jennifer’s disappearance and death. Her trial is about to begin on Thursday 11 January in Stamford, Connecticut.

Kent Mawhinney, an attorney and former friend of Fotis’, is also charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Prosecutors say he tried to provide an alibi for Fotis on the morning of Jennifer’s disappearance. No trial date has been set for Mr Mawhinney. He was freed from house arrest in May 2023 but, as of October, must continue to wear a GPS monitoring device on his ankle, the Stamford Advocate reported.

Both defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges and have denied having anything to do with Jennifer’s disappearance and murder.

It’s a mysterious and tragic case that has drawn international news coverage and led to multiple TV documentaries and movies as it rumbled on for several years.

But the saga is far from over.

Here’s what we know so far:

What happened to Jennifer Dulos?

Jennifer, a 50-year-old New York native, was last seen alive on 24 May 2019.

She and Fotis, who had been married for 13 years, were in the midst of a contentious divorce and child custody battle.

In the 2017 divorce filing, Jennifer wrote that she was “afraid” of her estrangedh husband and feared that he might “retaliate by trying to harm me in some way”.

She went on to say her husband had shown “irrational, unsafe, bullying, threatening and controlling behavior”.

On the morning she was last seen alive, she had dropped the couple’s five children off at school in the wealthy enclave of New Canaan – where she had moved with them since leaving the family home.

Fotis Dulos died by suicide in 2020 just weeks after being charged with his wife Jennifer Dulos’ murder (AP)
Fotis Dulos died by suicide in 2020 just weeks after being charged with his wife Jennifer Dulos’ murder (AP)

She was reported missing by her friends about 10 hours later, after she failed to show up for appointments and stopped returning calls and texts.

Her 2017 Chevrolet Suburban was later found at a park near her home.

Did Fotis Dulos kill Jennifer Dulos?

A little over a week after Jennifer was reported missing, Fotis and his then-girlfriend Ms Troconis were arrested and charged with tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution.

Investigators said that Fotis had been spotted on surveillance footage driving to and from New Canaan on the day Jennifer went missing, in a pickup truck belonging to one of his employees.

Footage later captured Fotis – this time with Ms Troconis riding in the front seat of the vehicle – stopping in Hartford, with Fotis seen tossing garbage bags into more than 30 trash bins in the area.

Inside the trash bags, investigators found clothing belonging to Jennifer and plastic zip ties that tested positive for her DNA.

In 2019, Michelle Troconis, left, and Fotis Dulos, right, were arrested on charges of evidence tampering and hindering prosecution in the disappearance of Jennifer Dulos (New Canaan Police Department via AP)
In 2019, Michelle Troconis, left, and Fotis Dulos, right, were arrested on charges of evidence tampering and hindering prosecution in the disappearance of Jennifer Dulos (New Canaan Police Department via AP)

A blood-like substance with Jennifer’s DNA was also found in the pickup truck, according to a warrant released by the Connecticut State Police in September 2019.

The owner of the truck told police Fotis had later told him to replace the seats in the truck and got “pushy” and angry when he didn’t.

Ms Troconis, who was living with Fotis in his Farmington home at the time, told investigators that he had the vehicle cleaned “because the body of Jennifer at some point was in there”, according to a warrant. She has denied knowing what was in the bags Fotis dumped.

Fotis and Ms Troconis were hit with further charges of tampering with evidence in September 2019.

Then, on 7 January 2020, Connecticut state police charged Fotis with murder, felony murder and kidnapping.

Ms Troconis and Mr Mawhinney were also charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Investigators said they believed Fotis had been“lying in wait” for Jennifer when she returned to her home after taking the children to school.

Police believe that Fotis attacked his estranged wife in her garage and then drove off with her body.

According to the arrest warrants, Fotis may have been motivated by money. Jennifer came from a wealthy background, while Fotis was $7m in debt and would have had some access to the children’s trust funds if she died.

Following the arrest, the couple’s five children, who were between the ages of 8 and 13 when she disappeared, went to live with her mother, Gloria Farber, in New York.

How did Fotis Dulos die?

Fotis pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied having anything to do with Jennifer’s disappearance.

His defence attorney, Norm Pattis, even suggested Jennifer may have staged her disappearance to frame Fotis – in a Gone Girl style plot.

Two days after his arrest, he walked free from prison after posting $6m bond.

But, he was summoned back to Stamford Superior Court for an emergency bond hearing after the company that posted the $6m bond learned that two properties offered as collateral were subject to foreclosure and a third was overvalued.

At the hearing – 28 January 2020 – Fotis likely would have been sent back to jail.

But Fotis failed to show up in court.

Officers went to his home and found Fotis unresponsive. He was rushed to hospital, where he died two days later. His death was ruled a suicide.

On the day Fotis Dulos was found unresponsive, he had been facing an emergency bond hearing in Stamford Superior Court where he could have been sent back to jail (Norwalk Hour)
On the day Fotis Dulos was found unresponsive, he had been facing an emergency bond hearing in Stamford Superior Court where he could have been sent back to jail (Norwalk Hour)

Fotis left behind a suicide note, in which he continued to insist his innocence.

In the note, he “declared his innocence of the infamous and heinous crimes that the state has accused him of and claimed his lawyers have the evidence to prove it,” his lawyers wrote in a court filing.

When is Michelle Troconis going on trial?

Ms Troconis, 49, is facing charges of conspiracy to commit murder, two counts of conspiracy to tamper with physical evidence, two counts of tampering with physical evidence and second-degree hindering prosecution.

She has pleaded not guilty, with her trial set to begin on 11 January. The judge said it could last through 1 March.

Just weeks before the trial was set to begin, the judge ruled that prosecutors may not use evidence obtained from a warrantless search of her phone, the Stamford Advocate reported.

Her phone had been seized on 31 May 2019 without a warrant during a search of Fotis’ Farmington home.

Connecticut State Police Sgt Mike Beauton Jr testified that police needed to seize it to prevent the owner from manipulating or deleting any potential evidence on it.

But state Superior Court Senior Judge Kevin Randolph granted a motion filed by Ms Troconis’ defense seeking to have it thrown out.

While this marked a win for Ms Troconis, the judge also refused to have her taped interviews with police thrown out.

In the interrogation video, Ms Troconis gave investigators her version of events on the day of Jennifer’s disappearance.

She said she dropped her daughter off at school, ran errands and had lunch with Fotis at his Farmington home.

They then went to one of Fotis’ properties to clean it, and went for coffee in West Hartford, she claimed. On the way there, she said Fotis dumped trash bags while she was in the truck. Ms Troconis said she didn’t know what was in the bags.

Her attorney Jon Schoenhorn argued that the tapes should be inadmissible as she was pushed to answer questions while tired and was denied her basic rights – including repeatedly asking for her attorney, while struggling with a language barrier.

The judge disagreed, paving the way for the evidence to be presented in court.

Ahead of the start of the trial, Jennifer’s family released a statement: “It is hard to believe that almost four and a half years have elapsed since Jennifer disappeared, and she still has not been found.

“Every day, we miss her voice, her laugh, her gentle demeanor, her inner and outer strength, her insight, her guidance, her determination, her way with words, her love, her faith, her goodness. Many thanks to all who have helped to keep Jennifer’s memory alive.

“We are relieved that the trial process is underway, and we are endlessly grateful to the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s office for their commitment, diligent work, and support.”

Days before the trial was due to start – and over four years after she was last seen alive – Jennifer was officially declared dead.

Jennifer’s Law

While Jennifer’s family continue to wait for justice, the mother-of-five’s tragic story has led to legislative change in Connecticut.

In 2021, Jennifer’s Law was passed in the state, expanding the definition of domestic violence to include coercive control.

The law is named after two Jennifers who were victims of domestic violence – Jennifer Dulos and Jennifer Magnano.

Jennifer Magnano was shot by her estranged husband Scott in front of their children on 23 August 2007.

The couple were in the midst of a bitter divorce and child custody dispute and he had been ordered to stay away from the house where she and their three children lived. Magnano’s (now adult) children helped push for the passage of the law.

The mother-of-five’s tragic story has led to legislative change in Connecticut (New Canaan Police Department)
The mother-of-five’s tragic story has led to legislative change in Connecticut (New Canaan Police Department)

The bill, SB 1091, has now established a new program to provide legal representation for domestic violence victims who file restraining orders.

Victims of domestic violence can now testify remotely in court proceedings for matters such as restraining orders, protective orders or standard criminal protective orders.

The definition of domestic violence has also been expanded to include threatening, humiliating, or intimidating acts that harm a person and deprive them of their freedom.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential.