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Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Fotis Dulos Murder Case: What Happened to Jennifer Dulos?

     In 1989, Fotis Dulos graduated from Brown University with an applied mathematics-economics degree. He earned a MBA from Columbia Business School. By 2004, Dulos owned Fore Group, Inc., a construction company that built luxury homes in the affluent Farmington Valley and Fairfield County region of Connecticut. That year he married Jennifer Dulos whom he had met when they were students at Brown.

     In June 2017, Jennifer filed for divorce. She and Fotis were living in Farmington, Connecticut with their five children, ages 8 to 13. After she filed for divorce, Jennifer moved out of the house and took up residence with her children on Welles Lane in New Canaan, Connecticut.

     Jennifer Dulos, in her petition for full custody of the children, accused her estranged husband of having "revenge fantasies" and exhibiting "irrational, bullying, threatening and controlling behavior." The 48-year-old also claimed he had recently purchased a handgun.

     In a November 2017 court filing, Jennifer Dulos alleged that while Fotis was frequently flying to Europe with his 42-year-old girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, the family health insurance policy lapsed due to non-payment. When she complained to him that she couldn't take the children to the doctor, he told her to pay for health insurance out of her own pocket.

     In July 2018, in another divorce related court filing, Jennifer Dulos claimed that while Fotis was telling people that because his construction company was losing money, he couldn't afford child support or medical insurance. At this time he was taking long vacations with Michelle Troconis in Greece and Spain.

     On Friday, May 24, 2019, Jennifer Dulos drove her five children to school in her 2017 Chevrolet Suburban. She was recorded on a surveillance camera driving home from the school at 8:05 AM. After that, she dropped out of sight.

     At six o'clock that Friday evening, Jennifer's longtime nanny, Lauren Almeida, and Dulos' close friend Laurel Watts, had their text messages to her go immediately to her voicemail. When Almeida and Watts learned that Jennifer had missed a morning doctor's appointment in New York City, they reported her missing to the New Canaan Police Department.

     Lauren Almeida, two hours before reporting her employer missing, took the five Dulos children to their maternal grandmother's apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York.  When the nanny spoke to detectives with the New Canaan Police Department, she said that when her text message to Jennifer went directly to voicemail, and Jennifer missed the doctor's appointment, "My first thought was Fotis did something."

     The Dulos nanny told investigators that on the day Jennifer went missing, she arrived at the New Canaan house at 11:30 in the morning. It was then she found her employer's purse lying on the floor between the mudroom and the kitchen. A mug of tea and an unopened granola bar were on the kitchen counter.

     Police officers, a few hours after Jennifer Dulos' missing person report, found her Chevrolet Suburban abandoned in Waveny Park in New Canaan.

     On May 30, 2019, six days after Jennifer Dulos was last seen driving home after dropping her children off at school, crime scene technicians determined that someone had tried to clean blood off the floor of the missing woman's garage. Officers left the garage that day in possession of an ax.

     In Hartford, Connecticut, several surveillance cameras recorded images of a man meeting Fotis Dulos' description depositing trash bags from a truck into several dumpsters. Police officers recovered these trash bags and discovered they contained bloodstained household goods and clothing that belonged to Jennifer Dulos. At this point in the investigation, detectives were thinking that Jennifer Dulos may have been murdered, and that her husband may have had something to do with it.

     On June 1, 2019, two members of the exclusive Windsor Rod and Gun Club in East Granby, Connecticut, contacted the police with intriguing information, a story they connected to the Jennifer Dulos missing persons case. Jay Lawlor and Lee McKay, while hunting on club grounds on May 18, 2019, six days before Jennifer Dulos went missing, came across a hole dug in the ground the shape and depth of a human grave. The hole was covered with barbecue grill gates and contained a blue tarp and two bags of lime.

     Four days after they discovered what they considered a grave waiting for a body, one of the club members returned to the site. The bags of lime were gone, and the hole was half-filled with rain water. Just before reporting the find, one of the men went back to the site again. This time the possible grave was filled in and covered with leaves and sticks in an effort to conceal it.

     The club members connected what they had found to the missing persons case through a local attorney and close Fotis Dulos friend, Kent Mahwhinney. Mr. Mahwhinney, years ago, had founded the Windsor Rod and Gun Club.

     On June 1, 2019, a forensic examination of the rod and gun club gravesite revealed that no one was buried there or had been buried there.

    Fotis Dulos' friend, Kent Mahwhinney, had recently gone through a highly contentious divorce himself, and in that context, had been accused of abusive behavior. Investigators determined that on the day Jennifer Dulos went missing, Fotis had called his lawyer friend. When asked about this, Mahwhinney denied speaking to Dulos on May 24, 2019. The attorney claimed that on the day Jennifer Dulos disappeared, he had fallen and sustained a concussion. His cellphone couldn't be checked because it had broken in the fall and had been replaced.

     Detectives, on June 1, 2019, questioned the girlfriend, Michelle Troconis. She denied any knowledge of Jennifer Dulos' disappearance. She did say that on the day Jennifer went missing, Kent Mahwhinney was in Fotis Dulos's Farmington office-home.

     Fotis Dulos, the prime suspect in his wife's disappearance, told interrogators that he had no knowledge of how or why his wife dropped out of sight without notice. He said he had no idea where she had gone. The estranged husband also denied ever having bullied or threatened her.

     As the Jennifer Dulos investigation progressed, circumstantial evidence of foul play against her husband continued to build. A few days before she disappeared, Fotis had borrowed a truck from one of his employees. According to Michelle Troconis, now his ex-girlfriend, after Jennifer went missing, Fotis had the truck cleaned "because the body of Jennifer was at some point in there."

     According to the employee who had lent Dulos his truck, when Fotis returned it, he asked him to replace the seats because he had spilled some coffee. Fotis also mentioned that because his wife had been in the truck, and they had hugged, traces of her hair might be on the seats. The owner of the truck installed new seats, but saved the old ones.

     Crime scene investigators, in the truck Fotis Dulos had borrowed from his employee, found traces of Jennifer Dulos' blood.

     In September 2019, a Fairfield County prosecutor charged Fotis Dulos and Michelle Troconis with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, and hindering prosecution in relation to the Jennifer Dulos missing person case. They both pleaded not guilty, posted their bail, and were released from custody.

     The criminal investigation continued, and on Tuesday, January 7, 2020, the Fairfield County prosecutor, even though he didn't have a body, charged Fotis Dulos with capital murder, felony murder, and kidnapping. The magistrate set the suspect's bail at $6 million.

     The murder suspect's ex-girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Her bail was set at $1.5 million. The prosecutor also charged Dulos' friend, Kent Mahwhinney, with conspiracy to commit murder. His bail: $2 million.

     On January 9, 2020, Fotis Dulos posted his bail, was released to house arrest, and fitted with a GPS monitoring device. Michelle Troconis posted her bail pursuant to the same conditions. The judge also issued a protective order prohibiting Fotis Dulos from contacting his children or members of Jennifer Dulos' family. Since her disappearance, the children had been living with her mother in New York City.

     Following their client's release from custody, his attorneys floated the idea that Jennifer Dulos may have run off to punish her estranged husband like in the novel and film, "Gone Girl." Prosecutors and detectives were quite certain, however, based on the circumstantial evidence, that Jennifer Dulos had been murdered. 

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