Missing mom Jennifer Dulos’ estranged husband charged with murder; 2 charged with conspiracy

NEW CANAAN, Conn. — The estranged husband of Jennifer Dulos, a mother of five who went missing in May 2019 during an acrimonious divorce, has been charged with her murder, Connecticut State Police officials said Wednesday.

Fotis Dulos, 52, of Farmington, is charged with murder, felony murder and kidnapping, Trooper 1st Class Christine Jeltema announced Wednesday during a brief news conference. His bail was set at $6 million, the trooper said.

Dulos’ live-in girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, and a lawyer and close friend of his, Kent Mawhinney, 54, of South Windsor, are both charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Bail for Troconis, 45, was set at $2 million, Jeltema said.

Mawhinney’s bail was also set at $2 million. He remained in the Bridgeport Correctional Facility Thursday, according to Connecticut jail records.

Jeltema did not take questions from reporters, citing a gag order in the case.

Fotis Dulos and Troconis were initially charged with tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution in the May 24 disappearance of Jennifer Dulos, 50, who was last seen alive dropping her children off at school that morning. Friends reported her missing that evening after she failed to show up for scheduled doctors’ appointments in New York City.

Few signs of Jennifer Dulos have been found beyond blood found in her New Canaan home and in her garage. Arrest warrants released in the case this week state that DNA tests indicate the blood in the garage -- found on the floor, a wall and the exterior of a 2014 Range Rover parked inside -- came from Dulos.

A stain found on the kitchen faucet was a mixture of blood belonging to both Fotis and Jennifer Dulos, the warrants say. In addition, Fotis Dulos’ DNA profile was found on the knob of the mudroom door.

Jennifer Dulos’ blood was also found in May on items discarded in trash bins more than 70 miles away, in Hartford, the night of May 24. The items included clothing and a kitchen sponge.

Investigators found signs that someone had tried to clean up the scene in the victim’s garage.

>> Related story: Bloody clothes, camera footage leave trail of evidence in case of missing mom of 5

Carrie Luft, a spokeswoman for Jennifer Dulos’ family, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon on behalf of her loved ones.

“Although we are relieved that the wait for these charges is over, for us there is no sense of closure. Nothing can bring Jennifer back. We miss her every day and will forever mourn her loss,” Luft said in the statement obtained by NBC Connecticut.

“We believe the arrest warrants will speak for themselves, and we ask that you please respect our privacy during this time.”

NBC Connecticut reported Thursday that both Fotis Dulos and Troconis are free after posting bond. Dulos, who was fitted with a GPS tracking device before being released Wednesday, was ordered by a judge not to leave his home without the court’s permission.

The judge also issued protective orders barring him from contacting his children, Jennifer Dulos’ family or the children’s nanny. The news station reported that the children are in the custody of Jennifer Dulos’ mother, Gloria Farber, who has been caring for them at her New York City home since their mother vanished.

According to The New York Times, the couple had three sons and two daughters together, including two sets of twins.

Watch Tuesday’s announcement of arrests in Jennifer Dulos’ presumed death, courtesy of NBC Connecticut.

State police are providing an update on the arrest of Fotis Dulos on murder charges and Michelle Troconis on murder conspiracy charges http://nbcct.co/rXF91R

Posted by NBC Connecticut on Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Farber had asked a family court judge to grant her temporary custody of the children, who then ranged in age from 8 to 13, immediately after their mother’s May 24 disappearance, the Courant reported last year. The newspaper said the same judge who increased Fotis Dulos’ visitation with his children a few months before revoked his access to them after he became a suspect in their mother’s disappearance.

Troconis, who the NBC affiliate reported blew a kiss to family members in court Wednesday, was released on bond Thursday after a judge lowered the amount to $1.5 million. She was also fitted with a GPS monitor, the station said.

Mawhinney’s bond remained at $2 million after the judge in the case pointed out that he faces a pending charge for violation of a court order. Prosecutors also argued that Mawhinney tried to evade police upon learning that a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

If Mawhinney posts bond, he will have to turn over his passport, according to the judge’s order. He will also be fitted with a GPS monitoring device upon his release, the news station reported.

‘100% a human grave’

Though Fotis Dulos and Troconis were charged in the case shortly after Jennifer Dulos’ disappearance, Tuesday’s announcement was the first time Mawhinney was publicly connected to the case.

His arrest warrant states that police found evidence that he met with Fotis Dulos on May 23, the night before Jennifer Dulos’ suspected killing, as well as the following day. The document also mentions what appeared to be a shallow grave found on the grounds of a hunting club in East Granby that Mawhinney founded more than a decade ago.

Two members of the Windsor Rod & Gun Club were walking through the woods on club property May 18 -- six days before Jennifer Dulos vanished -- when they found “an area of disturbed ground” covered by two barbecue grill grates. Small branches and leaves had been used to conceal the grates and hide the hole underneath them, Mawhinney’s arrest warrant says.

One man described the hole to police as “100% a human grave.”

The hole was about 6 feet long, 2 feet wide and 3 feet deep, the men told investigators. In the hole sat a blue tarp and two unopened bags of lime.

The men told police they speculated on the reason for the lime, which one of them pointed out could be used to help get rid of a body.

“Well, that means someone has to be missing,” one of the men stated.

A few days later, but two days before Jennifer Dulos went missing, the second man was on the property and checked on the hole, which he found to be half-filled with water. The lime was missing at that point, he told police.

“Again, (he) considered this curious, but as no one was yet missing, he shrugged it off,” the arrest warrant says.

In early June, the man was again on the property and found the hole had been filled and covered “neat as a pin,” to the point the hole was no longer apparent. A few weeks later, while talking about the hole with a police officer friend, the friend told him he needed to call authorities.

The witness told police that, although Mawhinney had left the hunting club five or six years ago, he had reached out in March or April to another club member, saying he was interested in again getting involved.

“(Mawhinney) had said he wanted to get back into the club and had inquired how to get back onto the property. The member told Mawhinney about the hidden key to the logging chain (blocking access),” the arrest warrant states.

Mawhinney never followed up on renewing his membership in the club, the court documents say.

Investigators from New Canaan and state troopers took K-9 units to the hunting club, where they found the filled-in hole the men had told them about, the warrant says. The hole was dug up, but the dogs found no signs of human remains in or around it.

Mawhinney’s cellphone data, which led police to believe he met with Fotis Dulos on May 23 and 24, also showed him in the vicinity of the hunting club March 29, around the time he asked about how to access the property, and again May 31, a week after Jennifer Dulos vanished, his warrant says.

Bloodstains and surveillance footage

Jennifer Dulos was reported missing by friends the night of May 24 after she failed to show up for scheduled doctors’ appointments in New York City.

New Canaan police officers went to her home -- located on a cul-de-sac in the affluent town about 15 miles outside Greenwich -- around 7 p.m. that night but found no one there. A state police detective wrote in the initial arrest warrants for Fotis Dulos and Troconis that the family’s nanny had to let officers into the house.

Investigators found bloodstains in the garage and home that led them to believe a violent assault had taken place, with Jennifer Dulos suspected to be the victim.

A search was launched around Jennifer Dulos’ home on Welles Lane, and a short time later, her 2017 Chevy Suburban was found abandoned along Merritt Parkway, on the perimeter of nearby Wavenly Park. The 300-acre park was thoroughly searched over the weeks following Dulos’ disappearance, but no sign of the missing woman was found.

Detectives who met briefly with Fotis Dulos seized his cellphone, which showed his movements the day his wife disappeared. Those movements included traveling to Hartford, where the bloodstained clothing and cleaning supplies were found.

The data specifically showed the phone traveling along Albany Avenue, where the discarded items were recovered by police. In a storm drain along the route, investigators also found a FedEx box containing license plates that police traced back to a 2007 Suburban belonging to Fotis Dulos.

The plates had been altered to change the tag number, court documents state.

The Hartford Police Department was able to help New Canaan detectives tie Fotis Dulos and his girlfriend to the evidence, court documents say.

“Investigators obtained surveillance footage from the Hartford Police Department Capital City Command Center (C4), which operates surveillance cameras at various Hartford locations, including the Albany Avenue area,” one of the warrants from May states. “C4 documented a black Ford Raptor pickup truck stopping at over 30 locations along a more than 4 mile stretch of Albany Avenue between Biltmore and Edward streets.”

Still images from the surveillance footage showed the Raptor truck matched one belonging to Fotis Dulos, including a sticker on the rear window and a light-colored mark on the black truck’s front bumper. The front license plate of the vehicle also matched that of his truck.

A man matching the description of Fotis Dulos was seen getting out of the truck and tossing out the evidence later found by officers, the warrants say. In some of the footage, apparent bloodstains could be seen on the items being tossed out.

A woman matching Troconis’ description could be seen leaning out of the passenger seat of the truck in one video clip, the documents say.

Fotis Dulos’ attorney, Norm Pattis, has repeatedly proclaimed his client’s innocence, at one point going so far as to suggest that Jennifer Dulos was framing her husband for murder, as the supposed victim did in the best-selling Gillian Flynn novel “Gone Girl.” The 2014 movie based on the book, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, earned more than $368 million worldwide.

Pattis this week reiterated his client’s claims of innocence, saying that Fotis Dulos “wants to clear his name,” according to NBC Connecticut.

“What we have is a suspicious disappearance and an entirely circumstantial case,” Pattis said.