Innocent girlfriend or murderous conspirator? Jury hears closing arguments in missing mom case

Feb 27, 2024, 11:43 AM

Is Michelle Troconis a murderous conspirator who wanted her boyfriend’s estranged wife dead and helped him cover up her killing? Or was she an innocent bystander who unwittingly became ensnared in one of Connecticut’s most enduring missing person and alleged homicide cases?

A state jury heard two different tales of the 49-year-old Troconis as the prosecution and defense made their closing arguments Tuesday in Stamford. The six-member panel was expected to begin deliberations later in the afternoon on charges including conspiracy to commit murder, evidence tampering and hindering prosecution. Troconis has pleaded not guilty.

Jennifer Dulos, 50, went missing on May 24, 2019, and has never been found. Prosecutors told the jury her estranged husband, Fotis Dulos, attacked her at her New Canaan home and drove off with her body. They were battling over their divorce and custody of their five children at the time, and Troconis was Fotis’ Dulos girlfriend and living with him at another home.

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

“Jennifer is dead, and Fotis and Michcelle Troconis intended that to happen,” 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.”

Troconis did not testify during the 27-day trial. Her lawyer, 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,” Schoenhorn told the jury. “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 said. “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.”

In fact, a TV movie was made about the case, Lifetime’s “Gone Mom,” as the case drew widespread attention.

Jennifer Dulos was a member of a wealthy New York City family and a niece by marriage of fashion designer Liz Claiborne. Although her body has never been found, a medical examiner concluded suspected blood spatter in her garage and other evidence indicated she could not have survived. A state judge declared her officially dead in October.

Fotis Dulos was a luxury home builder originally from Greece. He killed himself in January 2020, shortly after being charged with the murder of Jennifer Dulos. He had denied the charge.

Troconi is a dual American and Venezuelan citizen who once had her own TV production company in Argentina and hosted a snow-sports show for ESPN South America.

The Dulos’ five children, who ranged from 8 to 13 years old when their mother disappeared and include two sets of twins, have been in the custody of Jennifer Dulos’ mother, Gloria Farber, 88, in New York City ever since.

Prosecutors alleged Troconis must have known about the plot beforehand, because she answered Fotis Dulos’ cell phone on the morning of May 24 when he allegedly was in New Canaan — suggesting she helped him with an alibi. He had left his phone at their home in Farmington, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) away near Hartford, prosecutors said.

Later that day, Troconis accompanied Fotis Dulos to Hartford, where he disposed of several garbage bags in random locations — a trip partially recorded by surveillance cameras.

Police found some of the bags and said they contained clothing, zip ties and other items containing Jennifer Dulos’ DNA. Some of the items, including a shirt and bra, had blood-like stains on them. Some items had Fotis Dulos’ DNA on them, and a portion of one bag tested positive for Troconis’ DNA, a state forensics expert testified at the trial.

Schoenhorn said Troconis had no idea what Fotis Dulos was doing or what was in the bags. He also said Fotis Dulos could have touched her and spread her DNA to one of the bags.

The prosecutors also said Troconis helped Fotis Dulos write up a timeline of their activities to prepare for potential police questioning. Troconis told police she only did that at the request of Fotis Dulos and his lawyer. And she also went with him when he had the employee’s truck cleaned and detailed at a car wash, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also said Troconis lied to police during the first of her three interviews with them in 2019 when she said Fotis was at their home the morning of May 24. They say she acknowledged in a subsequent interview that she hadn’t seen him.

Schoenhorn said there could have been miscommunications because the interviews were in English instead of Troconis’ primary language, Spanish. A defense expert also testified that traumatic events, such as being interviewed by police, can affect people’s memory and recall of events.

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Innocent girlfriend or murderous conspirator? Jury hears closing arguments in missing mom case