Woman convicted of murder conspiracy, coverup, in 2019 disappearance of Connecticut mother

Mar 1, 2024, 8:10 AM | Updated: 4:06 pm

A woman was convicted Friday of conspiring to murder Jennifer Dulos, a mother of five who vanished from a wealthy Connecticut enclave in 2019 and was never found.

Michelle Troconis, 49, was convicted by the Stamford jury following a lengthy trial in which prosecutors laid out a case that she helped her then-boyfriend, Dolus’ husband, plot and cover up the killing of his estranged wife as they battled each other in divorce and child custody proceedings.

Fotis Dolus, who denied he had anything to do with the disappearance, never stood trial: He killed himself in January 2020 shortly after being charged with murder.

Troconis sat with her head down and cried as the jurors were polled to confirm they agreed with the verdict. She could be heard sobbing before marshals cuffed her and led her from the courtroom.

A spokesperson for Jennifer Dulos’ family, Carrie Luft, thanked the jury, judge and prosecutors but stressed that a “mother, daughter, sister, cousin and cherished friend” still remains missing.

“Today’s verdict is a crucial attribution of accountability, not a victory. There can be no victory when five children are growing up without their mother,” Luft said in a statement. The family hopes the verdict might spur new leads.

Besides the conspiracy to commit murder charge, which is punishable with up to 20 years in prison, the jury convicted Troconis of hindering the prosecution and evidence tampering. Her bond was set at $6 million and she is scheduled to be sentenced May 31.

Troconis’ lawyer, John Shoenhorn, said he respects the jurors’ decision but doesn’t understand it and plans to seek a new trial.

“I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s not like I’m cynical or hard-boiled about this, but I truly just don’t see how the jury could have reached this verdict,” he told reporters, adding that “Michelle is devasted.”

Troconis likely won’t be freed on bond for a couple of days, he said. Meanwhile, she is due in court Tuesday for a hearing on whether she should be held in contempt over an incident that occurred during the trial.

Jennifer Dulos, 50, vanished on May 24, 2019, after dropping off her children at school. At the time, she was living with them in New Canaan while Fotis Dulos stayed in the family’s spacious home about 70 miles (115 kilometers) away in Farmington. Troconis and her daughter were living with Fotis Dulos at the time.

The case drew widespread attention and was the subject of a made-for-TV movie, Lifetime’s “Gone Mom.”

Jennifer Dulos was a member of a wealthy New York City family whose father, the late Hilliard Farber, founded his own brokerage firm. She also was a niece by marriage of fashion designer Liz Claiborne. Fotis Dulos built luxury homes and was originally from Greece.

Troconis, a dual American and Venezuelan citizen, has described herself as a co-founder of horse riding therapy programs in different parts of the world who once had her own TV production company in Argentina and hosted a snow-sports show for ESPN South America.

Members of Troconis’ family were shocked and angered by the verdict and said she is being unfairly blamed.

“Choosing and putting my sister as the guilty person is not the right thing to do because she is innocent,” sister Claudia Troconis-Marmol said tearfully outside the courthouse. She called the verdict an injustice.

Police alleged that on the morning of Jennifer Dulos’ disappearance, Fotis Dulos drove his employee’s pickup truck to a New Canaan park, rode a bicycle to her house, attacked her in the garage and drove off with her in her Chevy Suburban, which was later found abandoned at the park.

Although her body hasn’t been found, a judge declared her legally dead last October. A medical examiner also concluded that evidence from the garage, including suspected blood spatter, indicated she could not have survived such an attack.

Hours after Jennifer Dulos disappeared, Troconis was seen on surveillance video accompanying Fotis Dulos on a trip to Hartford, where he discarded trash bags from the back of his own pickup truck.

During the trial, the prosecution and state forensic experts showed a shirt, bra and zip ties with blood-like stains that had been found in one of the bags. The experts testified that DNA samples from the items were a highly likely match to Jennifer Dulos’ DNA.

They also said DNA and fingerprints on some of the items and bags were a highly likely match to Fotis Dulos, and DNA that was a highly likely match to Troconis was found on one of the bags.

The jury watched nearly seven hours of police interviews with Troconis on three different days, which showed her saying she didn’t know what was in the bags.

In court, Troconis’ lawyer also argued that her likely DNA was found only on a microscopic sample from one of the bags, and that Fotis Dulos could have had spread it there after having contact with Troconis.

Prosecutors said Troconis lied to police during her first interview by saying Fotis Dulos was at his Farmington home when she woke up on the morning Jennifer Dulos disappeared. She acknowledged during a subsequent interview that was not accurate.

“While it’s our hope that today’s verdict brings Jennifer’s family and friends some peace, we also hope that someday we can provide resolution to the still unanswered question of where Jennifer rests,” State’s Attorney Paul J. Ferencek said in a statement.

Kent Mawhinney, a friend of Fotis Dulos and his one-time lawyer in a civil case, is also awaiting trial on a murder conspiracy charge in the case. He has pleaded not guilty.

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Woman convicted of murder conspiracy, coverup, in 2019 disappearance of Connecticut mother