An explosive murder conspiracy trial is underway in Connecticut as jurors work to determine whether Michelle Troconis was involved in the killing of her lover’s estranged wife.
Jennifer Dulos was last seen alive in May 2019 as she waved her children off to school in the wealthy enclave of New Canaan. And while her body has never been found, she has been officially declared dead – with police finding that she died a violent death at the hands of Fotis Dulos, the man she had filed for divorce from just two years earlier.
In January 2020, Fotis Dulos died by suicide after being charged with her murder, leaving his girlfriend Ms Troconis to take the fall.
Ms Troconis insists she did not know Fotis was doing anything nefarious as she watched him toss garbage bags into random bins, or as she helped him write up a timeline of their whereabouts on the day his estranged wife disappeared.
Those actions, authorities allege, were taken to cover up the killing of Jennifer, who they say was attacked at her home on 24 May 2019, after dropping their five children off at school.
Now, more than four years later, Ms Troconis, 49, is facing trial in Stamford on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, evidence tampering and hindering prosecution. She has pleaded not guilty and maintained she does not know what happened to Jennifer or where her body might be.
Here are the key revelations from the trial so far.
Michelle Troconis included intimate detail in ‘alibi scripts’
Documents dubbed “alibi scripts” by police found at the Farmington home of Fotis Dulos and Michelle Troconis were read in court on 24 January.
Three photocopies – two of which outline the couple’s movements the day Jennifer Dulos disappeared – were found inside a black computer bag during a search of the home on 9 June 2019.
Ms Troconis previously told police that they had been advised by an divorce attorney at the time to write out the timelines.
The first document presented to the court mentioned sending emails to “Jennifer” and “Michelle,” a trip to Starbucks at 7pm in which she wrote, “West Hartford Starbucks ... Two frappuccinos ... I did not like the sandwich.”
The trip to Starbucks was made after Ms Troconis and Fotis Dulos were seen driving the route of Albany Avenue as Dulos tossed trash bags that police later discovered contained Jennifer’s DNA.
A second document was a detailed timeline that began with “take a shower with Fotis” at 6.40am, a description of an outfit and cooking scrambled eggs for her daughter.
The third photocopy appeared to be a call log which documented the incoming, outgoing and canceled calls and the duration of each one.
A fourth document, found in an office in the home, appeared to be the original version of the first photocopy.
It was dated 25 May 2019 and noted a meeting with an officer from the New Canaan Police Department and what vehicles “Michi,” “Fotis” and “Pawel” drove.
The defence previously asked the judge to ban any mention of the writing as “alibi scripts.”
Prosecutors clarified that they don’t intend to call the documents “alibi scripts” during the evidentiary portion of the trial, and also have advised their witnesses to call the documents “timelines.”
However, the state will be able to call the documents “alibi scripts” during closing arguments.
No presumptive blood found in Fotis Dulos’ truck
Det Matthew Reilly testified on 24 January that presumptive blood tests police conducted in Fotis Dulos’ truck – believed to have been the vehicle used when Dulos dump evidence – were negative.
Dulos was seen on surveillance footage driving the truck along Albany Avenue, stopping at multiple trash bins to dumb bags that were later found to contain bloodstained clothes, zip ties and ponchos.
Some of the items tested positive for Jennifer Dulos’ DNA, according to Dulos’ arrest warrant.
The truck was searched by police on 31 May 2019, and police used Luminol to search for traces of blood.
While several areas illuminated, police conducted presumptive tests but they came back negative for blood.
Loved ones say it was ‘brutal’ seeing bloody evidence
Jennifer Dulos’ family released a statement about the grim evidence presented at the trial of the woman accused of helping her then-boyfriend in the cover-up of his estranged wife.
“For Jennifer’s family and loved ones, seeing the physical evidence on Tuesday was brutal but also crucial,” Carrie Luft said in a statement to NBC.
“Witnessing Jennifer’s blood-soaked clothing, knowing it was the shirt, the bra, she wore on the last day of her life, made us imagine, again, what she must have endured.”
“We hope that seeing this evidence in three dimensions can put an end to any suggestion that Jennifer is ‘missing.’ She died a tragic death, and her loss is felt beyond what words can express,” she added.
Ms Luft and several other loved ones became visibly emotional in court. A blood-soaked Vineyard Vines shirt was shown, Ms Luft buried her head in her hands, the CT Insider reported.
Prosecutors then asked Sgt Duggan to describe the shirt, and he pointed out the lettering that read, “EDSFTG.”
“It’s a Vineyard Vines slogan, ‘Every day should feel this good,’” Sgt Duggan explained.
‘Blood-soaked’ clothing, zip ties, ponchos shown in court
On day eight, investigators testified that they recovered several items covered in “blood-like substance” stuffed into trash bags and dumped into bins along a four-mile stretch of Albany Avenue in Hartford.
Grim photos of the items were shown in court before the state carefully held up each piece to show to the jury.
State Police Sgt Kevin Duggan testified that the items were pulled from trash bins in Hartford where, according to prosecutors, surveillance video shows Ms Troconis sitting in a black Ford Raptor truck with Dulos as he tossed the bags just hours after Jennifer vanished.
A white bra and Vineyard vines shirt, both of which were cut down the middle and appeared to be soaked with blood, and believed to have been Jennifer Dulos’, prompted a reaction from her close friend Carrie Luft who buried her head in her hands, the CT Insider reported.
The state asked Sgt Duggan to describe the shirt. He pointed out the lettering that read, “EDSFTG.”
“It’s a Vineyard Vines slogan, ‘Every day should feel this good,’” Sgt Duggan responded, at which point Ms Luft let out an audible exhalation, the local paper reported.
The items were recovered on 30 May 2019, after police discovered the video footage showing Fotis Dulos making multiple stops to dispose of the trash bags.
According to Ms Troconis’ arrest warrant, DNA from both Dulos and Jennifer was found on items in the trash and Ms Troconis’ DNA was found on some of the trash bags. That evidence is expected to come later in the trial.
In the trash bins in the area of Albany Avenue and Green Street, where Fotis was seen stopping on 24 May 2019, Duggan testified about a slew of items covered with a “blood-like substance.”
Besides the bra and shirt, other items included zip ties which had been cut and appeared to be sized for something larger than a wrist or ankle; two plastic ponchos covered in apparent blood spatter; a white towel covered in reddish stains; the handle of a mop that was coated in red specks and twisted into the shape of an “N.”
Also found coated in a “blood-like substance,” was a broken razor blade, two pairs of black gloves, a screwdriver, and a sponge.
A ‘detour’ on the way to Starbucks
Ms Troconis’ attorney Jon Schoenhorn argued that she was taken by surprise when her then-boyfriend Fotis Dulos took “an extra half-a-mile detour” from what was supposed to be a trip to a Starbucks in West Hartford.
Instead, Ms Troconis found herself tagging along with Fotis as he dumped several trash bags in bins along Albany Avenue on 24 May 2019 – the same day his estranged wife Jennifer Dulos was allegedly killed.
The defence insists his client had no knowledge of any ulterior motive for the trip and did not know what the bags contained.
“She did not know what was in any of those bags,” Mr Schoenhorn told reporters on Tuesday during a court break.
He explained that Ms Troconis was on the phone with her mother and later her daughter as they drove along in the Ford Raptor truck on Albany Avenue.
At one point, according to Mr Schoenhorn, she looked up and asked Fotis, “What are we doing here?”
But former Connecticut State Police Detective Steve Soares, who was tasked with reviewing surveillance footage from the plaza where Starbucks is located, testified on Tuesday that two separate cameras that night captured what appears to be Fotis’ truck driving past the plaza at 7.27pm and heading toward Hartford. City cameras then captured the truck on its four-mile route in the area of Albany Avenue.
It wasn’t until a half-hour later, at 7.54pm, when the truck was spotted pulling into the Starbucks plaza parking lot.
Defence admits surveillance video shows Michelle Troconis in Fotis’ truck
The state presented surveillance footage of what appeared to be Fotis and Ms Troconis in the Ford Raptor dumping trash in various bins in Hartford.
During cross-examination of the witness who was taking the court through the timeline of the footage, Ms Troconis’ attorney Schoenhorn admitted the videos depicted Fotis Dulos and Troconis, but disputed her culpability.
Ms Troconis has pleaded not guilty to the charges she faces and insists she did not know Fotis was doing anything nefarious as she watched him toss garbage bags into random bins.
The surveillance footage showed Fotis Dulos driving his black Ford Raptor pickup truck down Albany Avenue with Ms Troconis riding as a passenger as he threw out trash bags.
In one video, as Fotis was seen getting out of the truck and slipping an envelope down a sewer drain, Ms Troconis is seen opening the passenger door – which was right over the sewer – and reaching down to the sidewalk.
The envelope was later discovered to contain license plates that were once registered to a vehicle owned by Fotis, police said.
Video shows man removing seemingly bloody object from trash
The prosecution showed surveillance footage of what appeared to be a homeless man removing trash from a garbage can where Fotis Dulos had been seen discarding something earlier the same day.
The man appeared to remove an item with a large blood-like stain and then he put it back before walking away.
Trooper Brett Attmore, who was on the witness stand at the time, confirmed to the court that law enforcement has been able to identify the person, but details were not revealed.
Two jurors dismissed
Judge Kevin Randolph has dismissed two alternate jurors in a span of less than a week.
The first juror was dismissed after reportedly saying “We love you” to two prosecutors involved in the case, outside the courtroom during a lunch break.
The comment gave the appearance of favouring the prosecution, the judge explained before excusing the juror and warning the others.
“The appearance that there was a favourable opinion to the state’s case indicates to the court that it would be difficult to proceed with him as a juror because the impartiality and fairness of that juror can reasonably be questioned,” Judge Randolph said.
The second case of alleged juror misconduct in the trial came just days later when the judge got word that a juror had allegedly likened the case to the novel and movie “Gone Girl.”
Judge Randolph received an unsigned note from a juror accusing another member of the panel of making the comment in the presence of other jurors.
The juror “discussed something about the case and it was all over social media,” Randolph said the note read. “Said it was like ‘Gone Girl’ — a brief mention. Several other jurors said, ’Don’t discuss this.’”
“Gone Girl,” a 2012 novel by Gillian Flynn that was turned into a 2014 film starring Ben Affleck, is about a woman who fakes her own disappearance and her husband, who becomes a suspect.
The judge questioned jurors about the comment before ultimately dismissing the juror, identified only as “Juror 186,” who acknowledged making the “Gone Girl” comment.
“Every (other) juror indicated that they would be able to afford the state and defense a fair and impartial trial,” Judge Randolph said after reconvening the trial.
The trial now has three alternates remaining, along with six regular jurors.
Jennifer Dulos confided in nanny about Fotis’ affair with Michelle Troconis
Lauren Almeida, the nanny who cared for Jennifer’s five children, and still does to this day, testified in court over the course of two days revealing her day-to-day time with the family, how Jennifer confided in her about Fotis’ affair and the bad feeling she got the day Jennifer vanished.
Ms Almeida, who often traveled with Fotis and the children, had returned home from a trip in 2017 while Fotis stayed behind with a woman named Michelle Troconis, who he called a friend.
Jennifer reportedly confided to Ms Almeida that she believed Fotis was having an affair and eventually confirmed her suspicions.
“Through email and receipts, she found out that he went to Utah with Michelle,” Ms Almeida said. “She was just like, ‘I knew it.’ She was, again, very soft-spoken. She seemed sad but also like she was trying to figure out what to do.”
Ms Almeida said that Jennifer told her she was no longer in love with Fotis but for the sake of their five children, the Dulos’s would “try to work out what they could”.
When Jennifer confronted Fotis about the affair, she said he admitted it and things became tense in the household.
Ms Almeida said Fotis had threatened Jennifer that he would take the kids to Greece and never come back.
After that, Jennifer asked Ms Almeida to start secretly moving things out of the home – things that Fotis “wouldn’t notice.”
“Her anxiety was really bad. She lost weight. She was just afraid,” Ms Almeida said.
Dulos children called Michelle Troconis ‘Michi’
Ms Almeida first met Troconis in early 2017 at a water ski club in Miami. It was clear the five children already knew her, she testified.
"They were calling her ‘Michi’ and they hugged her, so they already knew her. Fotis introduced her as a friend. She was nice. She was with Fotis a lot. They’d go on the boat to ski,” Ms Almeida said on the stand.
Ms Almeida told the court that Fotis stayed behind with Ms Troconis and her daughter in Miami, while Ms Almeida returned to Farmington with the children.
Missing mom hired armed bodyguard before filing for divorce
Ms Almeida testified that Jennifer had hired an armed bodyguard to stand outside her hotel room while she filed for a divorce. It was all part of the plan to get away from Fotis.
“She was afraid of what Fotis would do to her and the kids if she filed for divorce while they were living under the same roof,” Ms Almeidasaid. “She was terrified.”
So Jennifer created a plan to leave the family home without Fotis suspecting her intentions.
Jennifer, Ms Almeida and the five children spent a week in Manhattan, where the divorce was filed, before moving to New Canaan. Jennifer had told Fotis that she and the children would be visiting her father’s grave in New York.
“We went to New York often because that’s where Jennifer’s parents were,” Ms Almeida recounted. “Her plan was to file for divorce, once we were in the city.”
That night, Ms Almeida said, Jennifer hired an armed bodyguard to stand outside the room she, Ms Almeida and the children shared at the Mandarin Oriental. Fotis then called Ms Almeida and accused her of kidnapping the children.
“He was angry, yelled at me, and told me the only reason I was there for Jennifer was because she paid off my student loans, which is an absolute lie,” Ms Almeida said. “He was yelling in front of the kids.”
Bodycam footage reveals ‘blood spatter’ found in house
Bodycam footage has revealed that police officers spotted what appeared to be blood spatter and a cleaned-up bloodstain inside Jennifer Dulos’ garage on the day she was last seen alive.
Footage played in court on the first day of trial showed law enforcement officers searching Jennifer’s home in New Canaan after she was reported missing.
The officers are seen noting that there appears to be blood spatter on the front of her vehicle in the garage.
New Canaan Police Lieutenant Aaron LaTourette testified that he “noticed what appeared to be red blood in the front of that vehicle”.
“A red mark in the grill part of the vehicle. And it caught my attention because it did not match the colour of the grill,” he said.
Lt LaTourette and the officer are heard on the video discussing the possibility that the driver may have hit a deer. But noted there was no fur.
“It doesn’t sit well with me,” one of the officers says in the footage.
The footage played to jurors also showed red specks on the concrete floor, and a pinkish-reddish area that looked smeared, as if someone had cleaned a large blood stain, he said.
Defence blasts ‘junk science’ in case
Michelle Troconis’ attorneys took aim at what they described as “junk science” presented by the state as blood evidence in her conspiracy to murder trial.
Ms Troconis’ legal team questioned the science of the substance used to illuminate blood – suggesting it could illuminate certain types of cleansers or rust and is “essentially junk science”.
During a break, the judge heard the motion from the defence arguing that it should not be presented at trial.
“There’s such danger with the misapprehension or misunderstanding of what is essentially junk science,” attorney Jon Schoenhorn said.
He called the process of the blood testing “junk science” and said that it didn’t need to be introduced into evidence by the detective “any more than if he said he used a Ouija board to choose where he was going to choose these samples.”
“What you have to understand is the Supreme Court of Connecticut has said is that chemical is so unreliable that it has no value to put it into a case,” he said, adding that a detective tasked with taking samples from Jennifer Dulos’ car and garage “doesn’t need to talk about a chemical that is basically junk science.”
But the judge ruled in favour of prosecutors, finding that jurors can hear testimony about presumptive blood testing.
Retired Connecticut State Police Sgt Matthew Reilly, who responded to the scene and was present when the photos were taken, took the stand in the afternoon and told the court that a “Blood-like stain” had been found on the inside cardboard of a paper towel roll.
Jurors were also shown photos of what appeared to be blood on the paper towel roll as well as on the floor of Jennifer’s garage.
Floor mat missing from trunk of Jennifer Dulos’ abandoned SUV
Jurors heard testimony from several law enforcement officers who responded to the scene of Jennifer’s home.
Sgt Jamie Pearston, with the Major Crimes Unit of Connecticut State Police, testified that she was involved in processing Jennifer’s black Chevy Suburban, which was found on Lapham Road the day she was reported missing near Waveny Park.
She took inventory of the SUV, documenting the vehicle’s mileage, damage and any personal items in the vehicle. The inventory report did not contain information about evidence police found while examining the vehicle, Ms Pearston said.
She testified that a weather tech liner – a type of rubber mat used to protect the floor of the vehicle – was missing from the trunk. However, the floor mats were in place for the front and back seats of the SUV.
New footage offers glimpse into missing mom’s multimillion dollar home
Prosecutors also showed an hour of footage that Connecticut State Police took from inside the home with the end focusing on the garage.
The intimate glimpse of Jennifer Dulos’ home the night she disappeared started with officers approaching the massive home and silently moving through each room, as they opened cabinets and doors, searching through closets using a flashlight.
At one point, an officer took a picture of a photo of the five children on the wall, which Lt LaTourette testified was potentially done to aid in the investigation.
As officers reached the end the garage at the end of the video, they could be seen looking at the one vehicle in the three-car garage - a black Range Rover SUV. The officers commented on the blood-like substance on the grill of the car and on the driver’s side.
At one point, the video zoomed in to a faint reddish footprint on the concrete floor along with other “blood-like” smears.
Troconis’ family defends her outside court
Ms Troconis’ family defended her outside of the courthouse, insisting she is innocent of having any involvement in Jennifer’s disappearance and murder.
Carlos Troconis, the defendant’s father, acknowledged how important of a day it was.
“For us, it’s a very important day,” he said. “We have been waiting for this opportunity for more than four years.”
He also proclaimed his daughter’s innocence.
“We know that she’s innocent. We trust that this is a fair trial and that the result is favourable for everybody,” Mr Troconis told reporters outside the courtroom in Stamford, Connecticut, on Thursday.
Her sister Claudia Troconis-Marmol said their family was unified and would continue to support Michelle throughout the trial.
“We stand together as a family, because that’s what we are, we’re in unity,” one of her sisters told reporters.
“We support my sister. She’s a mother, a daughter, a sister – she’s an amazing mother and just an amazing human being.”
She went on to say that the family is confident that the “truth will prevail and justice will be done because she is innocent.”
“My sister is innocent,” another sister spoke up. “This is a tragedy. For us, the other family and the children.”