Dulos nanny and evidence collection officer testify on Day 3 of Troconis trial
Day three of Michelle Troconis’ trial - in connection to the disappearance and presumed death of Jennifer Dulos, the estranged wife of Troconis’ then-boyfriend - ended with the jury finally hearing the defendant’s name during testimony. It came Tuesday after the prosecution called Lauren Almeida, the nanny for the five Dulos children. Almeida was only on the stand for about 25 minutes before court recessed for the day, but before that, she identified Troconis in the courtroom.
Almeida testified she began taking care of the Dulos children in 2012 and currently still lives with them. The kids are now between the ages of 13 and 17 and include two sets of twins. Almeida said Jennifer Dulos and her husband Fotis Dulos were “nice to each other” in the beginning, but she noted Fotis Dulos was away a lot.
“It was a little odd how often he was traveling [without his family]," Almeida said.
Almeida described Jennifer Dulos as "incredibly nurturing," adding that she never raised her voice, was soft-spoken, and the kids always wanted to be around her. The two developed a friendship beyond employee/employer, according to Almeida. She also testified that initially she thought of Fotis Dulos as a friend and mentor.
But in March 2017, Almeida said the dynamic between Fotis Dulos and Jennifer Dulos changed after Jennifer Dulos found out about his affair with Michelle Troconis. Almeida recalled how Jennifer Dulos discussed her marriage with Almeida during a family trip to Aspen, Colorado, and Miami, Florida, for the kids’ spring break. That’s when Jennifer Dulos told Almeida she believed Fotis Dulos was having an affair.
"I didn't really believe her at first. At that time, I had a good relationship with Fotis, and I believed him to be an honest guy. I couldn't imagine him having an affair with five little ones,” Almeida told the jury.
Almeida said it was on that trip that she met Troconis in Miami.
It was the first time a witness has mentioned Troconis, who’s accused of helping Fotis Dulos kill his estranged wife and cover up the crime almost five years ago. Troconis has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit murder, evidence tampering, conspiracy to commit evidence tampering and hindering prosecution.
RELATED: Trial begins for Michelle Troconis, alleged co-conspirator in disappearance of Jennifer Dulos
Prior to Almeida, the first three days of evidence have centered on evidence collection from Jennifer Dulos’ home and abandoned Chevy Suburban. On Tuesday, the prosecution continued to lay the groundwork for how this missing person investigation became a homicide case.
Retired Sgt. Matthew Reilly spent most of the day on the stand. Reilly was the evidence collection officer with the Connecticut State Police unit that was called to 69 Welles Lane in New Canaan, Jennifer Dulos’ home, after she disappeared on May 24, 2019.
Reilly, who began his testimony late Friday, detailed the items he seized from the house, including a roll of paper towels in the kitchen by the sink. Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Michelle Manning pulled up pictures of the roll which showed blood-like stains on the outside of it and on the inner cardboard tube. Reilly told the jury he did a presumptive blood test on the roll, and it came back positive. Field testing of stains on the sink's faucet, a cabinet handle, and the counter were also positive, according to Reilly.
Reilly said all those stains were swabbed for further lab testing to confirm or refute whether the substance was in fact blood. He testified he went through the same process with stains on the garage floor and the garbage cans there. Manning pulled up pictures of each of those stains, along with fragments of stained paper towels found on the garage floor, which Reilly said he also collected.
Police believe that on the morning Jennifer Dulos vanished, Fotis Dulos was lying in wait and attacked her in the garage. He allegedly tried to clean up the scene, then used his estranged wife's Chevy Suburban to help dispose of her body. Police later found the SUV abandoned on Lapham Road outside Waveny Park.
On the stand, Reilly told the jury he collected evidence from the SUV on multiple occasions. Reilly testified about swabbing various stains on the outside of the SUV after presumptive blood tests came back positive. He also testified about spraying Luminol in the Suburban’s cargo area to search for non-visible blood.
“The luminol reacts, glows blue, due to the iron present in blood. however, it reacts with substances that contain iron, along with several other different things,” Reilly explained
Defense attorney Jon Schoenhorn objected to luminol testimony being admitted because it detects so many substances but was overruled. The prosecution had Reilly explain luminol testing is used as a search tool, not a presumptive test, and if positive, leads to further testing.
Reilly also talked about examining the undercarriage of the Suburban about a month after Jennifer Dulos' disappearance.
“The purpose of that was to try and search for additional biologic material to aid in the medical examiner's cause and manner investigation,” Reilly testified.
Jennifer Dulos’ body has never been found but she is presumed dead.
Reilly told the jury he took samples of blood-like material and another “item of interest”—a clear-ish specimen that he removed with a scalpel.
“The next day, I transported it to the medical examiner's office so he could put it underneath a microscope and see what kind of cells are there,” Reilly said.
On cross-examination, Schoenhorn pressed Reilly about the accuracy of those field blood tests. Reilly admitted he wasn't an expert in how presumptive blood testing worked and that was something for a chemist to testify about. The prosecution is expected to call a lab technician later in the week.
Court continues Wednesday at 10 a.m. with Almeida on the stand.
Troconis is the first suspect in the case to stand trial. Fotis Dulos died by suicide in January 2020, shortly after being arrested on charges, including murder and kidnapping in Jennifer Dulos’ disappearance. His former attorney and friend, Kent Mawhinney, was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder and has pleaded not guilty. It’s possible Mawhinney will testify against Troconis.
RELATED: Judge denies motions to suppress Michelle Troconis’ police interviews, DNA evidence in Jennifer Dulos case