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'I miss her laugh.' Jennifer Farber Dulos' close friend reflects on painful 5-year mark

This May 24 is the first yearly observance with someone convicted in her presumed murder. It's also the first time the day falls on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, just as it did when Farber Dulos was last seen.

Marissa Alter

May 24, 2024, 3:57 PM

Updated 27 days ago

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This May 24 is a painful milestone for family and friends of Jennifer Farber Dulos -- five years since she disappeared. It's the first yearly observance with someone convicted in her presumed murder. It's also the first time the day falls on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, just as it did when Farber Dulos was last seen.
"I miss her laugh," said close friend Carrie Luft. "I mean, I feel very lucky in that I get to hear her laugh and that her daughters' laugh sound very much like hers. But it's still not her."
Luft met Jennifer Farber in 1990 when both began the graduate dramatic writing program at NYU. A funny quip by Farber in a building lobby led both women to sense an immediate connection, according to Luft.
"We became fast friends and were part of one another's lives for almost 30 years," Luft said.
Their friendship spanned school, running a theater company together in New York City and Farber's marriage to Fotis Dulos. The couple moved to Connecticut and had five children, yet Luft remained in close contact.
"I attribute a lot of that to Jennifer and her sense of loyalty and generosity of spirit," Luft explained.
Luft has acted as a spokesperson for Farber Dulos' family and friends since she vanished in the midst of a contentious custody battle with her estranged husband. Luft spoke with her the night before her disappearance.
"It certainly wasn't a conversation that illuminated the events to come," Luft recalled. "It was a very typical, wonderful, funny exchange."
The following day, May 24, 2019, Luft said she received a series of text from Farber Dulos' nanny, Lauren Almeida.
"And she asked me if I had heard from Jennifer that day, which was really odd just because Jennifer was the most reliable person I've ever known," Luft explained. "I immediately felt just a sense of horror because it was atypical."
Luft said her suspicions immediately went to Dulos due to the estranged couple's ongoing conflict in family court and Farber Dulos' concerns for her safety.
Police later arrested Dulos on several felony charges including murder and kidnapping. They believe Dulos attacked his estranged wife in her garage in New Canaan, then disposed of her body, which has never been found.
Dulos' then-girlfriend Michelle Troconis and his friend Kent Mawhinney were charged as alleged co-conspirators. Both are accused of plotting with Dulos and trying to give him a fake alibi. Police said Troconis helped Dulos get rid of evidence and lied to investigators.
"I had made a mental vow very early in this process, probably around the time of the first arrest, that when this went to trial, I would go every single day."
Dulos died by suicide in January 2020, leaving Troconis as the first defendant to go before a jury. Her trial began in January and lasted seven weeks. Luft was among the loved ones in the courtroom daily as prosecutors presented evidence of Farber Dulos' violent death.
"It was traumatizing," Luft told News 12. "You know, I think there's an additional aspect to that of being in court and knowing very well that you're not permitted to have an emotional response. So I and others just had to be there and take it in and take it with us. And, you know, I'll be processing this the rest of my life."
Farber Dulos' children, who were ages 8 through 13 when she vanished, went to the trial twice--first, to support their grandmother, Gloria Farber, when she testified, then for closing arguments. Luft said
"I think the fact that the closing arguments brought all of the evidence and testimony together under an arc, kind of gave it a narrative storyline, was intriguing for them. They wanted to hear it, and they wanted to hear what the defense had to say. And being the people most affected by the disappearance of Jennifer, I think it was important for them to be present," Luft said.
The jury convicted Troconis of all six felony charges: conspiracy to commit murder, two counts of evidence tampering, two counts of conspiracy to commit evidence tampering and hindering prosecution.
"It was stunning in the literal sense of that word. I felt like I couldn't move, you know, just hanging sort of hanging in space, waiting for the next word. It was really a kind of transporting, unreal experience," Luft recalled. "I think the verdict has also brought a real sense of validation. To have what we knew borne out, was very important."
What it doesn't provide is closure. Farber Dulos' body has never been found, though Luft thinks it will be as Connecticut State Police continue to investigate. But Luft also said she believes Troconis has more information on that than she has shared.
"I think for me, you know, there there will always just be a giant hole. And I think that is something that you learn to live with," Luft stated. "Of course, you know, Jennifer is still very much around all of us all the time. You know, the memories and experiences and the spirit of a person don't go away."
Luft said Farber Dulos also lives on vividly through her children, now 13 through 18.
"I think Jennifer really poured herself into her kids. They're super resilient and insightful and perceptive and very invested in their day to day lives," Luft explained. "They really operate as a unit, and that is amazing to see. They are so strong and just bolstering of one another. So, I know that Jennifer would be so incredibly proud of them."
The children are being raised by their grandmother, whom Luft said is a huge strength in their lives.
"Those of us who are part of the support network basically just use Jennifer as our North Star. Like, what would she want? What would she do? I'm not her, but how can I at least approximate what she would want for her kids?" Luft shared.
Farber Dulos' disappearance attracted worldwide attention. But Luft said it's important to remember this isn't just a story; it's what those who loved Farber Dulos live with every day.
"I think because, you know, the photos of her--as she was very beautiful--are very beautiful. And there may be the sense that she was some sort of wispy, almost imaginary figure, but she was incredibly real. She was incredibly strong. She was a brilliant person. And she loved her children more than life itself," Luft stated.
Luft said she hopes the fascination with the case helps bring the issue of domestic violence to the forefront and "illuminate that this kind of abuse happens behind closed doors--whatever those doors look like. For me, it's honestly painful that most of the stories like this that get a lot of media attention are those of photogenic white women, generally middle to upper middle class. And there are a lot of women of color who are struggling in situations like this, whose stories are not told or which are told only after the fact."
Luft also said she thinks there's a real sense of helplessness often in terms of how to assist someone in a situation with intimate partner violence.
"Places like Interval House in Hartford are doing great work, but they're not alone in that. So really helping to spread the word that there is help and assistance and that you're not alone is something I hope comes out of this situation," Luft explained.
Troconis will be sentenced in the case on May 31 at Stamford Superior Court. She faces up to 50 years in prison. Since the verdict, she's been in custody at York Correctional Institution in Niantic on a $6 million bond. Troconis' attorneys plan to appeal her conviction. She and her family continue to maintain her innocence.
Mawhinney, who's also charged with conspiracy to commit murder, is still awaiting a trial date in his case. He remains free on bond.


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