Trial in connection to Jennifer Dulos disappearance ready to start; family hopes for ‘accountability and answers’
Media from Connecticut and beyond are expected to descend on the Stamford courthouse Thursday morning for the start of the first trial in connection to the disappearance of Jennifer Dulos. It’s a case that made international headlines and thrust the quiet community of New Canaan into the spotlight after the mother of five vanished on May 24, 2019.
Now, the trial for Michelle Troconis, one of two people still facing charges in Jennifer Dulos’ presumed death, will finally get underway. Six regular jurors and five alternate jurors have been selected with the final alternate picked Wednesday afternoon. Jury selection initially occurred in October with six jurors and six alternates chosen, but it picked back up again this week to get additional alternates after four people were excused.
On the eve of the trial’s start, Troconis’ attorney told News 12, he’s ready and so is his client, whose family has come in from all over the country.
“I've been doing this now since January of 2020 on this case, so I don't think there's been any case that I've spent four years preparing for,” attorney Jon Schoenhorn said after court Wednesday.
Troconis is accused of plotting with Fotis Dulos, her boyfriend at the time, to kill his estranged wife. Jennifer and Fotis Dulos were in the midst of an ugly divorce and custody battle when Jennifer Dulos went missing. Fotis Dulos was arrested on several charges, including murder and kidnapping, but died by suicide in January 2020, leaving his two alleged accomplices as the remaining defendants. Troconis has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit murder, evidence tampering, conspiracy to evidence tamper and hindering prosecution.
“It's basically the same evidence that we've been anticipating, and, you know, I'm not going to comment on the evidence. There will be things that haven't been made public yet,” Schoenhorn stated.
Carrie Luft, a spokesperson for the family and friends of Jennifer Dulos, released a statement Wednesday as they prepare for what’s expected to be a six-week trial:
“It has been more than four years and seven months since Jennifer Farber Dulos was murdered and disappeared. We, her family and friends, have waited patiently, understanding that the justice process moves slowly and deliberatively, especially given the disruption of a global pandemic. We remain deeply grateful to the state’s attorney’s office, the Connecticut State Police, and the New Canaan Police for their tireless dedication to this case and the related, ongoing criminal investigation.
As this trial begins, it is crucial to remember who is at the center: Jennifer, whose five children have lost their mother and, as an eventuality, both parents. Jennifer’s family and loved ones have lost a loving daughter, sister, cousin, and lifelong friend. We do not seek closure, as nothing can bring Jennifer back. Our hope is that this trial provides for accountability and answers.
As this trial gets underway, we ask that you prioritize and respect the privacy of Jennifer’s family and loved ones. Thank you.”
Schoenhorn declined to give insight into the defense’s strategy except to say, “Michelle Troconis remains innocent,” and it’s up to the prosecution to prove otherwise.
“They've listed 100, 150 witnesses. If they call half of them, it's still going to be a long time. And they're going to put on whatever they're going to put on, and we're prepared,” Schoenhorn explained.
Police believe Jennifer Dulos was killed in her garage after dropping her kids off at school. Fotis Dulos was allegedly "lying in wait" that morning and attacked his estranged wife, then disposed of her body, according to his arrest warrants. Police have never found Jennifer Dulos, but she is presumed dead. They said they discovered her bloody clothing, zip ties and other evidence in trash bins in Hartford. Security footage captured Fotis Dulos dumping the items and Troconis sitting in the passenger seat of his truck, according to the warrants.
The warrants also said that during a search of the Farmington home Troconis lived in with Fotis Dulos, police found what they termed “alibi scripts”—handwritten timelines of where they allegedly were the morning Jennifer Dulos disappeared.
Fotis Dulos' friend and former attorney, Kent Mawhinney, was also arrested in the case. Mawhinney has pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit murder, as well. He's accused of trying to give Fotis Dulos a fake alibi on the morning of the murder.
It’s possible Mawhinney could testify against Troconis at her trial. He’s one of about 250 people listed as possible prosecution witnesses. Other names include Lauren Almeida, who was Jennifer Dulos’ nanny; Pawel Giumenny, whose pickup truck was allegedly used by his boss Fotis Dulos to commit the murder; Gloria Farber, Jennifer Dulos’ mother; former Stamford State’s Attorney and Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo, who was the initial prosecutor on the case; and Norm Pattis, Fotis Dulos’ defense attorney.
News 12 asked Schoenhorn if there was talk about Troconis taking the stand in her defense. He said that decision won’t come until the end of the case.
“It depends on whether or not we've made our point based on cross-examination or putting in other evidence, so it's not something that's done lightly,” Schoenhorn answered. “That's something that's not even going to be in discussion for at least another month.”