Judge declares Jennifer Dulos dead; trial in her disappearance gets 2 more alternate jurors
A probate court judge has declared Jennifer Dulos legally dead more than four years after she disappeared from New Canaan, according to newly obtained court documents.
Judge William P. Osterndorf, of Darien-New Canaan Probate Court, wrote in his ruling, "The overwhelming evidence submitted to the Court supports the claim that Jennifer sustained not-survivable injuries. Extensive efforts have been made by local and State police authorities to locate her body. To date, more than four years have passed and the body of Jennifer has not been located. Neither Jennifer's mother, children, other family members and friends have been contacted by Jennifer since May 24, 2019. The inescapable conclusion is Jennifer is deceased."
The decision came after Jennifer Dulos’ mother, Gloria Farber, filed a petition in probate court last year asking her daughter be declared dead now rather than seven years after her disappearance as is Connecticut law. Farber has been taking care of her daughter’s five children since her daughter vanished and requested the decree to protect the children’s assets, according to court documents. Their father, Fotis Dulos, died by suicide in January 2020 after he was charged with Jennifer Dulos’ murder. The couple was estranged and going through a contentious divorce and custody battle at the time.
Fotis Dulos’ death left his two alleged co-conspirators as the remaining defendants in the case. Michelle Troconis was his girlfriend at the time and lived with him. Troconis is the first person to go to trial in the case with evidence set to begin Thursday morning at Stamford Superior Court. Troconis is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, evidence tampering, conspiracy to evidence tamper and hindering prosecution. Shas pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Prosecutors and Troconis’ defense team were back in court Tuesday, two days before the trial’s start, where two additional alternate jurors were selected. That brings the current total to six regular jurors and four alternates. Initially, six regular jurors and six alternate jurors were chosen over the course of about three weeks in October. But since then, four were excused for various reasons including work and a loved one’s surgery. Judge Kevin Randolph pushed the trial’s start from this past Monday to try and get extra alternates. Potential jurors have been told the trial is expected to last through March 1, though Randolph said Tuesday that the date is an “overestimate.” Both sides return to court Wednesday for one more day of jury selection. The judge said even if two more alternates aren’t chosen, the trial will still begin at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The search for Jennifer Dulos garnered international attention when she went missing on May 24, 2019, after dropping her kids off at school in New Canaan. Police believe Fotis Dulos was “lying in wait” that morning and attacked her in her garage, then disposed of her, according to his arrest warrant. Police have never found her body but discovered Jennifer Dulos’ bloody clothing, zip ties and other evidence in trash bins in Hartford, police said. Security footage captured Fotis Dulos dumping the items and Troconis sitting in the passenger seat, according to the warrant.
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 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; 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.