Prosecution rests in Michelle Troconis trial following testimony from Jennifer Dulos’ mother

The defense then began its case calling Robert Haines, a friend of Fotis Dulos to the stand.

Marissa Alter

Feb 21, 2024, 10:47 PM

Updated 51 days ago

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The prosecution rested its case against Michelle Troconis on Wednesday after calling Jennifer Dulos’ mother as the final witness. Jennifer Dulos' five children walked into the courtroom with their grandmother, Gloria Farber, when she was called to the stand. They sat in the gallery during Farber's brief testimony, then left with her. It was their first appearance at the trial and Farber's first since coming the day it began, Jan. 11.
Farber, 88, took the stand to answer questions about her daughter, who disappeared on May 24, 2019, at the age of 50 and is presumed dead. “Did you see your daughter often?” Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Michelle Manning asked.
“Yes,” Farber responded.
“Did you speak to her often?” Manning added.
“Yes,” Farber answered. Farber testified that on the day Jennifer Dulos vanished she was supposed to meet her five children and Farber at Farber's apartment in New York City, but never showed. “Have you seen your daughter Jennifer since she failed to meet you at your apartment in New York City on May 24, 2019?” Manning asked.
“No,” Farber said, giving the same answer to questions about whether she’s spoken to Jennifer Dulos on the phone, by text, or through email.
Farber has custody of Jennifer Dulos’ five children, who were ages 8-13 when their mother disappeared. The oldest, twin boys who are now 17, were born in April 2006.
“Between 2006 and 2019, did Jennifer ever miss one of her children’s birthdays” Manning questioned.
“Never,” Farber said, shaking her head. She responded the same was true for the children’s Greek name days.
“Since May 24, 2019, have any of the children ever seen or spoken to their mother?” Manning asked.
“No,” Farber said. Farber's testimony concluded the prosecution's case against Troconis on Day 25 of her trial. She’s accused of conspiring with her then-boyfriend Fotis Dulos to kill his estranged wife and helping him cover up the crime. Troconis has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit murder, evidence tampering, conspiracy to commit evidence tampering and hindering prosecution. The jury has heard from dozens of witnesses over the past six weeks, including state and local police, forensics experts, people involved with the Dulos divorce case and Jennifer Dulos’ nanny, Lauren Almeida. With the prosecution done, defense attorney Jon Schoenhorn argued a motion for acquittal saying the evidence presented wasn’t sufficient to go to the jury, but Judge Kevin Randolph disagreed.
“The court does not have to determine that the state has proven each and every element of each and every offense beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the providence of the jury. The court has to determine whether there's sufficient evidence on each count to go to the jury,” Randolph stated, ruling there was and rejecting Schoenhorn’s motion.
Schoenhorn told reporters outside the courthouse that he disagreed with the decision.
“It’s still my position that the state didn't prove Michelle’s guilt on any of these charges beyond a reasonable doubt. It's not even clear whether they can prove exactly what Fotis Dulos did though I’m convinced he certainly did something nefarious. I’ll concede that,” Schoenhorn said.
Police believe Fotis Dulos used his employee’s truck to drive from Farmington to New Canaan, where he attacked Jennifer Dulos in her garage and then disposed of her body. Fotis Dulos died by suicide in January 2020 while facing charges in the case including murder and kidnapping. Troconis is the first of the remaining two defendants to stand trial. Kent Mawhinney, Fotis Dulos’ friend and former attorney, is also charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Mawhinney had been on the prosecution’s witness list to possibly testify but won’t take the stand after invoking his Fifth Amendment right.
The defense began its case Wednesday, first calling Robert Haines, a friend of Fotis Dulos who owns a waterskiing pond and club in Avon. Haines testified Fotis Dulos joined the club in 2005, later bringing his children and then Troconis, who also joined the club.
Haines got emotional as he recalled the massive media presence on his property once state police began their investigation. He called the property, “sacred.” “They search the place with dogs, and then they put a boat in the water and go over the whole pond with a boat looking for a body. It was awful,” Haines said tearfully. "It was probably one of the most painful times in my life.”
Manning seized on that comment during her cross-examination.
“I think your words were this was the hardest thing you've ever gone through in your life—was the media attention,” Manning said, which Haines agreed with. She then asked if he’d been watching the news reports about the trial.
“No, I won't watch it,” Haines stated.
“You want watch it at all?” Manning said.
“No,’ Haines replied.
“Because you were very close to Fotis?” Manning asked.
“Yes,” Haines responded.
During his direct testimony, Haines told the jury, “Fotis would look at me and over and over the few times I saw him, he'd say, 'I did not do this. I did not do this.’ And he did at one time tell me that Jennifer had run away at some point earlier in her life—and I don't know the details of it—and he said, ‘She's doing it again.’”
Haines and his wife were one of two couples that had dinner with Fotis Dulos and Troconis at their home in Farmington on May 23, 2019, the night before Jennifer Dulos disappeared. Haines testified there was nothing odd about their demeanor, describing Fotis Dulos as “very relaxed.” Witness Stephen Reich and his wife Beth Reich were also at that dinner and said the same on the stand.
Beth Reich described Troconis as “jovial” that evening and testified there was a toast after discussion that the custody battle between Jennifer Dulos and Fotis Dulos was possibly coming to a resolution.
Manning asked Stephen Reich, along with Haines, if Fotis Dulos or Troconis divulged details of the impending alleged crime. Both denied that happening.
"Any part of the discussion that night talk about plans to murder Jennifer the next day?" Manning brought up.
“No,” Stephen Reich responded.
“Any part of that discussion talk about plans to dispose of evidence in garbage cans along Albany Avenue?" Manning questioned.
“No,” Stephen Reich replied.
"Any discussion about using the Toyota Tacoma and cleaning it afterward?" Manning continued.
“No,” Stephen Reich said.
"That's not something you discuss at a dinner party,” Manning added to which Stephen Reich agreed.
Troconis’ hairstylist also took the stand for the defense. Cheryl Briere testified she saw Troconis on May 25, 2019, the day after Jennifer Dulos disappeared, and there was nothing out of the ordinary.
“Michelle was happy. She’s always happy,” said Briere, describing Troconis as a positive person.
The defense then called two Farmington police officers, intending for them to testify about Fotis Dulos’ suicide in January 2020 and the suicide note he left claiming he was innocent, and his two alleged co-conspirators had nothing to do with his estranged wife’s disappearance. But the judge ruled the manner of Fotis Dulos’ death was not relevant and said the defense could not introduce the note or the circumstances around his death. Instead, Schoenhorn put Fotis Dulos’ death certificate into evidence before court adjourned for the day.
Schoenhorn said he plans to call Elizabeth Loftus, a memory expert, to testify Thursday. He also told the judge the defense expects to rest Friday afternoon or Monday morning. Randolph said after that, all parties will go into a charging conference regarding jury instructions, which will be followed a contempt hearing for Troconis. That comes after allegations she displayed a sealed custody report on her laptop during court last week. Randolph said closing arguments in the trial are set for Tuesday.


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