On May 24, 2019, mother of 5 Jennifer Dulos disappeared. She dropped her children off at school and went to a doctor's appointment. She was last seen driving her car, a black Chevrolet Suburban, which was located in town later that day.
Jennifer was never seen again.
DIVORCE AND CUSTODY BATTLE
Jennifer had been married to her husband, Fotis Dulos, for 13 years in 2017 when she filed for divorce. The divorce was anything but amicable, and they had been battling out in court since the divorce was filed.
Early on in the divorce proceedings, Jennifer told a judge that she felt that she was in danger. She said she believed her husband would kidnap the children, or kill her to get custody... And that wasn't just her irrational fear. She said that he told her he would kidnap their children if she didn't agree to his divorce terms, and he had bought a gun. She claimed he had been abusive and violent toward her and her children, and she had packed up and taken the children after filing.
She said that she was afraid of her husband, and knew that filing for divorce would enrage him, and knew he would retaliate by harming her.
The judge granted temporary emergency custody to Jennifer, but the order was lifted a week later when the judge ruled that she was not at risk of immediate danger. The parents were given joint custody of the children, ages 8 through 13.
Despite Jennifer claiming that he was abusive, "irrational, unsafe, bullying, threatening and controlling", becoming enraged at any disagreement, Fotis denied that he posed a threat to his wife or their children.
Also during this time, Fotis was engaged in another legal battle, this one with Jennifer's father, who has since died. They were battling out about a $1.7 million loan that Jennifer's father had given Fotis that he never paid back.
THE TIMELINE OF EVENTS
After Jennifer dropped her children off at school, she failed to show up to some appointments she had scheduled. Her vehicle was found stranded, but the 50-year-old mother of 5 was nowhere to be found.
She didn't just up and disappear on her own accord, however. Investigators found blood stains and spatter in her garage, leading them to believe she had been involved in a "serious physical assault". They also determined that someone had tried to clean up the mess.
While police had suspected the blood to be Jennifer's, it was corroborated when it was sent to the lab and tested.
Immediately, Jennifer's husband became the primary suspect. They believed that when she returned home from the school, Fotis had been waiting in the garage and attacked her. They believe that he killed her there, bundled her up, and transported her to another location. They think he used a pickup truck he borrowed from an employee of his luxury home building business to transfer her body.
They believe the attack occurred at around 8 AM, and that her murder, the transfer of the body, and the attempted clean up took about 2 hours. But what happened to her during that time, and where she was taken, remains a mystery. But despite his attempts to clean the truck, the seats were tested and revealed a "bloodlike substance" that had DNA matching Jennifer's.
Fotis' girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, was also suspected in the murder. She was seen in a different pickup truck, driving along and making several stops to dispose of garbage bags. Inside they found bloody sponges, articles of clothing matching Jennifer's, and other items testing positive for her blood.
It was clear that Jennifer was not missing, but likely dead... At the hands of her husband that she tried so hard to be protected from.
Fotis Dulos and Michelle Troconis were arrested and charged, Dulos with murder and kidnapping, and Troconis with conspiracy to commit murder. They were arrested on June 1 initially for tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. They weren't arrested on their murder charges until January 7, 2020. A bad year for everyone, I guess.
But on January 28, 2020, Fotis was hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning after a suicide attempt. He died 2 days later on January 30. He allegedly hand wrote a suicide note claiming his innocence, and saying that the others involved, Troconis and attorney Kent Mawhinney who was also charged in association with the murder, were innocent. Suicide seems to be a pretty damning thing to do for an innocent person.
Though their primary suspect is dead, the trial is still moving forward as a "nolle prosequi" trial, which aims not to acquit the deceased, but acknowledge that he cannot continue. The defense wanted to continue the trial to clear the name of Fotis Dulos, claiming that he had been framed.
The defense's argument is that someone murdered Dulos and dumped a pile of bloody clothing on the porch. Those were the items Fotis and Michelle had been seen on video dumping into garbage cans. Oh yes, if I had a pile of bloody clothing dumped on my porch, I, too, would bag them, call my girlfriend, and drive around dumping them into various garbage cans around the city. Idiot. It also doesn't explain the blood spatter in the garage, the car, etc. Basically, a weird hail mary for a dead defendant.
Troconis and Mawhinney (the attorney/friend of Fotis who was also charged with conspiracy) remain charged, but their cases are on pause due to the pandemic. Mawhinney is in custody, and Troconis is on house arrest. Troconis maintains she has no idea where Jennifer is or what happened to her.
Though the probable killer is dead and 2 potential conspirators will get their day in court, what happened to the poor mother of 5 remains a mystery. She is believed to be dead because of the physical evidence at her home, and also because she has not used her credit cards or cell phone since that day, and has had no contact with anyone.
Her body has never been found. Because authorities believe the murder, transport of the body and cleaning of the garage all happened within a few hours, it must be buried somewhere relatively close by, but has never been found. Because of that, the method of murder is also unknown.
The roles of Troconis and Mawhinney are unknown, as well, and though they may have been involved in the cleanup, were they involved in the murder itself?
Unfortunately, much of this will never be known. The victim is dead and the killer is dead. The 5 children, who lost both of their parents within a year, have been living with Jennifer's mother. Those kids are so young, but old enough to know what is going on, and to miss their parents. To go from having 2 parents, to contentiously divorcing parents, to no parents over the course of a few years is an exceptionally sad fate for a group of kids.
Ultimately, if it was Fotis who killed Jennifer, I hope this leads to women being taken more seriously when asking for protection against their abusers. The judge ruled she was in no immediate danger, and though that happened in 2017, one has to wonder if she was granted protection, if this may not have happened. Jennifer said that she believed he would kidnap their kids or kill her, and that is (likely) what he did. She was rightfully scared and no one protected her.
I wish nothing but peace to the remaining members of Jennifer's family. I hope her children are able to live relatively normal lives after the presumed murder of their loving mother by their father. I hope her mother, who lost her husband, her daughter, found out her son-in-law was a killer, and was left to raise 5 children finds some semblance of happiness in her life. And I do hope justice is served for the post-humous trial of Fotis Dulos, and his 2 accomplices.
1 year ago today, the lives of so many people were turned completely upside down, or ended. I am thinking of Jennifer Dulos today and her sweet children, and am hoping that wherever she is, she is at peace.