Inside the turbulent marriage of the missing Connecticut mother of 5

During divorce proceedings, Jennifer Dulos said she was concerned about her husband’s “irrational, unsafe, bullying, threatening and controlling behavior.”
During divorce proceedings, Jennifer Dulos said she was concerned about her husband’s “irrational, unsafe, bullying, threatening and controlling behavior.” –New Canaan Police Department via The New York Times

He threatened to kidnap their children and take them overseas, she said. She threatened to have the mafia break his legs, he countered.

He drove an SUV toward her, swerving away at the last minute, she said. She had mental health issues and couldn’t keep their children safe, he claimed.

The recent disappearance of Jennifer Dulos, a 50-year-old Connecticut mother who was reported missing shortly after dropping off her five children at school May 24, has quickly cast a light on her 13-year marriage to Fotis Dulos and the bitter legal battle more than two years long to end it.

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Authorities arrested Fotis Dulos, 51, and his girlfriend, Michelle C. Troconis, 44, last weekend in connection with Jennifer Dulos’ disappearance and accused them of hindering the investigation and tampering with evidence.

Fotis Dulos and Michelle C. Troconis. —New Caanan Police Department

During the investigation, police have uncovered details of the acrimonious nature of the couple’s divorce proceedings.

But court documents show that the discord was even greater than previously revealed and depict a marriage that not only soured but became downright toxic.

At one point, Jennifer Dulos said that she was concerned about Fotis Dulos’ “irrational, unsafe, bullying, threatening and controlling behavior.”

As their legal fight dragged on, court proceedings became an endless litany of complaints, both serious and mundane.

Fotis Dulos was arrested on Saturday night and charged with tampering with evidence and hindering the investigation into his estranged wife’s disappearance. —Gregg Vigliotti / The New York Times

Jennifer Dulos’ lawyer, Wayne D. Effron, did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment, and Fotis Dulos’ divorce lawyer, Michael Rose, declined to comment.

As of Wednesday, 12 days after she was reported missing from her home in New Canaan, Connecticut, Jennifer Dulos’ whereabouts remained unknown. Investigators were searching for evidence more than 70 miles from her home at a garbage plant in Hartford, where they previously had found items stained with her blood in garbage bins.

Fotis Dulos, a luxury real estate developer, remained in custody at a state jail on a $500,000 bond.

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Dulos’ lawyer in the criminal case, Eugene Riccio, declined to comment.

Jennifer Dulos’ home in New Canaan, Connecticut. —Jessica Hill / The New York Times

Jennifer Dulos filed for divorce in June 2017 and immediately sought an emergency custody order for the couple’s five children. She feared Fotis Dulos might harm her or the children, according to a court filing.

She also said that Dulos, who was born in Turkey and raised in Greece, had threatened to kidnap their children and take them overseas.

Dulos responded by calling his wife’s accusations baseless, saying she seemed delusional and that her use of antidepressants made her unfit to have sole custody over their children.

Thus began an acrimonious, drawn-out end to a marriage that had begun almost 13 years earlier. The couple was married in New York in August 2004, according to court papers. Both had attended Brown University in Rhode Island; he graduated a year ahead of her.

After college, Jennifer Dulos returned to New York City, where she was raised and where her parents lived. A writer, she co-founded a theater group in the early 1990s and also got her master’s degree in writing from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, according to blog posts she penned on Patch.com.

The couple relocated to Connecticut in 2004, according to public records. Between 2006 and 2010, they had two sets of twins and a fifth child.

One year after the birth of their last child, Jennifer Dulos launched a blog. In posts from 2011 and 2012, which can be viewed through an archived version of the site’s RSS feed, she chronicled the daily trials of parenting but also spoke fondly of her children and husband.

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In 2012, the Dulos family moved to Farmington, Connecticut. When Jennifer Dulos filed for divorce, the family lived in a 15,000-square-foot home that Fotis Dulos’ company had built.

While they were living in Farmington, the marriage became strained, according to court papers, and both Fotis and Jennifer Dulos said in filings in 2017 that they had decided to separate.

In March of that year, according to court documents, Jennifer Dulos had found out that Fotis Dulos had been having an extramarital affair with Troconis for about a year, which Fotis Dulos did not dispute.

The police have searched Waveny Park in New Canaan for clues. —Gregg Vigliotti / The New York Times

The couple decided that Jennifer Dulos and the children would move to her parents’ home in Pound Ridge, New York, a small town in Westchester County, the court documents said.

The couple made plans to enroll their children in a private school in New Canaan, about 75 miles from the home in Farmington, according to court filings.

Disagreements soon followed.

During this period, Jennifer Dulos rented a house in New Canaan, according to court documents.

In court filings, Jennifer Dulos said that Fotis Dulos vacillated between “telling me our marriage is over” and threatening that he would never allow for a divorce.

She also said that she had become concerned over Fotis Dulos’ recent purchase of a handgun that he kept in their house; she worried he might use it to harm her or their family.

In court documents, Fotis Dulos rejected Jennifer Dulos’ characterizations of his behavior. He never threatened her, he said, and intended to settle their divorce amicably.

He also said that he had purchased the gun to ensure his family’s safety, with her knowledge.

Fotis Dulos also denied that he had ever threatened to kidnap the children. He said that it was Jennifer Dulos who had absconded with the children, taking them to New Canaan without telling him.

As their custody battle dragged on, both Fotis Dulos and Jennifer Dulos filed numerous petitions and motions accusing each other of ignoring court orders, disparaging each other in front of the children and countless other perceived slights.

In one filing, Fotis Dulos sought to have Jennifer Dulos admonished for keeping information from him, such as the fact that she’d chosen a new pediatrician for the children and had signed up one of their sons for an ice hockey team.

In another, Jennifer Dulos accused Fotis Dulos of not giving the children a proper bedtime. She also amended her filings to document seemingly every occasion the children spent time with Troconis, something court orders initially forbade.

Both parents also filed numerous motions saying that the other was disparaging them. Jennifer Dulos said her husband had called her insane in front of her children, saying she was an unfit mother who “should be locked away.”

Fotis Dulos accused her of calling him a “psychopath” who didn’t care about his children and didn’t work hard enough to make money for the family.

At one point, he said in a court filing, Jennifer Dulos told the children that “your father likes Farmington because he is not that smart; successful people live in New Canaan.”

John Slowiaczek, a divorce lawyer and former president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said that the vitriolic language was typical of many divorce cases and that the high number of filings was not unusual in cases involving wealthy spouses.

“You can file as many pleadings as you want, and nobody can stop you,” he added.

Even with Fotis Dulos in jail, the custody battle between the two raged on. On Monday, the same day that Dulos was arraigned, Judge Donna Heller of state Superior Court in Stamford issued an emergency order revoking his visitation rights.

The next day, Jennifer Dulos’ mother, Gloria Farber, filed a motion seeking to get custody of her grandchildren.

According to court documents, all five children have been staying with Farber in New York City since Jennifer Dulos disappeared.