NEW CANAAN, Conn. - A month after Connecticut mother of five Jennifer Dulos vanished from her home, her estranged husband’s lawyer is presenting a novel theory about her disappearance.
Defense attorney Norm Pattis has released a statement in which he suggested Dulos, 50, of New Canaan, may have staged her death in an attempt to frame her husband for murder, as the supposed victim did in the best-selling Gillian Flynn novel “Gone Girl.” The 2014 movie based on the book, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, earned more than $368 million worldwide.
Monday marked a month since Jennifer Dulos was last seen alive. Fotis Dulos, 51, and his girlfriend, Michelle Trononis, 44, both of Farmington, have been charged with tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution in Jennifer Dulos’ disappearance.
Both are free on bail of $500,000 each.
The pair are accused of getting rid of several items, including clothing and cleaning supplies, stained with Jennifer Dulos’ blood. According to the Hartford Courant, a mixture of blood from both Jennifer and Fotis Dulos was also found on Jennifer Dulos’ kitchen faucet.
Jennifer Dulos, who filed for divorce in 2017, and her estranged husband were in the middle of a contentious custody battle over the couple’s children, who range in age from 8 to 13. Jennifer Dulos claimed in family court documents that Fotis Dulos was verbally abusive, and she said she feared he might try to abscond with the children to his native Greece.
NBC Connecticut reported that Pattis’ statement brought to light a novel Jennifer Dulos wrote years ago. Her family pointed out Monday, however, that the novel’s manuscript was completed in 2002, before Jennifer and Fotis Dulos met.
“Gone Girl” was published a decade later, in 2012.
“We have been provided a very dark 500-plus page novel Jennifer wrote. We are reviewing it now,” Pattis said in his statement. “We are also investigating new information regarding $14,000 worth of medical bills re tests just before she disappeared. We don’t know what had become of Jennifer, but the ‘Gone Girl’ hypothesis is very much on our mind.”
Pattis, who also represents conspiracy theorist and “Infowars” host Alex Jones, admitted to the New York Post over the weekend that he had yet to read the manuscript himself. He also alleged -- without providing documentation or other evidence to the Post -- that Jennifer Dulos had a “troubled past” in which she struggled with drug addiction.
“From our perspective, this is a perfect storm: a mysterious illness we don’t know about, a history of substance abuse and a history of having disappeared,” Pattis told the Post.
A spokesperson for Jennifer Dulos’ family, who the Post said laughed off Pattis’ allegations about drug use, on Monday released the family’s response to Pattis’ hypothesis on the missing woman’s fate, the NBC affiliate reported.
“Trying to tie Jennifer’s absence to a book she wrote more than 17 years ago makes no sense. Evidence shows that Jennifer was the victim of a violent attack in her New Canaan home,” Monday’s statement through family spokeswoman Carrie Luft read.
Luft said she read Jennifer Dulos’ book in installments as she wrote it, and that the novel had nothing in common with Flynn’s psychological thriller. She said her friend’s book was a story that followed its protagonist through relationships and self-discovery.
“Like all of Jennifer’s writing, it expresses a deep longing for human connection and the need to be accepted as one’s true self,” the statement read.
Luft said the “false and irresponsible allegations” about Jennifer Dulos harm the missing woman’s loved ones, particularly her children.
“As of today, she has been missing for a month,” she wrote. “This is not fiction or a movie. This is real life, as experienced every single day by Jennifer’s five young children, her family and her friends.”
Missed appointments and a blood-stained garage
Jennifer Dulos, who was last seen alive when she dropped her children off at school the morning of May 24, was reported missing by friends after she failed to turn up for several doctors’ appointments that day in New York City.
New Canaan police officers went to her home, located on a cul-de-sac in the affluent town of New Canaan, about 15 miles outside of Greenwich, around 7 p.m. that night but found no one there. A state police detective wrote in arrest warrants for Fotis Dulos and Troconis that the family’s nanny let officers into the house.
Investigators found stains consistent with blood on the floor of the garage and on a vehicle parked in the space. Suspected blood spatter was found inside the house, the warrants say.
A police officer sits outside of Jennifer Dulos’s #NewCanaan home this morning.— Stephanie Simoni (@StephanieSimoni) June 4, 2019
Police are hoping neighbors will come forward with surveillance camera footage.
More at 9 on @WTNH. pic.twitter.com/ZNCf9lvNWN
News 8 captured drone footage of Fotis Dulos' Farmington home right around when Fotis returned there Tuesday evening. He posted bond in court earlier Tuesday afternoon. Go to https://t.co/Fp9B1T6noP for the latest on the case of the missing New Canaan mom, Jennifer Dulos. pic.twitter.com/jVsnb23FAI— WTNH News 8 (@WTNH) June 12, 2019
A search was launched around Jennifer Dulos’ home on Welles Lane and, a short time later, her Chevy Suburban was found parked along Merritt Parkway, on the perimeter of nearby Wavenly Park.
“A check of the vehicle and subsequent exhaustive searches of Wavenly Park using (New Canaan Police Department) and Connecticut State Police personnel and canines did not locate Jennifer,” the arrest warrant for her husband states.
Meanwhile at Jennifer Dulos’ home, investigators found evidence that someone tried to clean up the blood at the scene, the warrant states.
“Based upon the crime scene processing, investigators came to the consensus that a serious physical assault had occurred at the scene and Jennifer Dulos was the suspected victim,” the document says.
A search of vehicle records showed multiple vehicles registered to the Fore Group LLC, a company owned by Fotis Dulos. One such vehicle was a 2014 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor pickup truck.
Fotis Dulos, with whom Jennifer Dulos has been embroiled in a divorce and custody battle, lives with Troconis in Farmington, the warrant states. Both have been uncooperative with the investigation into Jennifer Dulos’ disappearance, investigators said.
New Canaan investigators met briefly with Fotis Dulos the day after his estranged wife vanished. At that time, they seized his iPhone, for which they had obtained a warrant to conduct a forensic search.
Fotis Dulos’ cellphone records showed that around 1:30 p.m. the day Jennifer Dulos disappeared, her estranged husband left his home and drove about 2 miles to a Farmington property belonging to his company. After a couple of hours, his cellphone showed he returned home.
Fotis Dulos returned to the company property around 5:20 p.m., about 90 minutes before officers first showed up at Jennifer Dulos’ home. The cellphone returned to his and Troconis’ home a few minutes later, and then records show it traveled to the area of Albany Avenue in Hartford, where most of the evidence against the couple was found.
Troconis’ cellphone also traveled to Hartford, the arrest warrants state.
“Investigators obtained surveillance footage from the Hartford Police Department Capital City Command Center (C4), which operates surveillance cameras at various Hartford locations, including the Albany Avenue area,” one of the warrants states. “C4 documented a black Ford Raptor pickup truck stopping at over 30 locations along a more than 4 mile stretch of Albany Avenue between Biltmore and Edward streets.”
Still images from the surveillance footage showed the Raptor truck matched the one belonging to Fotis Dulos, including a sticker on the rear window and a light-colored mark on the black truck’s front bumper. The front license plate of the vehicle also matched that of his truck.
A man matching Fotis Dulos’ description was seen getting out of the truck and dumping multiple trash bags into trash bins along the route, as well as tossing something into a storm drain.
“In some cases, the C4 video showed items being discarded which appeared to be stained with a substance consistent with the appearance of blood,” the arrest warrant states.
A woman matching Troconis’ description was seen leaning out of the passenger seat of the truck in one video clip, the document says.
When investigators checked the storm drain, they found a FedEx box containing license plates that were traced back to a 2007 Suburban belonging to Fotis Dulos, the warrant states. The plates had been altered to change the tag number, authorities said.
Inside the trash bins where the driver of the Raptor discarded the bags, detectives found clothing and at least one kitchen sponge, among other items, that were stained with blood.
“On (Saturday), items submitted to the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Forensic Laboratory were tested and found to contain Jennifer Dulos’ blood,” the arrest warrant says.
Fotis Dulos’ cellphone records indicated he left the Hartford area around 7:40 p.m. the night his wife was reported missing and returned to his home in Farmington, the document states. In surveillance footage from outside his neighbors’ homes, he is seen checking his mail as he arrived.
He was wearing clothing similar to that seen on the man who dumped the evidence in Hartford, the document says.
Fotis Dulos and Troconis were arrested June 1 at a hotel in Avon, the New York Times reported.
JUST IN: New Canaan police announce investigators have concluded their search of a Hartford trash facility in the Jennifer Dulos case. They say the case remains “active and dynamic” with dozens of investigators working to find Jennifer. @News12CT pic.twitter.com/nflAmLs8bh— Marissa Alter (@MarissaAlter) June 25, 2019
The Courant reported earlier this month that investigators do not believe Troconis was in New Canaan the day Jennifer Dulos vanished. Pattis said during a court appearance that Fotis Dulos could account for his whereabouts during the time frame in which investigators believe Jennifer Dulos was attacked in her home.
She dropped her children off at school around 8 a.m. the morning of May 24, the newspaper reported. A cleaning woman who entered the home around noon that day found no one there.
Jennifer Dulos missed appointments at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., the paper reported. Her cellphone and credit cards have not been used since she vanished.
Authorities are also looking into details involving an employee of Fotis Dulos’ Fore Group who was in New Canaan on May 24 -- and was driving the black Ford Raptor belonging to the company, the newspaper said.
Though the man is reported to have been driving the Raptor when Jennifer Dulos vanished, he returned the vehicle to Fotis Dulos sometime between 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., in time for Dulos to have been driving the truck when the evidence in the case was discarded in Hartford, the newspaper reported.
Investigators have seized the employee’s truck, computer and cellphone as part of the probe into Jennifer Dulos’ disappearance. His attorney told the Courant her client is not a suspect and is cooperating fully with detectives in the case.
No trace of Jennifer Dulos has been found, despite a search that has spanned two states and four separate communities, the newspaper reported. Investigators have also searched a Hartford trash facility for any evidence related to the woman’s disappearance.