The New Canaan woman reported missing last week said at the time she filed for divorce two years ago that she was afraid of her estranged husband and feared for her life—accusations he flatly denied in receiving joint custody from the courts.
Described by some who knew her as warm, generous and devoted to her children, Jennifer Dulos was reported missing to New Canaan Police at about 7:30 p.m. on May 24. The 50-year-old last was seen driving a black SUV in New Canaan, police said. State and local police are investigating.
In hundreds of court filings that include an application for emergency custody made the same day that she filed for divorce, Jennifer Dulos described her husband as a dangerous and controlling man who stepped out on their marriage and then violated court orders during protracted legal proceedings. Fotis Dulos denied the accusations, saying his estranged wife was an unfit parent who’d lied to him when she left suddenly with their children and then sought to punish him through legal filings and otherwise.
‘I am afraid of my husband’
For months prior to filing for divorce on June 20, 2017, Jennifer Dulos said in an affidavit made at the time, her husband of 13 years, Fotis Dulos, had “exhibited irrational, unsafe, bullying, threatening and controlling behavior.”
In documents filed with state Superior Court as she sought an emergency order for custody of the couple’s five children, Jennifer Dulos said that her estranged husband’s behavior had “significantly intensified in the last three weeks and I am afraid for my safety” as well as for her kids.
“I am afraid of my husband,” she said in the application for an emergency ex parte order of custody. “I know that filing for divorce, and filing this motion will enrage him. I know he will retaliate by trying to harm me in some way. He has the attitude that he must always win at all costs. He is dangerous and ruthless when he believes that he has been wronged. During the course of our marriage, he told me about sickening revenge fantasies and plans to cause physical harm to others who have wronged him. For example, flying a plane over an ex-client’s home and dropping a brick on his house. I fear for my family’s safety and I believe him to be highly capable and vengeful enough to take the children and disappear.”
Fotis Dulos, a professional builder who was born in Turkey and raised in Greece, had “made a specific threat to kidnap the children” and “abscond” to Greece or another country weeks earlier, according to Jennifer Dulos, saying he would “take all of the children, disappear” and that “you will never find us.” He had applied for Greek passports for himself and the children and told Jennifer Dulos days before she filed for divorce and custody that he had scheduled an interview at the Greek consulate in New York City, and booked a trip to leave July 1, 2017, she said.
‘This renders her incapable of parenting’
Fotis Dulos denied the accusations in filing his objection to the custody application, saying that he “never physically threatened, stalked or assaulted” his wife, and never threatened to take the kids—though they have traveled back to Greece together annually, as a family.
Rather, Fotis Dulos said, his wife took the kids and left the family’s home in Farmington for New Canaan without warning or notice just after Father’s Day, doing so on a pretext of visiting a gravesite, then immediately filed for divorce and custody, though she herself takes anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety medication that “renders her incapable of parenting.”
“Plaintiff/Wife has, on more than one occasion, allowed and/or permitted one of the five children to be lost without police intervention,” Fotis Dulos said in his objection to the custody application, filed June 28, 2017. “One of those occurrences took place outside the United States and a police report was filed in London, England.”
He also denied her accusations that he had illegally purchased a handgun out of the blue, menaced her in front of family or guests or forced their children to participate in waterskiing, to the kids’ detriment.
‘To be with his paramour’
“My husband recently informed me that he has been romantically involved with Michelle ‘Michi’ Troconis Arreaza for the past year,” Jennifer Dulos said in her affidavit. According to Jennifer Dulos, Fotis Dulos told her that he would take two of their kids to Argentina, where Arreaza “has significant ties,” in order to “to be with his paramour” and Arreaza’s own child. Specifically, Jennifer Dulos said in the affidavit, the father of Arreaza’s child owns a ski resort in Argentina, and “[i]n the past, my husband has made references to disappearing to a ski resort, ‘where everyone wears masks every day and are indistinguishable from one another,’ ” she said.
Fotis Dulos in seeking joint custody said he “has not made an definitive plans” to take their children to Argentina, “nor has he ever threatened to hide the children at a ski resort.”
According to Fotis Dulos, the couple had recently decided to separate, under a plan that would see Jennifer Dulos move into her mother’s home in Pound Ridge, N.Y., where Fotis Dulos would have exclusive use of a guest house on the property “to spend as much time with the minor children as possible.” Under the arrangement, the children would attend a private school in New Canaan, he said.
Had he known that Jennifer Dulos would move to New Canaan rather than the Pound Ridge property, with its guesthouse, Fotis Dulos “would never have agreed to the children attending” the private school here, he said.
According to Jennifer Dulos, her husband had told her in April 2017 “that he decided to move Ms. Arreaza and her daughter into the marital home, and enroll the daughter in the private school that our children attended the last two years.”
“He informed me that our children and I will continue to reside in the marital home every weekend and during the summer, so that we all (his paramour and her daughter included) would be together,” Jennifer Dulos said in her affidavit. “He also informed me that he will come and go from my mother’s residence whenever he wants during the week. Essentially, he expects to continue to exhibit complete control over me and the children.”
In filing his objection to the custody order, Fotis Dulos said he “has no present intention of moving Ms. Arreaza and her daughter into the marital home.”
‘Things were said in anger’
For about one month from the time Jennifer Dulos filed for divorce and custody, Fotis Dulos was relegated to telephone-only contact with their children. The parents would be “free to communicate with each other in writing via email or text on any issues regarding the children,” under a July 11 order from Judge Thomas Colin.
On July 25—about one month after Jennifer Dulos had filed—Colin denied her request for emergency relief, saying she “has not established by a preponderance of the evidence that there is an immediate and present risk of physical danger or psychological harm to the parties’ children,” who were between 8 and 13 years old at the time.
Saying it was in the children’s best interests and that both parents were fit, Colin vacated the ex-parte order and sketched out a temporary joint custody plan, saying the Duloses should be given time to reach a mutually acceptable long-term agreement.
The judge also denied Fotis Dulos’s request the the children be removed from New Canaan back to Farmington, a position that “is likely motivated by his understandable anger and hurt over the unfortunate way that the children’s move to New Canaan was handled,” Colin said in his ruling.
“It is clear that in the weeks immediately preceding the filing of this action, the atmosphere in the parties’ home deteriorated,” Colin said. “The plaintiff was upset over the breakdown of the marriage and what she perceived to be the defendant’s controlling and aggressive behavior. The defendant became upset because he felt that he could no longer control the situation and unilaterally dictate its outcome. Arguments followed, including in the presence of the children. Things were said in anger. However, the court is hopeful that once things settle down and cooler heads prevail, these extremely well educated and accomplished parents will be able to reach an agreement on a mutually acceptable parenting plan, with the assistance of their experienced and talented counsel.”
Under Colin’s order, the children were “not to be exposed to any romantic partner of the parents” and both parents were “prohibited from taking any further steps to obtain any passports for the children or to apply the children for any other citizenship.” Jennifer Dulos was to have exclusive possession of her New Canaan home, while Fotis Dulos would have exclusive possession of the Farmington house.
“The parties shall, at all times, treat each other with courtesy and respect, particularly in the presence of the children,” Colin said in his order.
He also said that “the children shall not be permitted to operate a motor vehicle.” The judge referred to a claim Jennifer Dulos made in her emergency custody filing, that on June 2, 2017, “in an effort to taunt, terrify and elicit a reaction from me,” Fotis Dulos had allowed three of their children, aged 9 to 11, “to take turns driving his Porsche Cayenne.”
“He sat in the passenger’s seat, and left each child alone in the driver’s seat to operate the car, in total control of the gas, brake and steering wheel,” Jennifer Dulos said in her affidavit. “The other children were riding in the backseat while each sibling drove. My husband allowed the children to drive around the neighborhood, and even allowed our son … [to] drive on a public road that is busy, swerving and dangerous.”
Court filings show that Jennifer Dulos was renting a house on Chichester Road at the time.
‘I can have the Mafia break your dad’s legs with a baseball bat’
In the months that followed Colin’s order, both parties filed multiple motions, as disagreements about the specifics of the temporary shared custody played out. In all, the divorce proceeding has seen more than 500 filings. Eventually, the court appointed a guardian ad litem to help mediate the case. Under a Nov. 14, 2017 agreement, it was allowed that Fotis Dulos could have Michelle Tronconis present while he parented the children.
About two weeks later, Jennifer Dulos switched lawyers, according to court documents filed by Fotis Dulos, and her new counsel “filed six motions in the month of December and issued a subpoena for Michelle Troconis in a well timed attempt to disrupt the holiday time the Defendant/Father planned to spend with the minor children.”
On Jan. 18, 2018, Jennifer Dulos filed for another emergency ex-parte order of custody—an application that Judge Donna Heller ordered to be sealed.
In an objection to that application filed the next day, Fotis Dulos claimed that Jennifer Dulos “boasted to two of the children that she can have someone hurt the Defendant/Father.”
Specifically, he said, Jennifer Dulos had made “disparaging comments” that escalated to this assertion: “I can have the Mafia break your dad’s legs with a baseball bat.”
“Defendant/Father found this comment highly disturbing, particularly for the children, and he reported it in person to the Guardian Ad Litem,” Fotis Dulos said in the filing.
Citing a motion for contempt that he had filed in November, Fotis Dulos also claimed that Jennifer Dulos had violated the courts orders by saying insulting things about him, such as, “[Y]our father likes Farmington because he is not that smart; successful people live in New Canaan.”
In a March 1, 2018 memo on Jennifer Dulos’s second application for emergency custody, Heller found that “[t]here is no credible evidence to support the defendant’s claim that the plaintiff had hired a hit man to break his legs.”
“To the contrary, the evidence supports the conclusion that the defendant fabricated the charge,” and then pressured at least some of the children in the family to repeat it, Heller said.
“During the hearing on the plaintiff’s application for an emergency ex parte order of custody, the defendant attempted to clarify his statement, explaining that he actually said the plaintiff could have hired someone from the Mafia to break his legs,” Heller wrote (court’s emphasis).
Fotis Dulos appeared to have broken the terms of the court’s orders in other ways, according to Heller’s order.
For example, Troconis and her child “had moved into the marital residence” in Farmington prior to November 2017, Heller said.
Also, though Fotis Dulos initially denied that his children had spent a weekend with Troconis, “he eventually admitted the they had all been together after he was confronted with the testimony of” a private investigator hired by Jennifer Dulos, “and the prospect of viewing video surveillance evidence,” Heller wrote.
“He also attempted to minimize the significance of the interaction that weekend [of Nov. 11, 2017] because the court’s order prohibiting contact was modified just a few days later, on Nov. 14, 2017,” Heller wrote.
According to Heller’s memo, Fotis Dulos had repeatedly asked the children to lie “to achieve his personal goals.”
A psychiatrist working with the family had told the guardian ad litem, Michael Meehan, that Fotis Dulos’s actions had caused psychological harm, according to Heller.
Ultimately, citing Meehan’s recommendation, Heller ruled that Fotis Dulos only be allowed to see the kids “in a public supervised setting and to have telephone access to them by speakerphone, so that the calls may be monitored.”
Heller ordered that Jennifer Dulos would have sole physical custody and final decision-making with respect to the children, while the parents shared joint legal custody.
‘The Defendant has stonewalled discovery’
The following month, April 2018, a physician was retained to “perform a comprehensive custody and psychological evaluation” that “shall include a relocation study for both parents and a risk assessment as to either parent, including flight, and may also consider third party relationships for either party as they may impact the children,” court documents show.
The divorce and custody proceedings continued through 2018 and into 2019 with dozens fo filings on each side, including motions for contempt based on failure to complete parenting education programs and for failures to comply with supervised visit orders, as well as applications for protective orders.
Earlier this month, on May 8, Jennifer Dulos filed a motion for contempt, saying that Fotis Dulos had filed an “improper and misleading financial affidavit.”
“The Defendant on his financial affidavit of May 7, 2019, states that the value of assets which he claims to own (which does not include a value for the Fore Group, Inc.) is $363,228.50,” the motion said.
It referred to Fotis Dulos’s construction business, which is operated out of his Farmington home. According to New Canaan building and tax records, Fore Group in 2015 received a permit to build a 10,000-square-foot home on Hemlock Hill Road that in May 2017 sold for $5.2 million. The company in July 2017 purchased a Sturbridge Hill Road property for $1.5 million, knocked down the existing home and last April received a permit to build a 7,300-square-foot house there.
According to the motion for contempt, Fotis Dulos “seeks to hide the true value of the business entity which is known as the Fore Group Inc … of which he is the sole shareholder, and which is also his altered ego and identity of interest.”
According to Connecticut Secretary of the State records, Fotis Dulos is president and secretary of Fore Group, Inc.
“The Defendant continues to conceal the value of the Fore Group Inc. while annotating his financial affidavit with the comment that he is too poor to hire a business valuator to establish a value for the business and his concomitant claim that he does not have any idea as to the value of his business—despite personal net worth statements and applications for loans from financial institutions and banks made in connection with loans from Fore Group, Inc., for which is under ongoing obligations to report adverse financial conditions to the lender,” it said.
Fotis Dulos also “has stonewalled discovery of his personal and business finances and engaged in conduct designed and intended to hide the true nature of various business transactions during period relevant to this action for dissolution of marriage,” the motion said.
Jennifer Dulos in the motion called for the court to require her estranged husband to “provide full and unlimited access to the books, records and ESI [Electronically Stored Information] of his personal and corporate finances.”
Fotis Dulos filed an objection to her motion to contempt the next day.
Jennifer Dulos was reported missing about two weeks later.
On Tuesday, the first day that court was open since Jennifer Dulos’s disappearance, Meehan—the court-appointed guardian—requested that a status conference “be scheduled by the court with all parties and counsel present.”
“I represent to the court that this is an urgent matter affecting the children, affecting the safety of the children,” Meehan said in filing his request.
Anyone who had contact with Jennifer Dulos on May 24 or has information about her disappearance is asked to call the New Canaan Police tip line at 203-594-3544.
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