More than two-and-a-half years after Jennifer Dulos went missing, police continue to look for her body, and on Monday state investigators searched a corner of Waveny Park. The New Canaan mother of five was murdered by her estranged husband in May 2019 after dropping her kids off at school, officials have said. Though Fotis Dulos was charged in the capital crime in January 2020, he killed himself about three weeks later without disclosing the location of her remains. On Monday morning, state detectives and their search dogs could be seen gathered in the southwest corner of the “mulch pile” off of Lapham Road. An open area where the town long kept ground-up leaves and debris in neat rows, the mulch pile has been available in the past to town residents seeking to pick up mulch for use on their own properties.
After pedaling his bicycle from Waveny Park to Welles Lane to kill his estranged wife, and then steering an employee’s pickup truck back upstate with her corpse, Fotis Dulos failed to remove from the vehicle the dark-colored, hooded sweatshirt he’d been wearing while cycling, according to interviews and evidence cited in a state police detective’s sworn affidavit made public last week. The Toyota Tacoma’s owner would discover a blue hoodie in a red pail inside the truck on May 28, four days after the murder, according to Detective John Kimball of the state police Western District Major Crime Squad. Kimball’s lengthy affidavits—now spread across seven felony arrest warrant applications connected to the disappearance and murder of Jennifer Dulos—show that the man who came upon the sweatshirt, Pawel Gumienny, has played a critical role in a multi-agency investigation that culminated Jan. 7 in murder charges against Fotis Dulos and conspiracy to commit murder charges for his girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, and personal friend and civil attorney Kent Mawhinney. Gumienny, a project manager at Fotis Dulos’s construction company, first was revealed as a key source for investigators in September, when police brought a second round of hindering and tampering charges against Fotis Dulos and Troconis.
The manpower that New Canaan Police dedicated this past summer to the investigation of a missing local mom drained the department’s staff to minimum levels for a time, leading to a decline in motor vehicle violation citations, officials say. Year-to-date motor vehicle violation incidents were down about 20% as of Oct. 31, officials reported at last month’s meeting of the Police Commission. Responding to a question from Commission Chair Sperry DeCew about the decline in incidents—from 3,648 through the first ten months of 2018 to 2,933 this year—Deputy Chief John DiFederico said, “With the investigation this summer, that took a lot of manpower away.”
“We also had a very high number of order-ins,” DiFederico said at the meeting, held Nov. 20 at NCPD headquarters.
Though investigators haven’t placed her at the scene of a violent crime that marked the last time a New Canaan mom of five was seen alive, Michelle Troconis repeatedly lied to authorities about her own doings that Friday in May and in the critical days that followed, according to a state police detective. Troconis, live-in girlfriend of the man that authorities say traveled to New Canaan early on the morning of May 24 to ambush his estranged wife—and then tried to clean up the scene and fled with her body—played a key role in the cover-up by helping Fotis Dulos see to it that the vehicle he used could be scrubbed of evidence, according to an arrest warrant application from Detective John Kimball of the state police Western District Major Crime Squad.
Fotis Dulos is accused of trying to clean up the borrowed red Toyota Tacoma he drove to New Canaan that day in three main ways, according to Kimball’s affidavit—by wiping it down himself, urging its owner to replace the back seats and having it detailed.
According to Kimball, Troconis knowingly helped her boyfriend in each of those efforts, though she lied about it prior to her June 8 arrest on felony hindering and tampering charges. During a May 29 interview with detectives, she claimed Fotis Dulos had told her the Tacoma’s owner—Pawel Gumienny, a project manager for Fotis Dulos’s building company, The Fore Group—wanted to sell the pickup truck. “For this reason, Dulos had planned to bring the Toyota to have it cleaned and detailed,” Kimball said in his affidavit. “Troconis claimed, ‘Fotis at some point calls me says … pick me up at the car wash in the parking lot and so I went to pick him up and then we went … to meet with Andy (attorney Andrew Bowman) and we drove.’ Troconis made it sound as if she had no idea what [Fotis] Dulos was doing and that she had simply been called by Dulos to come pick him up.
Fotis Dulos left his Farmington house at daybreak on May 24—the Friday of Memorial Day weekend—and drove toward New Canaan, according to evidence presented in a state police detective’s sworn affidavit made public Wednesday. The 51-year-old had taken precautions, leaving his cellphone back at the home office of his building company and driving a red Toyota Tacoma pickup truck that belonged to one of his workers, according to an arrest warrant application from Detective John Kimball of the state police Western District Major Crime Squad. Fotis Dulos parked the Tacoma on a dirt turnoff along Lapham Road and made his way to the Welles Lane home that his estranged wife, Jennifer Dulos, had been renting, according to Kimball’s affidavit. She’d filed for divorce nearly two years prior—saying at the time that she was afraid her husband—though a custody battle for their five children and subsequent court order violations had protracted the divorce proceedings, and it hadn’t been finalized.
The last known photo of Jennifer Dulos alive is captured at 8:05 a.m. by a Welles Lane neighbor’s video surveillance system—she’s driving her SUV home after dropping the kids off at school while Fotis Dulos “is believed to have been lying in wait at 69 Welles Lane for his wife to return home,” Kimball wrote in a 43-page arrest warrant application.
During the next two hours and 20 minutes, Jennifer Dulos appears to have been killed in a violent assault that’s followed by an effort to clean up the scene, the application said. At 10:25 a.m., the residential surveillance video “shows Jennifer Dulos’s Suburban traveling westbound away from 69 Welles Lane,” according to Kimball’s affidavit.
“[Fotis] Dulos is believed to be operating the victim’s vehicle which is carrying the body of Jennifer Dulos and a number of other items associated with the clean-up which occurred in the garage of the residence,” the affidavit said.