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    Thursday, September 29, 2022

    Juror describes deliberations at Todt murder trial

    The Todt family, formerly of Colchester, is pictured in this undated family photo. Anthony Todt was convicted on April 14, 2022 of murdering his wife, Megan, and their three children, Alek, Tyler and Zoe in December 2019.

    In late June, two months after Anthony Todt’s murder trial ended with a conviction, one of the 12 jurors who decided Todt’s fate reached out to The Day.

    Manny Lozada of Kissimmee, Fla., said by phone that while he had not been ready to comment on the trial in its immediate aftermath, he wanted listeners of “Looking for The Todt Family” podcast to know how the decision was made to put Todt behind bars. Lozada said he’d heard the podcast after the trial and was surprised at all the information not included in court, such as details about Todt’s alleged health care fraud.

    “During the process we could not understand why there were some areas that were not even explored, like computer searches or phones or things like that, but then, after the fact, I understood because there was something else that was never even mentioned to us, which was that he was being investigated for fraud up north,” Lozada said. “We had no idea, at all, on those charges. We had no idea that there were federal agents … In fact, we didn’t even know that one of the witnesses that they interviewed … was a law enforcement agent.”

    Todt, the 46-year-old former Colchester physical therapist, was sentenced in April to four life sentences for the murders of his wife Megan, 42, and their children Alek, 13, Tyler, 11, and Zoe, 4, plus an additional year for the killing of the family dog, Breezy. The murders took place in December 2019 after the family moved from Connecticut to Celebration, Fla. The Osceola County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the mother and children’s cause of death to be a combination of a Benadryl overdose and “violence of unspecified means.”

    Lozada said the jury thought that the reason the Todt family’s bodies were found was because of a request for a wellness check from Todt’s sister, and not because federal agents came to Todt’s doorstep with a warrant for his arrest in January of 2020.

    One holdout juror

    Lozada described how the jury became deadlocked — leading many to believe Todt would walk free — and how it broke that deadlock. While 11 jurors were convinced of Todt’s guilt, there was one holdout, Lozada said.

    “We were for about seven hours trying to convince him … He needed that other information in order to paint a more clear picture in his mind,” Lozada said. “Everybody else, the other 11, we were 100 percent convinced because I never bought any of the story of the pact or anything like that. He actually threw that out of the window during his testimony.”

    The holdout juror wasn’t convinced the state had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

    “One of the things that we really pondered a lot was the way in which the wife allegedly killed herself. It was not possible for a person to stab herself twice, and they were not lethal wounds anyway,” Lozada said. “But again, the prosecution did not provide that overwhelming proof to us.”

    Lozada said a couple jurors strategized ways to assuage the holdout’s doubts.

    “I think what got him convinced — because after so many hours we were getting frustrated — what really convinced him to change his mind was somebody said, ‘If we find him guilty, he will have the opportunity to appeal, and if he ultimately was not guilty, that would be clear. But if he’s guilty and we find him not guilty, then he’s done, and he’s going to be in the streets, and he’s going to be a guilty person we just let out because of one simple technicality. We could not live with that. I could not live with that.”

    Lozada also reflected on the performance of Todt’s defense team, calling it a “bit of a roller coaster.” He said that allowing Todt to testify is “what really sealed it for us.”

    “His demeanor, more than his story, his demeanor was unbelievable. When the defense was asking him questions, he would look at us to say the answers, just looking at every single one of us in the eye,” Lozada said. “When the prosecution asked their questions, he would not even look at us, so his demeanor told us a lot, and he was very antagonistic and belligerent against the prosecution.”

    The jurors, Lozada said, felt they needed to “read between the lines” because they were hearing two separate stories of what happened to the Todt family — one from Tony’s testimony, and one from Tony’s confession to police.

    Being barred from speaking to his wife about the trial was “traumatizing,” Lozada said. He said the trial itself was traumatizing, which is why he didn’t speak to the news media right away after the fact.

    Pictures of the Todt family’s bodies in particular got to Lozada.

    “This is kind of part of the healing process, the healing process of going through that very difficult trial and still having all those images in my mind all these months later,” Lozada said of speaking publicly about the Todt case. “I can tell you that … about a month ago, I went to a birthday party for one of my close friends, and it was his little girl’s four-year-old birthday party. I started crying because it brought back all those images.”

    While he said it was “so difficult” to see them, Lozada said the jury had to take in the upsetting photographs of the family’s bodies.

    “It was something that needed to be there for us to examine. Not only because of the crime committed, but also because of the gruesome details of how that family was found with him living there for almost three weeks. It was inconceivable,” Lozada said. “I think looking at those very graphic pictures made us paint a better picture of his demeanor … the matter of fact, the ‘me, me, me,’ and the narcissistic way of presenting himself. Then going back to our room and looking at those pictures?”

    Now months removed from the process, Lozada said he was satisfied with his experience on jury duty.

    “I’m able to sleep at night knowing that I did the right thing,” Lozada said.

    The Day on Wednesday will release the final episode of the Looking for The Todt Family podcast, a bonus episode which contains the full interview with Lozada. Find it at lookingforthetodtfamily.com or wherever you get your podcasts.

    s.spinella@theday.com

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