Colchester reeling, awaits answers in Florida deaths with local connection
Colchester — Across the town Tuesday, community members were trying to make sense of what happened after police in Florida opened an investigation into a missing family who had a physical therapy business here.
Police are investigating four deaths at the Celebration, Fla., home of Anthony and Megan Todt, who own Performance Edge Sports LLC and Family Physical Therapy in Colchester.
Colchester First Selectman Mary Bylone said that when she arrived Tuesday morning at Town Hall, a resident was waiting in her office in tears. All day, Bylone said, she has been receiving messages from community members. Some are angry about what they suspect happened to the family.
Bylone said town officials are focusing on supporting the community as the investigation unfolds and that she wanted to remind residents that no suspects or victims had yet been identified. Even when details of the case do emerge, she said, "we may never understand what happened."
"The news reports out of Celebration, Florida, regarding a Colchester family are shocking and heartbreaking," she wrote in a Facebook post. "While there is much we do not know at this time, I know that the thoughts and prayers of our entire community are with the relatives and friends of the family involved."
Leanne Switzer, who works at Tim's Bistro on Main Street in Colchester, said "people have been abuzz talking about it all morning." She said Anthony Todt, who goes by Tony, was a regular at the bistro and that she knew his order by heart. "He was always nice," she said. "It's unexpected and we're so surprised."
At Herman's Diner around the corner, staff said they also had been talking about the family all morning.
"It didn't happen here but it still affects the community," Jodie Burstein said. She was shocked something like this would happen to a family with ties to Colchester. "This is a bedroom community, it's surprising that we have a physical therapy practice here let alone a tragedy connected to it," she said.
A Colchester resident and close friend of the Todts named James, who declined to provide his last name, said that Tony Todt coached his son Wes in a youth soccer program in Colchester in 2015 and said that Todt and his son Alex Todt "were a part of our extended soccer family."
A spokesperson for the Colchester Parks and Recreation Department said that town soccer leagues are operated independently so Todt has no official role as a coach through the town.
The friend also said that Tony Todt was his son Sam's physical therapist when he tore his hip flexor.
"He was a very generous man and would make himself available under any circumstances," he said. In a Facebook post Monday evening, he wrote, "how can someone with such a kind heart be a part of something so disturbing?"
Lori Bond Atkins of Colchester said she received physical therapy services from Tony Todt after she fell last spring and tore a ligament in her knee. She said he was an excellent provider and that she owes her healed injury to him and his staff. She's recommended Todt's practice to clients from her own business, she said, and Todt "was professional and kind to clients I referred to him."
"He was friendly and caring to his community," she said.
Colchester resident Linda Akerman, who runs the popular Facebook page All Things Colchester, said she had known the Todt family for years.
Anthony Todt, she said, provided physical therapy for her for back problems, and for her sons for various sports injuries, for about five years.
As a physical therapist, Akerman said Todt was accommodating and would always check in on her and her sons and schedule appointments before and after business hours to work with their schedules. She said one of her sons, now 14, always looked forward to seeing his physical therapist and that the two would talk about school and sports “like old friends” during his appointments.
“Tony was always the cool guy, he was very relatable to kids and had a great sense of humor,” Akerman said.
She and Todt always talked during the appointments, too, and developed a friendship. “We became friends from our mutual interests in sports,” she said. Both she and Todt coached soccer in Colchester, though never at the same time. She said he was great with kids and that she would often see him out on the soccer field.
“I can remember seeing him, walking by the field and seeing him out there, he was so great with kids,” Akerman said. “He wanted to be very active in our community and he was always looking for ways to get more involved.”
According to Akerman, Megan Todt and their children had moved down to Florida a few years ago, but Anthony Todt was still living and working in Colchester full time during the week and flying down to Florida to see his family every weekend. She said she didn’t know why most of the Todts had moved south.
Akerman said she knew the traveling was taking a toll and that he had planned to move to Florida soon as well. The two often talked about the stress of traveling for work, as Akerman had once commuted between Connecticut and Chicago, she said.
“I know they were stressed, I know what it’s like to travel for work,” she said. “He was up here by himself working long hours and flying back every Friday.”
Akerman said she wasn’t aware of any financial issues or personal issues within the family. When she first heard the family was missing, she thought that the father must have whisked his family away on a vacation to de-stress. “Knowing Tony I just thought they had all gone off on a cruise,” she said.
When she heard the news Tuesday, she said she was completely shocked. “I just don’t understand, I can’t get it out of my mind, I can’t stop thinking about it,” she said.
On Monday night. St. Andrew Church in Colchester had posted a message on Facebook asking for prayers for the Todt family.
Resources for the community
On Tuesday morning, Superintendent of Colchester Public Schools Jeffrey Burt sent out an email about the Todts. "All of us at Colchester Public Schools are deeply saddened by the news out of Celebration, Florida regarding the Colchester family," he wrote. "As a community, we are committed to coming together to support students who may be emotionally impacted by this news. All of our crisis teams met early this morning and counselors are available in every school. If you have concern for your student, please contact the school for support."
Bylone said she held a meeting Tuesday morning with Burt and Director of Youth and Social Services Valerie Geato to determine what resources are available to community members.
Every Colchester school as a "crisis team," said Bylone, and all those teams are on "heightened awareness" to watch for kids who may have heard the news. Many children in the same age group, she said, likely knew the Todts' three children from community events.
"We're a town of 16,000 we have one rec plex (recreation center), we have one town green, it's not like you may have never seen these kids anywhere," she said.
Bylone said she never met the Todts, but they were well-known in town. "They were connected to a lot of people in the community. It sounds like a lot of people knew them and really liked them," she said.
According Bylone, the Colchester Is Kind grassroots movement, which helps spread kindness throughout the community, frequently honors community members as "Heroes of the Day." Last month, Tony Todt was chosen.
Day Staff Writer Sten Spinella contributed to this report.