Tony Todt sent texts saying family was on vacation, going "off the grid" before Christmas
The week before Christmas, Tony Todt told his wife Megan's aunt not to worry if she didn't hear from the family for a bit — the couple and their children were going on vacation and wouldn't be reachable, he said.
"He texted me that they were turning their phones off, they were 'going off the grid," said Megan's aunt, Cindi Kopko of Norwich.
Later, Tony said they had arrived in Northern Florida and said Megan had lost her phone. "He lied," Kopko said.
For months, Megan had been telling her aunt that the couple would be taking their sons, 13-year-old Alek and 11-year-old Tyler, to St. Augustine so they could write a paper on the historic city. Megan homeschooled her kids in Celebration, Fla., where they had been living for a few years after moving from Colchester.
Just before Christmas, Kopko said, she got a text from Megan's phone that said they were sick but would be making the drive to St. Augustine soon.
"We're just gonna wait until we're over this and then we're gonna head out," Kopko quoted the text as saying.
At first, these messages from her niece and nephew-in-law seemed normal to Kopko and didn't raise alarms. But when she didn't hear from the family on Christmas, she started to worry. Kopko and her husband, Stewart Peil, were some of Megan's closest relatives, and she always talked to them on Christmas.
Now, Kopko said she doesn't know if those final texts even came from her niece and doesn't think they were ever sick or traveling the week of Christmas.
"They were already dead by then," she said.
'He totally snapped'
Megan and the couple's children, Alek, Tyler, and 4-year-old Zoe, and the family dog, Breezy, were found dead in a bedroom in the home the family rented in Celebration on Jan. 13. Their bodies were decomposing, and a Florida medical examiner said the family had likely been dead for weeks.
The bodies were found after police went to the home to arrest Tony Todt on a warrant stemming from a federal investigation into health care fraud at his physical therapy practices in Connecticut.
When police arrived, Todt was upstairs with the bodies. Police say he confessed to killing his family, but his confession has been redacted from the arrest warrant affidavit.
"He totally lost his mind, he totally snapped," said Kopko, who said she has been praying for forgiveness for Tony Todt.
"He was such a lovely father and was so lovely to Megan and the kids," said Kopko. "He loved his children so much and none of us can believe it at all. It just doesn't match at all."
Kopko said that after Megan and the children moved to Celebration, a small community just outside Disney World, the family would stay with her and her husband when they came back to Connecticut for holidays and visits. It was unusual that they didn't come for Thanksgiving this year and the couple didn't give a reason, she said.
Though she was concerned around Christmas, Kopko said, she kept getting texts from Tony that they were on their trip, so she didn't worry too much. Todt's sister, Chrissy Caplet, of Bozrah, first called police to request a welfare check on the family on Dec. 29.
Caplet's request for the wellness check is in a recording of a 911 call released last week.
"I guess they've had the flu, probably for a couple weeks, they were really down and out during Christmas," Caplet told a dispatcher. "The only person we've been able to talk to is my brother, and now we can't get ahold of any of them."
Caplet called again for a wellness check on Jan. 10. She mentioned her previous Dec. 29 call and added there had been a few "developments" since.
"There's actually an active FBI investigation that's happening here in Connecticut and I, in conversations with my sister, my sister-in-law was making a comment, we just kind of put it all together, about basically the world ending on the 28th, and nobody has talked to them," Caplet said.
In the call, Caplet said she was aware of the investigation into Todt's alleged health care fraud at his physical therapy practices in Connecticut. She was also aware he was being evicted from the Celebration home.
FBI agents and Yasmin Doldoy, who owned the property Anthony Todt was being evicted from, also called before Jan. 13 expressing concern and asking police to check on the family.
"I own the property that I rent out, I've sort of seen on social media that people haven't heard from this family in a long long time," Doldoy told dispatchers. "They're not paying rent. It's 202 Reserve Place. I'm concerned for the family, I'm concerned for the property. We contacted them just before Christmas because they haven't paid, and we haven't heard from them or anything."
The last 911 call concerning the Todts released by the Osceola County Sheriff's Office before the discovery was widely known came from Officer Michael Brown of the Colchester Police Department asking for a well-being check. The dispatcher had a harrowing response.
"I'm going to have the homicide detective give you a call," the dispatcher said. "I don't know if you're following the news or not, if it's gotten that far, we had a murder-suicide in that area. The homicide detective will contact you."
Todt did not commit suicide but was treated at a hospital for an apparent attempt to overdose on Benadryl and for making suicidal threats.
On the day the bodies were discovered, 911 calls included multiple attempts from news media outlets as well as from another sister of Todt's, Kelly Ball, to contact police.
Ball called twice to see if the murder she'd heard about in Celebration involved the Todt family.
"My parents are seeing all this stuff on the Internet, and we have zero information," Ball said.
Caplet called for the same reason.
"It's a sucky way to find out on Facebook," she said.
Federal agent Melissa O'Neill called earlier in the day to corral deputies from the sheriff's office to join her and other agents in executing a warrant for Anthony Todt related to health care fraud.
"There are concerns," O'Neill said on the 911 call. "He does know he's being investigated. As far as we know, he's tapped out all his financial resources, and he has not contacted his family in over a week."
A woman named Nina, who claimed to be the Todt children's nanny in Connecticut for four years, called crying and trying to determine if the Todts had been killed.
Colchester's Resident State Trooper Michael Rondinone also called on Jan. 13 to offer his assistance to Florida law enforcement.
Family search ends in shock
By Jan. 6, the family had taken to social media for clues about the Todts' whereabouts, starting the Facebook group "Looking for the Todt family," which has since been removed.
Records show that police went to the home the Todts rented and a condo they owned in Celebration multiple times between Dec. 29 and Jan. 13. They never spoke with or saw anyone but also never noticed anything suspicious.
Caplet told police she received a text from Todt on Jan. 6 and that soon after the family received a text from Todt's phone saying it had been found at a Starbucks in Sarasota. After that, they heard nothing until police arrested Todt and found the crime scene on Jan. 13.
The morning of the 13th, Peil said he got a frantic call from his wife who, through her tears, told him something horrible had happened in Florida.
"They're all dead," she screamed.
Peil's sister Elizabeth Campbell said through tears that she remembers hearing the news and telling her husband, "'You know that family they found dead in Florida? It's Megan and the kids.'"
Peil said Megan's father is dead and she had been estranged from her mother for years. The family didn't know where Megan's mother was living or whether she knew what had happened to her daughter and grandchildren. Megan had always been close with her aunt and was the flower girl in the couple's wedding when she was 10. She was the only grandchild of her mother's parents, who live in Montville.
"The only grandchild and all the great-grandchildren are just gone," he said. "They're all gone."
A happy family
Peil and Kopko spent a great deal of time with the Todts, taking the children on vacation many times.
They took the children to the beach often, in Florida, along the East Coast and even on some trips out west. The boys preferred East Coast beaches because of the waves, Kopko said, and loved to make sand castles. She taught them to swim in pools in Florida and her husband taught them how to fly shark-shaped kites on the beach.
Together they went on trips to Disney World in the last two years, where they rode the new Avatar ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom. They went to Sesame Street Land in Orlando and liked to mini golf and ride roller coasters. In Connecticut, they enjoyed collecting crabs at Rocky Neck State Park.
Alek and Tyler were both talented pianists. Alek had a math mind, said his aunt, while Tyler liked to read.
Zoe, she said, "was full of life."
The 4-year-old was always dancing around and would often put her hands on her hips and scold her older brothers when they roughhoused.
"She ran the family," she said.
Her great-uncle remembered her as a "girly-girl" who had lots of pink clothes and dolls. He said he'll never forget the day that Megan came to visit them with an ultrasound photo from her pregnancy with Zoe.
"She always wanted a girl and she was so happy," she said. "She [Zoe] really filled out their family."
Both Peil and Kopko said that they never saw any signs of trouble, or financial problems, in the Todt family.
"We never even saw them raise their voice to each other," said Kopko.
Megan, she said, was a yoga instructor who was "peaceful and loving every day."
"She was a beautiful mother and so caring, she would do anything for her children," said Kopko.
Todt, she said, was a devoted husband and father who flew to Florida every weekend to help cook for the family and give his wife a break from home-schooling and caring for the kids, after working full time at his physical therapy practices in Colchester.
"He was the kind of father every mother dreamed of for her children," said Kopko.
Stories that may interest you
Al Wells was taking a break from his walk Thursday just as Andrew Rodman — both are residents of of New London — passed by on his own walk at Fort Trumbull State Park.
The Representative Town Meeting approved Monday night a three-year contract that included wage settlements and insurance deductibles.
The city is offering funding for rehabilitation projects and lead-based paint remediation.
The New London Parking Authority is now offering free parking in downtown, an annual effort to allow stress-free shopping, dining and strolling during the holidays.