State calls witnesses on first day of Todt trial
The trial of Anthony Todt, the former Colchester physical therapist accused of murdering his family in Florida, began on Monday more than two years after his arrest in January 2020.
The trial is being held in the Osceola County Courthouse in Kissimmee, Fla. and is being live-streamed on YouTube by Law & Crime.
During her opening statement to the jury, Assistant State Attorney Danielle Pinnell described how the 46-year-old Todt killed his youngest child, Zoe, who was 4 years old. Based on police interviews with Todt, in which he confessed to some of the murders, she said he went into her room, and after taking the time to sit with her, "he rolled over on top of her until she suffocated."
Pinnell said Todt told police he then went to his son Alek’s room, which he usually shared with his brother Tyler, where Alek, 13, was sleeping, and suffocated and stabbed Alek to death.
Tyler Todt, 11, was sleeping on a “sofa bed in the playroom,” Pinnell said Todt said, on the night of the murders.
“The defendant was more concerned about Tyler Todt because Tyler Todt was the fastest,” Pinnell said. “He was afraid that if something didn’t go the way that he wanted, Tyler Todt would escape.”
Pinnell said that in an interview with police, Todt talked about his wife, Megan, 42, saying that she was responsible for the two stab wounds in her abdomen. When that didn’t kill her, “the defendant took a pillow and suffocated Megan Todt as well.”
“Right before he suffocated and took the life of Megan Todt, he also suffocated Breezy, the dog,” Pinnell added.
Pinnell also laid out what could be the state’s case for why Todt committed the murders.
“The defendant in his interview says that Megan Todt and himself had an agreement that everybody needed to die in order to pass over to the other side together because the apocalypse was coming,” she said.
Pinnell said the jury would be able to hear Todt’s interviews with police on Jan. 13 and 15 conducted primarily by Osceola County Sheriff's Detective Cole Miller, in which the state says he confessed.
“You’re going to have the opportunity to hear the defendant and Detective Cole Miller’s conversation, and you’re going to be informed by the defendant in his interview that he is the one who took the lives of Megan Todt, Aleksander Todt, Tyler Todt and Zoe Todt,” Pinnell said.
She added that Todt in his interviews put the murders sometime between Dec. 14 and Christmas 2019 when talking to police.
Todt, in communication with The Day and in a letter from prison to his father, Robert Todt, has denied killing his children, and has blamed Megan Todt for their murders. He also says in the letter to his father that he tried to suffocate Megan with a pillow but couldn’t bring himself to kill her. He implies that she ultimately died from her self-inflicted stab wounds.
In its opening statement and questioning, the state showed how the bodies of Tyler, Alek, Zoe, Breezy and Megan were all located on beds in the master bedroom by police. While it was known that Todt stayed in his Celebration, Fla., home following the killings of his wife, children and family dog, Pinnell alleged that the evidence will show “the defendant since the date of their deaths stayed in the room as well.”
The state said it would be calling the former medical examiner, a toxicologist and a crime scene technician to discuss the autopsy results, the toxicology results, and the matching of fingerprints from empty Benadryl bottles and boxes matching Anthony Todt’s prints, respectively.
In questioning its witnesses including 911 dispatchers and officers who conducted wellness checks on Todt and his family, the state sought to show Monday how the Todts’ extended family became concerned in the days after Christmas 2019 and in early January 2020.
Osceola County Sheriff’s deputy Robert Baroso said he was assigned to contact Todt on Dec. 31, 2019, following a concerned call from Todt’s sister Chrissy Caplet. Baroso said he returned to Todt’s home and his nearby condominium on Jan. 2 and Jan. 7, 2020, as well.
Another sheriff’s office deputy, Alexander Hogue, was sent out again on Jan. 10, 2020, following another concerned call from Caplet. He said he went back on the morning of Jan. 11 to try to contact Todt again and to talk to neighbors.
“My sister-in-law was making a comment about basically the world ending on the 28th, and nobody has talked to them,” Caplet said in her Jan. 10 call.
Officers were unsuccessful in contacting Todt in any of these instances. The blinds were drawn, the house was dark, and nobody came to the door.
But on Jan. 13, Michael Phelps, a federal agent investigating Todt for health care fraud, and his team saw Todt on his porch while surveilling his home at 202 Reserve Place. The investigation was being conducted by the FBI as well as the Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General.
The court avoided distinguishing Phelps as a federal agent investigating Todt’s alleged health care fraud at his practices in Connecticut because both the prosecution and the defense agreed before the trial not to make reference to the fraud case against Todt.
Federal agents were at Todt’s home with an arrest warrant for him with health care fraud charges on Jan. 13, 2020. They called the sheriff’s office for backup after spotting Todt outside of his house on his porch. That’s how the sheriff’s office became aware of the deaths of the Todt family.
The state entered into evidence Jan. 13 body camera footage from police that showed Todt’s shaky condition when he makes contact with police, as well as Todt saying that his family is asleep upstairs, and Zoe is at a sleepover. Cross examination from Todt’s attorneys asked officer Christopher Boos, who was on scene that day, whether Todt was “stumbling,” “mumbly,” “incoherent” and “shaking,” which he confirmed, though he pushed back on incoherent, saying Todt was just hard to understand. In a redirect, the state had Boos confirm that Todt was awake and responsive.
For a large portion of the proceedings Monday, prosecutors entered dozens of photos from the Todts’ home, car and condominium. Despite the defense continuing its objection to doing so, the state showed the bodies of the Todt family as found by police on Jan. 13, 2020. Judge Keith Carsten advised the media not to show the images that were shown to the gallery and to the jury.
The trial is expected to last two weeks, with Todt’s defense to offer its opening statements later in the trial.
The Todt family murders shook both the Colchester community, where Todt was a well-respected physical therapist and beloved youth soccer coach, and the Celebration community, where Megan homeschooled her children and was known as a friendly neighbor and devoted mother. Anthony and Megan both were raised in Montville and went to Montville High School together.
Todt has a violent family past, and his relationship with his father is complex; the two were estranged for decades. When Anthony Todt was 4 years old, he was a witness to his mother’s attempted murder in Bensalem, Pa., in 1980, for which his father was convicted and served years in prison.
More information on the Todt case is available at https://www.theday.com/section/todt and the Looking for the Todt Family podcast.