Todt's attorneys move to throw out confession
Fragments of Anthony Todt's alleged confession, taken by the Osceola County Sheriff's Department shortly after his family members' bodies were found in their Celebration, Fla. home, were made public last week when Todt's lawyer moved to have two of his statements thrown out ahead of his trial.
Todt allegedly confessed to killing his family during an interview with police on Jan. 13, 2020 while he was in the hospital under suicide watch, and spoke with detectives again two days later.
Both statements were given shortly after Todt was arrested at his home, where he was found living with his family's bodies at least two weeks after they died.
Todt's attorneys, a public defender named Robert Wesley and assistant public defender Peter Schmer, argue that neither of Todt's statements should be allowed to be heard by the jury that will hear his case later this month. The attorneys ask to have both statements thrown out, claiming that Todt was not of sound mind when tendering his confessions, and that Osceola County Sheriff's Department deputies did not properly and entirely read him his Miranda rights - a list of rights that investigators are required to read to a suspect prior to taking their statement.
Todt was charged with murder in the deaths of his wife Megan Todt, 42, and their children Alek, 13, Tyler, 11, and Zoe, 4, and their family dog, Breezy. He faces four counts of first-degree homicide and one count of animal cruelty and is being held in the Osceola County Jail. His trial is set to begin on Sept. 27.
Todt, who grew up in Montville and later lived in Colchester, was arrested at the home his family rented in Celebration on Jan. 13, 2020 and allegedly confessed carrying out the killings to the Osceola County Sheriff's Office that same day. A letter Todt later penned from jail to his estranged father, Robert Todt, detailed his self-proclaimed innocence in a 27-page description of the events that led up to his family's deaths. He claims in the letter that his wife killed their children before committing suicide. Her death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner's office.
In new court documents filed on Aug. 31, Todt's lawyer said that detectives Cole Miller and Ryan Quinn interviewed Todt at Advent Hospital in Celebration after he had overdosed on Benadryl and expressed suicidal ideation. He quotes parts of Todt's statements in the motion to make the case that Todt was not of sound mind when he spoke to detectives. Todt allegedly told the detectives that he felt like he was "in a fog," that he was "having trouble keeping things straight," that his head hurt, he felt lethargic and he regretted still being alive.
According to court documents, lab testing confirmed that Todt was experiencing a Benadryl overdose at the time of his arrest. Welsey wrote in his motion that "a Benadryl overdose can cause psychosis, as well as delirium and confusion," and said that Todt told hospital staff when he was admitted that he had been having auditory and visual hallucinations for three weeks.
Wesley and Schmer allege that when the detectives visited the hospital, Miller "gave an incomplete recitation of Miranda warnings to the detained," adding that detectives did not tell Todt that an attorney would be provided for him if he could not obtain one himself.
Detective Miller promised Todt that "his cooperation 'will go a long way'" and that after being read only some of his rights, "Mr. Todt provided a comprehensive confession of his involvement in the killing of his family members."
According to the defense, the detectives left after interviewing Todt, but came back and this time read him his full Miranda rights.
"Mr. Todt repeated the earlier details of his involvement in the killing of his family members and they talked till 5:28 p.m.," the motion reads. "At the end of Mr. Todt's interview, Detective Miller told Mr. Todt that, 'I have no doubt that you will take responsibility for these actions.'"
Wesley and Schmer argue that this statement by detective Miller was coercive and invalidates Todt's waiving of his Miranda rights.
The defense attorneys are also arguing that Todt had a diminished mental capacity at the time of his confession, and that he made police aware of his mental state several times, saying the "Benadryl overdose caused him to 'feel foggy' and left his head 'spinning.'"
Although the defense admits a diminished capacity alone does not make a confession inadmissible, they argue that court precedent says that when coupled with "coercive police conduct," it does.
"Florida's courts have recognized that diminished capacity alone does not make a confession inadmissible," the attorneys write. "However, when coupled with coercive police conduct, a suspect's confession may become inadmissible."
Wesley and Schmer also said that Todt's emotional state at the time of these two statements made him "unable to execute a knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver of his Miranda rights."
Quoting from a confession transcript, the defense said Todt had advised detectives that he takes "'a lot of stuff for mental health'" during the Jan. 15, 2020 meeting. Todt also showed confusion about what month it was.
Wesley and Schmer write that Todt told detectives he was "very sad and wished to be with his deceased family," during his interrogation on Jan. 15. He also said that "if he could commit suicide right now, he would."
The motion was sent to Assistant State Attorney Danielle Marie Pinnell last week and is set to be heard in court on Sept. 20, one week before the trial is scheduled to start.