Todt family remembered at candlelight vigil in Colchester

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Colchester — Hundreds of candles glowed in the hands of mourners Friday night as crowds gathered on the town green to honor the memories of Megan, Alek, Tyler and Zoe Todt and their dog, Breezy.

Residents of the town have for weeks been trying to comprehend how a well-liked physical therapist in town who coached dozens of children on the local soccer team became a man accused of killing his family.

Police say that Anthony Todt, who goes by Tony and owned two Family Physical Therapy practices in Colchester, confessed last week to killing his wife, Megan, their children, Alek, 13, Tyler, 11 and Zoe, 4, and their dog in a home the family rented in Celebration, Fla.

The family was found decomposing in a second-floor bedroom of the home on Jan. 13. Megan, their sons and the dog had been stabbed, preliminary autopsy results revealed Thursday. There was no evidence of injury to Zoe.

Todt was still working full time at his physical therapy practices, where Megan had previously worked as a physical therapist, as well.

Erin Dobek, a physical therapist who worked with the couple, helped organize the vigil, which was attended by Todt's sisters, brother-in-law, Megan's aunt and uncle, and several other family members.

Todt's sister Chrissy Caplet of Bozrah said she had no comment on what happened to her family, but wanted the night to "be about Meg and the kids."

Normand Rioux, a second-cousin of Megan's, attended the vigil with his two sons, ages 4 and 11.

Rioux said he grew up with both Megan and Todt in Montville — he had known Megan his entire life and met Todt in middle school. He became visibly emotional, fighting back tears as he described the Todts as "the perfect family."

"None of this makes sense, they were just both loving devoted parents, they appeared to have the perfect family," he said. "It's just unthinkable and we're still all in shock."

Rioux said he remained in contact with the couple over the years, mostly through social media since their move to Florida, and most recently saw them a few years ago at the funeral for Megan's grandfather.

At the funeral, Rioux said he told Megan how much he enjoyed watching her kids grow up through pictures on Facebook, and how it reminded him "of the wonderful childhood we had growing up together in Montville."

Rioux said he has been spending extra time with his two boys since he heard about the Todts. "It's really important to come home every night and hug them tight and remember what's important in this life," he said.

During the vigil, Elizabeth Campbell, sister-in-law of Megan's aunt, held a sign with a photo of Megan and the children that read "Remember them with love." She said she made the sign because she wanted "people focus on warm memories they had with them and not their last day."

"That day is for police to figure out," she said.

Jamie Riebschlager also attended the vigil with her husband and their three young children, ages 5, 3 and 1.

Riebschlager, who lives in Waterford, said that she and her family knew members of the Todts' extended family and came out to show their support. "It's heartbreaking, especially since I also have two boys and a girl, it all feels very heartbreaking," she said.

As mourners gathered with their candles, Dobek read a statement by Fiona Lefebrve, a colleague from Family Physical Therapy who could not attend the vigil.

The statement addressed mental illness, listing signs people can look out for and urged people to "keep an eye on your happy friends as well."

Mental health support services were available at the vigil.

Father Richard Breton from St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church in Colchester led the crowd in prayer and asked for comfort for the family in this time of "shock and horror."

Dobek played a video recorded by Avery Wrobel, a teen who used to live in Colchester who also now lives in Florida. Wrobel was friends with Alek Todt, and was scheduled to perform with him at a music competition in May. Alek was going to play piano while Wrobel sang.

In the video, Wrobel held up a tablet with a video of Alek playing "Amazing Grace" on piano and sang along. She said that since she would no longer be able to perform the song with her friend, she wanted to sing it for him.

Linda Akerman, who knew Todt for years, also attended the vigil, recording it for members of the Todt family.

Akerman said she first met Todt when he treated her for a back injury and her sons for sports injuries. She and Todt then developed a friendship through their mutual involvement coaching youth soccer in Colchester.

She said she hadn't stopped thinking about the deaths since she first heard the news. In Colchester, she said she thinks members of the community have gone from shocked, to angry.

"For a while it was very mixed feelings — to those who didn't know him, he was a monster, that's it. Others like us that were friends with him still held out hope, and now that's shifting," she said. "So it's mourning the loss of a friend but also realizing what he did, and how do you square with that?"

Akerman said she thought the vigil would help the town heal. "Everybody needed this," she said.

During the vigil, donations for the family's funeral expenses were being accepted. A GoFundMe page set up to help raise money for funeral expenses by Friday had raised just under $20,000 of a $50,000 goal.

Bracelets — light blue with dark blue writing that said "Sweet Memories" and listed the names Megan, Alek, Tyler, Zoe and Breezy — were being sold for $1 at the vigil, with proceeds to go toward the funeral expenses.

The family plans to bury the four in Connecticut but the bodies have not yet been released from the medical examiner in Florida.

t.hartz@theday.com 

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