Judge throws out one of three Todt confessions, keeps rest
A judge threw out one confession — and kept two others — from Anthony "Tony" Todt ahead of his long-delayed trial, which starts on Monday.
Todt, a former Colchester physical therapist, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of animal cruelty in the deaths of his wife, Megan, three children, Alek, Tyler and Zoe, and the family dog at their home at 202 Reserve Place in Celebration, Fla. His initial, Jan. 13, 2020, confession will not be examined in court because an Osceola County Sheriff’s Office detective did not properly inform him of his Miranda rights — that his statements could be used against him in court.
Judge Keith Carsten ruled in the Osceola County, Fla., District 9 Court in March that Todt’s two subsequent conversations with detectives — one later on Jan. 13 and one on Jan. 15, 2020, — are admissible. Carsten said that, according to recordings, transcripts and video, Todt confessed to murdering his family in all three instances.
The first interview of Todt took place in a Florida hospital the same day he was taken into custody upon the police discovery of his family’s bodies. Investigators and the medical examiner say he had been living in the home with the bodies for weeks.
By his own admission, Detective Cole Miller did not adequately read Todt his rights. He testified that he “attempted to give the defendant his Miranda warnings prior to questioning him. He did not have a Miranda card with him and attempted to do so by memory. The detective acknowledged that he neglected to advise the defendant that anything he (Todt) said to the detective could be used against him in court,” Carsten’s order reads.
Detectives Miller and Ryan Quinn then took a 50-minute break from interviewing Todt, at which time Todt was moved to another room in the hospital. The detectives then read Todt’s rights to him completely and conducted another interview.
Todt was interviewed again on Jan. 15, this time at sheriff’s office headquarters. Carsten ruled that these are three distinct interviews, and threw out only the one in which Todt wasn’t fully read his rights.
Miller also testified that Todt was consistent in his statements “as to the order of the killings, the timing of the killings, the injuries and manner of death, the dates of the deaths, the discussion of the apocalypse and suicidal thoughts” between his first and second interviews on Jan. 13.
“The defendant’s waiver of his Miranda protection cannot be found to be knowing and voluntary, as he was not afforded a full and complete advisement of his rights,” Carsten’s order reads. “The error is absolute as to the first portion of the interview, and the statements that precede the 50-minute break on January 13, 2020 must be excluded by law.”
Carsten ultimately agreed with the state that the detectives were not “heavy-handed, coercive, dismissive or aggressive” in the interviews of Todt. He also wrote that Miller’s “incomplete advisement” of Todt’s rights was an “unintentional oversight.”
Todt’s defense also tried to make the point that Todt was not mentally sound on Jan. 13 due to an overdose on the allergy medication Benadryl. Medical experts testified saying that Todt sounded out of it in the first interview, but his answers were consistent on the whole, and he knew what he was being asked.
Todt has long maintained in statements to The Day that he was not of sound mind on Jan. 13 due to taking a large volume of Benadryl, and disclosed that he had been having thoughts of suicide at the time. Carsten rejected that argument.
“If it is the intent of the defense to argue a combination of the defendant’s fragile emotional state based in part on the effects of an apparent Benadryl overdose at some time before the interviews, coupled with the alleged impermissible action of law enforcement, all rendered the defendant’s January 13, 2020 or January 15, 2020 waiver of his Miranda protections, involuntary, unknowing or not intelligently made, this court denies that argument,” Carsten wrote.
In recent months the state attorney of the 9th Judicial District of Osceola County, Florida, released a lengthy witness list with more than 70 people that could be called for the trial. In addition, in February, a civil suit was filed by Bank of America against Todt, Megan Todt, their three children, Megan Todt’s estranged mother, Gail Gula, and others who may have claims to their estate, for unpaid mortgage on the Todts' Celebration, Fla., home.
The Todts were in considerable debt at the time of the homicides. The couple owned a condo at 221 Longview Drive in Celebration and were being evicted from a home they rented in the same neighborhood — the home in which the bodies were found — for failing to pay rent.
The bank is asking the court to foreclose on the mortgage, sell the property and determine whether any parties have claim to the property.
Todt has pleaded not guilty to all charges in connection with the deaths. His criminal case will be heard at the Osceola County Courthouse in Kissimmee, Fla., in front of Carsten.
Federal charges also were brought against Todt, who had owned a now-closed physical therapy practice in Colchester, over an alleged yearslong health care fraud scheme. That case has been put on hold as he awaits trial on the murder charges. He has been behind bars at the Osceola County Jail awaiting trial since January 2020.
The trial is set to begin April 4, following a series of delays that have pushed off the start of jury selection for months. It originally was scheduled to start in 2020.
Todt's lead defense attorney, Peter Schmer, died in December at the age of 61, according to court records. In a letter sent to The Day in January, Todt said his attorney had been in remission after battling cancer. Todt now is represented by attorneys from the Osceola County 9th Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s office.
The trial was delayed last year after defense attorneys filed a series of motions asking the court to prohibit several kinds of evidence, including certain crime scene photos, Todt's first two statements to investigators and information about his alleged health care fraud.
Carsten ruled to admit the crime scene photos, omit the health care fraud investigation and limit the use of certain parts of Todt's confessions to investigators.
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