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    Tuesday, July 16, 2024

    Michelle Troconis’ family: It’s not too late to share ‘her side of the story’

    Michelle Troconis stands in Connecticut Superior Court at the start of her sentencing hearing in Stamford, Conn., Friday, May 31, 2024. Troconis, convicted of helping her boyfriend plot and cover up the murder of his estranged wife, Jennifer Dulos, was sentenced to 14 years in prison. (Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP, Pool)

    In the wake of her conviction and sentencing, Michelle Troconis’ family is speaking out about what they say is “a wrongful conviction” and are eager to share what they call “her side of the story.”

    Speaking from their homes in Miami, Troconis’ youngest sister, Claudia Troconis-Marmol, and mother, Marisela Arreaza, talked with the Hartford Courant. They said that the world may never know the full story of what happened to Jennifer Farber Dulos, because Fotis Dulos — who they believe held the answers — is dead.

    While detectives, prosecutors and Farber Dulos’ family believe Troconis knows more than she has revealed so far, including information on the location of Farber Dulos’ still unfound remains, the Troconis’ family is steadfast in their belief that she does not know anything about her ex-partner’s crimes.

    Troconis-Marmol called Dulos a “monster” whose true colors were only just revealed to them at trial.

    “He’s a coward. I despise him,” she said.

    The Troconis family, they said, once loved Dulos and welcomed him into their close-knit family. But as they have learned more and more about what he was accused of doing to his wife, they have been appalled.

    “We were completely shocked with Fotis, who the trial presented. Because that in no way was the Fotis that we had met,” said Troconis-Marmol.

    “He fooled us all,” her mother said.

    Standing trial

    Troconis, 49, was sentenced on May 31 to 14 1/2 years in prison after being found guilty in March of conspiracy to commit murder, tampering with evidence, conspiring to tamper with evidence and hindering the prosecution in connection with the disappearance and death of Farber Dulos, a writer and mother of five from New Canaan who vanished on May 24, 2019.

    Troconis is currently being held at the York Correctional Institute in Niantic in lieu of a $6 million bond.

    Prosecutors alleged that Troconis conspired with Dulos to kill his estranged wife and cover up the crimes.

    At the time of Farber Dulos’ disappearance, Troconis was dating and living with Dulos, who was in the midst of a contentious divorce and custody battle with his estranged wife.

    Dulos was charged with murder in his wife’s death but died by suicide in January 2020 before his case went to trial.

    Troconis was the first person to go to trial in the high-profile case. Her family and defense team have repeatedly said, during and after the trial, that Troconis stood trial for Dulos’ crimes.

    “It’s been hard to process that she was convicted on all counts and now that she’s been sentenced to the maximum concurrent sentence,” said Troconis-Marmol. “It’s wrongfully convicted and wrongfully sentenced. And she’s paying the price for Fotis Dulos for his crimes and his actions.”

    “It’s just devastating that an innocent woman is facing so many years for something that she has nothing to do with whatsoever,” she added.

    At trial, prosecutors laid out several weeks of evidence, showing the jurors surveillance footage of Troconis riding in the passenger seat of Dulos’ truck while Dulos disposed of evidence along Albany Avenue in Hartford. They showed digital evidence that Troconis used Dulos’ phone at their home at 4 Jefferson Crossing while Dulos was allegedly in New Canaan killing his wife, and they presented hours of interviews Troconis did with investigators in which her accounts of the day of the crimes changed.

    Troconis-Marmol called the trial and sentencing “a living nightmare for us.”

    “I just wish that we could wake up from it and that it weren’t true.”

    Until now, Troconis-Marmol said, her family was “limited” to what they could share about her sister and were scared things would be “twisted or taken out of context or proportion.”

    “Unfortunately my sister’s side of the story hasn’t really been put out there,” she said.

    But now she said they are at a point where they feel the justice system has failed them and they do not think it’s too late to start speaking out more about Troconis, her experience with Dulos and her life before she ever met him.

    “We don’t have any expectations at this point. All of our faith in the justice system failed us. The fact that she’s been convicted is already a failure,” Troconis-Marmol said. “I mean an hour more, a second more in jail for something she has nothing to do with was unfair. We don’t expect anything, the reality is we want her, she deserves to be with us, she deserves to be free from all of this.”

    Troconis’ early years

    Before Troconis met Dulos, her mother and sister said, she had a full and beautiful life surrounded by family and was dedicated to her teenage daughter who is an Olympic hopeful as an elite downhill skier.

    Troconis was born in Memphis, Tenn., a twin to a brother who died within weeks of being born, her sister said. Troconis lived in Memphis with her family for about six years before moving to Venezuela, where her family is from, and where her younger sisters were born.

    “We were brought up in Venezuela having Spanish being our main language,” Troconis-Marmol said.

    Troconis, her family said, was inspired to pursue a career in special education by her paternal aunt who was born with mental disabilities.

    “They had a great bond and my sister was always looking into helping others. My sister is the person who brightens every room, she loves getting people together,” said Troconis-Marmol, who described Troconis as a woman who always makes negative situations positive.

    With an idea to combine her special education training with a love of horseback riding, the family said Troconis came to the United States in the early 2000s to pursue training and certifications in equine therapy.

    “And with that certification, she was a pioneer, she opened the first therapeutic riding center here in Venezuela and we loved it,” said Troconis-Marmol. “We have great clients, and she continues to have those relationships until today.”

    Troconis went on to move to the United Arab Emirates and then to Argentina, where she operated other therapeutic riding centers, her family said. She used a lifelong passion for athletics to become a reporter for ESPN in Latin America.

    “Everywhere she went she’s always made an impact in other people’s lives,” her sister said.

    Troconis then met her daughter’s father and gave birth to their daughter. They later separated but have always had a relationship focused on supporting their daughter, who began skiing at a very young age, according to her family.

    “I think she learned to ski before she learned to walk,” said Troconis-Marmol. “She had like little tiny skis.”

    And, even at a young age, she would announce to her family: “I’m gonna be an Olympian.”

    As her daughter grew older and moved between the United States and South America to ski in different climates, the family said Troconis wanted to be closer to extended family like they had been while growing up in Venezuela. So she decided to move to Miami, where her parents and sisters were living.

    It was there that she met Dulos.

    A new relationship

    Arreaza remembers the day she met Dulos.

    “She introduced him to us because we, as a family, wanted to get to know him. And we loved him,” she said.

    When he told them he had five children, Troconis’ family said they immediately asked, in shock, what was going on in his life and family.

    “And he said ‘No, we have an amicable divorce,'” Arreaza claimed. “That was very important. That was the keyword for us. ‘We have an amicable divorce. Jennifer knows that I’m in love with Michelle.’”

    Dulos’ family, they said, seemingly corroborated his story.

    “And then he was, ya know, a good guy. Athletic, intelligent, so we didn’t have any objection,” said Arreaza. “So yes, we liked Fotis. And then the few times that I saw him he appeared to be a good guy. We never had doubts. Everything that came up in trial was crazy.”

    “I loved him,” said Troconis-Marmol. “I was happy that my sister had found someone and she was … she decided to make a huge move by moving herself and her daughter into his life.”

    Dulos also allegedly told the family that the mansion in Farmington belonged to him and that Farber Dulos had abandoned the home.

    At trial, testimony showed that Farber Dulos was still living in their marital home when Dulos met Troconis. It was only after she learned about an affair with Troconis that Farber Dulos began slowly moving out in secret, according to court testimony.

    The Troconis family said they were surprised to learn that.

    “We would never go if we knew that that house belonged totally to Jennifer. We weren’t like that,” said Arreaza. “That’s very important because we’re not that kind of family where we’re going to go and you know … so we were under another impression.”

    During their divorce and custody battle, multiple motions were filed in court back and forth between Dulos and Farber Dulos. A judge had ruled that Troconis could not be present for Dulos’ visits with the children, and then that Dulos could only see his children with a court supervisor.

    The Troconis family said they only learned during court proceedings, and in their own investigation leading to the trial, how contentious the divorce actually was.

    “It’s been like a domino effect. Everything started falling into place all of the truth and all of the facts that we thought Fotis had truthfully told us,” said Troconis Marmol. “He deceived us all. He fooled us completely.”

    In March 2019, just two months before Farber Dulos disappeared, Arreaza said Troconis told her she was thinking about moving back to Colorado for her daughter’s training. Arreaza said she encouraged her daughter to stay with Dulos in Farmington.

    She said she recalls Troconis saying she no longer felt comfortable in Connecticut and wanted to move.

    “And my answer was: ‘Stay there until the end of the year, Fotis is a very good guy. Maybe he’s anxious because he’s, I don’t know, he’s going through something. But you have to be supportive.’ That was my answer and my advice, unfortunately,” said Arreaza.

    In May 2019, Arreaza flew into Connecticut, arriving just days after Farber Dulos went missing. She remembers Dulos and Troconis picking her up from the airport, where she hugged Dulos and told him she was praying for Farber Dulos to return soon.

    “Because I was sure that’s what happened. I never, never saw him as a suspect,”  Arreaza said, who said she “never imagined” a crime had occurred.

    At that point, she said, they still loved and believed in Dulos.

    “We didn’t have any clue,” said Arreaza. “I never ever thought that Fotis could have done that. Because the Fotis that we met is not the Fotis that they portrayed and they have been showing. They are two different people. And the one that we met we loved. And this one is a monster.”

    “It’s two realities that don’t make sense,” Troconis-Marmol added. “Everyone was fooled by him.”

    Troconis-Marmol said that to this day, it doesn’t make sense to them.

    “We still pinch ourselves and we’re like, this has to be true, but we’re still like … it’s still shocking to us that the Fotis that we knew was capable of doing what he was accused of,” Troconis-Marmol said.

    “We never saw it coming, never,” she said.

    The mask removed

    When Dulos died by suicide in 2020, the family said they still mourned for him. But as they’ve learned more throughout the investigation, they’ve come to feel differently about his life and death.

    Troconis-Marmol said she thinks Dulos is a coward.

    “He was capable of doing that so-called crime but he wasn’t capable of having his own responsibility in his actions and being in jail for the rest of his life. And he couldn’t do it. And he took the easy way out of committing suicide,” she said.

    “And I say (he’s a) coward because he left five children not only without the mother but then he committed suicide. …”

    And she feels he left her sister to take the fall.

    “He’s the one responsible. He’s the one who committed the act. He’s the one that should have all of this blame.”

    Troconis-Marmol said they still have a lot of questions, questions they wish Dulos was here to answer for the sake of the Dulos children, for her sister’s sake, and for her parents and family.

    “Our world has been twisted completely. We’re devastated but we’re not going to stop this fight. We’re going to fight until Michelle is freed from all of this nonsense and the world will know that they blamed the wrong person,” she said.

    “The truth has to come out,” Arreaza added.

    Troconis-Marmol said she knows someone needs to be held accountable for Farber Dulos’ death.

    “But that person was Fotis. Not my sister. Not Michelle Troconis,” she said.

    Troconis’ youngest sister said she wanted to speak out now to help balance the narrative about Troconis now that she has been sentenced.

    “The lies are like up here,” she said raising her hand, “And the truth is down here. And we want to balance it.”

    She said their family will continue to fight to clear her name as they await the appeals process.

    “My sister is innocent and she is in jail for something that she has nothing to do with … but we’re going to stay strong. We’re a very faithful family and we’re going to continue professing her truth so that the world gets to know the true Michelle Troconis,” Troconis-Marmol said.

    “Michelle is not alone she will never be alone and we’re going to continue every step of the way to prove it to the world, and to the justice system of course,” she added.

    Arreaza said that even though they feel their family is shattered while Troconis serves her sentence — and her attorneys prepare to appeal — they will stay by her side.

    “Despite everything being terrible for her and for us, she knows that she has our love. As we proved during the sentencing — everybody expressed love and talk beautiful words about Michelle because that’s who she [is]. So she has that with her and I know that makes her feel strong knowing that we all support her, we all know she’s innocent.”

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