Fotis Dulos is questioned during testimony in a civil case at Hartford Superior Court in December 2019. Picture: Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant via AP
Connecticut - The estranged husband of a Connecticut woman whose sudden disappearance last spring set off a statewide search and shocked the affluent community where she lived has been arrested and charged with murder.

Connecticut State Police announced Tuesday that Fotis Dulos was facing counts of murder and kidnapping in the disappearance of Jennifer Dulos, a mother of five who went missing after dropping her children off at school on a May morning last year.

Dulos's girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, and a local lawyer who represented him in civil cases, Kent Mawhinney, were also charged Tuesday with conspiracy to commit murder.

Local media aired footage of Dulos, 52, leaving his home in a caravan of police cars on Tuesday morning. Later in the afternoon, police could be seen escorting Dulos, handcuffed and wearing a gray T-shirt, into a squad car and transporting him to jail.

An attorney for Dulos, Norm Pattis, said the arrest warrants revealed a "shocking lack of confidence by the state." He also suggested that Dulos's wife may still be alive.

"We categorically deny that Mr. Dulos had any involvement in the disappearance of his wife, Jennifer. And we defy the state to prove that she is in fact dead," Pattis told reporters Tuesday evening. "If this is all the state's got, we wonder why it bothered."

Fotis Dulos, left, and his girlfriend Michelle Troconis. Picture: Connecticut State Police via AP

Bail was set at $6 million for Dulos and $2 million for Troconis. They were scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.

"We're prepared to defend this case," Andrew Bowman, an attorney for Troconis, told reporters.

Police were unable to locate Mawhinney earlier in the day but said in an afternoon news conference that he had been taken into custody and was on his way to prisoner processing.

An attorney who has represented Mawhinney in previous cases did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The arrests open a new front in the closely watched case, which drew national attention after Jennifer Dulos vanished from New Canaan, a town 45 miles north of Manhattan, New York, that ranks among the wealthiest in the country and seldom experiences violent crime.

The 50-year-old's disappearance on May 24 sent state and federal law enforcement scouring the region, aided by drones, helicopters and cadaver dogs in an operation that continued for months. Her car was discovered by police shortly afterward, though she was not inside. Her remains have not been found.

Connecticut State Police officers lead Fotis Dulos, centre, from the State Police barracks to a waiting car in Bridgeport after he was arrested at his home in Farmington. He faces charges he murdered his estranged wife Jennifer Dulos, who went missing in May 2019. Picture: Chris Ehrmann/AP
Carrie Luft, a friend of Jennifer Dulos's, thanked authorities for the arrests in a statement Tuesday and asked for people to respect the family's privacy.

"Although we are relieved that the wait for these charges is over, for us there is no sense of closure," she said. "Nothing can bring Jennifer back. We miss her every day and will forever mourn her loss."

In arrest warrants made public Tuesday, police said Dulos killed his wife in her garage sometime between 8:05 a.m. and 10:25 a.m. on May 24, then tried to clean up the scene with paper towels and other supplies from the house.

Cellphone data and a chain of surveillance footage collected by investigators showed that Dulos and Troconis acted together to cover up the alleged killing, driving to Hartford later that evening to dump black plastic bags filled with evidence in trash cans, according to the warrants. The evidence included a blood-stained sponge, plastic zip ties and "what appeared to be cut clothing and undergarments with a blood-like substance," police said.

Later, in interviews with investigators, Troconis gave conflicting accounts of what she and Dulos were doing the day Jennifer Dulos disappeared, according to the warrants.

Detectives also discovered handwritten documents they called "alibi scripts" in trash bin outside Dulos's business, in which Dulos and Troconis outlined their activities that day in hourly increments but omitted their trip to Hartford, police said.

Michelle Troconis stands during her arraignment at Connecticut Superior Court in Norwalk, on evidence-tampering charges in the May 2019 disappearance of her boyfriend Fotis Dulos' estranged wife, Jennifer Dulos. Picture: Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP

Mawhinney, a close friend of Dulos, was mentioned in the "alibi scripts." Phone records showed that Dulos called Mawhinney once on the evening before his wife disappeared and again around the time police said he was in Hartford, according to the warrants. Mawhinney initially denied having any contact with Dulos at the time, then said he did not remember, according to police.

Jennifer Dulos's marriage had disintegrated years before that May day, and the couple was slogging through a bitter divorce. By summer 2017, things had gotten so bad that she feared her husband would harm her or her children, she told a judge at the time.

"I am afraid for my safety," she said in a sworn affidavit from June 2017 obtained by Fox 61. Dulos alleged that her husband had "exhibited irrational, unsafe, bullying, threatening and controlling behavior."

She described an unstable relationship, with her five children caught in a fierce struggle and her husband harboring a slew of "sickening revenge fantasies" against others, including a reference to dropping a brick on a former client's home from an airplane.

Fotis Dulos had a Greek passport in the past, and Jennifer Dulos wrote that she was concerned that her children would be taken to Greece. In 2017, she moved into a rental home after Fotis Dulos said his girlfriend and her daughter would live together in the family home.

Fotis Dulos and Troconis were first arrested in June of last year on charges of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and hindering prosecution, after police found Jennifer Dulos's blood on discarded clothing in various locations, including in Hartford. Police said they had video of Fotis Dulos dumping garbage bags. Blood was also found in Jennifer Dulos's home. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges at the time and were released on bail.

The Washington Post