In the months before mother of five Jennifer Dulos disappeared, tensions between her and her estranged husband were high—often spilling into the court room where they were engaged in a bitter custody battle for the couple’s children.
“Your Honor, I am sorry, but why do I always get the raw end of the stick?” Fotis Dulos, 51, said during a four-hour family court hearing in March, according to The Hartford Courant. “I really want to see my children. I have spent 2 percent of the time with them since January. I’m not Charles Manson.”
Investigators are now taking a closer look at the heated interactions between the couple during their two-year divorce battle after Jennifer disappeared May 24 after dropping off the couple’s five children at school. Police believe she was the victim of “a violent act” in her garage.
Dulos and his girlfriend Michelle Troconis, 44, have been charged with evidence tampering and hindering prosecution in the disappearance. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Court transcripts appear to show Dulos growing frustration over the lack of time he was able to spend with his children and the growing financial burdens of the legal battle in the months before Jennifer disappeared, according to the local paper.
The court-appointed guardian for the children has already been paid $175,000 in the case, while a child psychiatrist who authored a custody report in the case was paid another $40,000.
Those costs are in addition to the cost of a family therapist, three psychologists and court-approved monitors who are required to supervise Dulos' visits with the children.
The couple was initially under a shared custodial agreement—where each would have the children on alternate weekends—shortly after Jennifer filed for divorce in June 2017.
Both parents were also ordered not to expose the children to any romantic partners.
But Dulos' visitation rights were suspended in March 2018 by Judge Donna Heller after it came out in court that Dulos had ignored that order and had not only allowed his children to spend time with his girlfriend but also asked his oldest sons to lie to a court-appointed psychologist about the visits, the local paper reports.
Heller ordered Jennifer to have sole physical custody of the children. However, as the couple continued to battle it out in court—Dulos was allowed to resume some supervised visits with the children.
In the spring of this year, Heller set up a visitation schedule that would allow Dulos to see his children every other weekend for seven hours at a time in supervised visits. However, he was still under orders not to allow contact between the children and Troconis.
Less than two months later, Jennifer vanished.
Dulos remains the prime suspect in his estranged wife’s disappearance, although his attorney continues to maintain his innocence.
“Spouses are always suspect in the missing person cases of this sort and we get it,” Norm Pattis told New Haven radio station 99.1 PLR. “We’re anxious to address this case in open court and by the rules of evidence and procedure because at that point we win.”
Suspicion fell on Dulos and his girlfriend after a video footage showed a man and woman matching the couple’s description dumping trash bags in multiple trash bins across Hartford. Authorities say some of the items recovered from the bags tested positive for Jennifer's blood, CBS News reports.
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