A forensic examiner from the state laboratory took the stand in the trial for Michelle Troconis on Thursday and walked the jury through the testing of dozens of DNA samples collected from Jennifer Farber Dulos’ home and cars after she disappeared.
During hours of questioning by prosecutor Sean McGuiness, forensic examiner Kristen Madel, who works in the DNA unit at the state forensic lab in Meriden, walked the jury through test results from DNA samples taken from doorknobs and door handles, a kitchen counter and faucet, pieces of paper towels, a roll of paper towels, two SUVs, a trash can and multiple parts of Farber Dulos’ New Canaan garage.
None of those DNA samples, Madel testified, were a match for Troconis, who was living with Dulos in Farmington when Farber Dulos disappeared.
Many of the DNA samples, including blood-like stains found in Farber Dulos’ garage, her vehicles and parts of her kitchen, had a high likelihood of matching a DNA sample taken from Farber Dulos’s electric toothbrush.
Madel testified that the lab does not test for an exact match but said many of the samples were one billion times more likely to match that sample from Farber Dulos’ toothbrush than any other DNA sample.
Some of the DNA collected from the scene — where investigators allege Farber Dulos was killed by her estranged husband Fotis Dulos — was also a likely match to Dulos.
Madel said swabs from at least two spots, a kitchen sink spout and a doorknob, were very likely a match to Dulos’ DNA sample. She testified that it was at least 4.3 billion times more likely that the DNA on the kitchen spout came from Dulos than anyone else.
Speaking outside Stamford Superior Court, Troconis’ defense attorney Jon Schoenhorn said the DNA evidence points to something happening to Farber Dulos.
“In my mind, it clearly does show that something happened to Jennifer Dulos in that garage. I’m not disputing that, I’ve never disputed that,” he said. “But what that is and how it happened and what not is yet to be seen.”
Schoenhorn said it was important to note that whatever happened there, his client’s DNA was not found at the scene or in Farber Dulos’ Chevrolet Suburban that was found parked near Waveny Park.
“There was no place in New Canaan or in that Suburban that has Michelle Troconis’ DNA,” he said.
Troconis is standing trial for conspiring with Dulos, her former lover, to murder his estranged wife,who disappeared nearly five years ago. She is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, tampering with evidence and hindering production and has pleaded not guilty.
Thursday marked the fifth day of Troconis’s trial. So far, the jury has heard lengthy testimony from the Dulos children’s nanny, Lauren Almeida, and multiple investigators who worked the case.
On Wednesday, Almeida gave the jury a play-by-play of the day Farber Dulos disappeared on May 24, 2019, after dropping her children off at school.
Two days before she disappeared, Almeida said Dulos came to Farber Dulos’ home at 69 Welles Lane in New Canaan to eat dinner with their children outside. The couple shared five children and were in the midst of a heated divorce and custody battle. Dulos had regularly scheduled supervised visits with the kids, records show.
According to Almeida, Dulos was coming to the house — a rare occasion — to eat a meal on the patio with the kids. Before he came, the nanny testified that she and Farber Dulos went around the house and locked every door because Farber Dulos didn’t want him to come inside, Almeida said.
Almeida also testified that she was not at the house during Dulos’ visit, because she had told Farber Dulos she did not want to see the children’s father after he yelled at her several times.
Over several hours on the stand between Tuesday and Wednesday, Almeida also walked the jury through the couple’s separation and impending divorce. She described her observations of the Dulos’ marriage, which she said took a turn when Farber Dulos allegedly obtained “proof” that Dulos was having an affair.
Dulos died in 2020 after attempting suicide in his Farmington home while charged in connection with Farber Dulos’ death. Her body has never been found but she was declared legally dead in October by a probate judge.
Madel was the only witness the state called to the stand on Thursday.
Answering McGuiness’s questions, she went through DNA samples one by one, as McGuiness showed the jury photos of where they were collected. Most of the DNA samples were compared to “known” DNA samples — DNA from Farber Dulos’ toothbrush and samples from other people besides Farber Dulos whose DNA might be found in those areas.
Madel said the samples were compared to DNA samples from Dulos, Troconis, the Dulos’ five children, Almeida and one of Dulos’ employees, Pawel Guimenny.
Madel explained that forensic testing does not find an exact match to DNA but compares DNA samples to different hypotheses. For example, DNA from one of the door knobs was 330,000 times more likely to originate from Dulos and two unknown people than from three unknown people, she said.
The DNA samples Madel testified about Thursday showed that, in addition to likely matches to Dulos’ DNA on a doorknob and sink spout, Dulos’ DNA could not be ruled out as a match to DNA found on a door handle leading to the mudroom or a part of the steering wheel in Farber Dulos’ SUV.
The test comparing Dulos’ DNA to those samples came back as inconclusive, Madel said, meaning his DNA could neither be connected nor ruled out. Troconis’s DNA, however, was not a match, she said.
Madel also testified that three people’s DNA was found on the doorknob that Dulos’ DNA was connected to, including Farber Dulos’ DNA. The other DNA sample was not matched to any of the known samples, including Troconis.
Farber Dulos’ DNA was a likely match for most of the samples discussed on Thursday.
Madel said “there were a bunch of examples” where DNA samples were 100 billion times more likely to have come from a match to the DNA on Farber Dulos’ toothbrush than someone else, including blood-like stains on the garage floor.
McGuiness said that many of the DNA swabs were described as being “KM positive” and asked Madel to explain what they meant. She testified that “KM” referred to Kastle-Meyer, a presumptive screening that identifies the presence of blood.
Schoenhorn later questioned the reliability of the Kastle-Meyer test. Throughout the trial so far, Schoenhorn has questioned the science behind blood testing that may generate false positives from things other than blood, like rust and radishes.
Fragments of paper towels with blood-like stains on them found in the garage also matched the toothbrush sample. Another DNA profile was found on the fragments, but Dulos and Troconis’ DNA were eliminated as matches, Madel said.
In a test of DNA from another part of the Suburban’s steering wheel, neither Dulos nor Troconis’s DNA matched.
McGuiness asked if certain clothing items could prevent DNA from being left behind. Madel answered that yes, clothing items like gloves could interfere with DNA being left.
Court adjourned early Thursday at 3 p.m. during Schoenhorn’s cross-examination of Madel. As part of his questioning, Schoenhorn asked Madel if some of the samples of DNA the lab tested were as small as a period in a daily newspaper. Madel said they were even smaller, to the point that they weren’t visible without a microscope.
Outside the courthouse on Thursday, Schoenhorn was asked whether part of his defense would be poking holes in the state’s argument that Dulos killed Farber Dulos.
Schoenhorn said that the state has the burden of proving that Dulos committed murder in order to prove the charges against Troconis.
“If they’re unable to prove that, then those charges go away,” he said.
The trial is expected to resume at 10:15 a.m. in Stamford Superior Court on Friday, weather permitting. Schoenhorn is scheduled to continue his cross-examination of Madel.