Au Bar, two A.M., dancers and drinkers on the floor, stragglers smoking cigarettes beyond the velvet rope on East 58th Street. It’s stopped raining. The avenues are shrouded in steam, as if sentient, as if breathing. Or Nell’s, at dusk, M.K. or Mars, the capitals of the 1980s and 1990s party scene, kids and models and trust-funders crowded beneath the lights strung through the linden trees in the garden behind the Cloisters on Ninth Street between Second and Third Avenues, a drink in each hand—1995 was margaritas; 1996 was stingers. Most of those places are gone now, having made way for condos, banks, and other smoke-free zones. Each generation tears down the city, then rebuilds it, ending up with the New York it deserves.
The 1990s were halcyon days in Manhattan. Everyone was 22 and had just gotten out of college. Then everyone was 26 and had started a career, which turned out not to be their real career anyway. By 27, you could see the shape of things ahead, and it was not always good. That’s when the first of your friends exited, which was like leaving a party at nine P.M. Why would anyone willingly leave New York City?
If you were born in the late 1960s or early 1970s, your childhood was spent under a nuclear cloud. Those were the last days of the Cold War, when Ronald Reagan cranked the dial to 11 just to see the machine smoke one more time. It was War Games at the movies and Elvis Costello on the stereo. Dorothy Stratten, Jennifer Beals, Michael Jackson carrying Emmanuel Lewis on his hip. It was the Clash envisioning post-apocalyptic London as rock ’n’ roll paradise. “The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in.” Friends debated: would you rather be at the epicenter when the bombs fell, thus turned immediately into vapor, or on the outskirts and left to wander the ruins?
Those were halcyon days in Manhattan. Everyone was 22 and had just gotten out of college. Then everyone was 26 and had started a career. By 27, you could see the shape of things ahead, and it was not always good.
Then, just like that, it was all over, as if it had never happened. We were told we could breathe easy because we were going to live forever and not in an irradiated wasteland, but in New York at its apex, the most powerful city the world had ever known.
On weekends, your friends traveled in packs, going club to club as if on Halloween. Every group had its haunts. Jennifer Farber, who, a lifetime later, would allegedly be killed in her three-car garage by her husband while her kids were at the New Canaan Country School, favored the trendy and high-end. In her sort of circle, it was dinner at Raoul’s or Le Bilboquet (once called the snobbiest restaurant in New York), dancing in the Meatpacking District, followed by brunch at the Brasserie below the Four Seasons in the Seagram Building, the pain of the nighttime washed away with Bloody Marys.
Jennifer traveled in an eclectic crowd made up of high-school friends from Saint Ann’s in Brooklyn and college friends from Brown, arty friends who worked at literary journals, playwrights, poets, musicians, the modestly famous, and rich kids, daughters and sons of banking tycoons. These friends (many of whom have gone on to great success—Kristina Stewart Ward was until recently the editor in chief of Avenue magazine, Eliza Scott Harris is the C.O.O. of Indagare, Dany Levy created the Web site Daily Candy, which she sold to a venture-capital firm that sold it to Comcast for $125 million in 2008) remember Jennifer in those years as a special presence, smart and beautiful—and shy, but only till you got to know her.
Every group had its haunts. Jennifer Farber’s circle favored the trendy and high-end: dinner at Raoul’s or Le Bilboquet, dancing in the Meatpacking District, followed by brunch at the Brasserie.
Jennifer, who had been shaped by a handful of books, movies, and plays—the short stories of John Cheever, Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan, and A. R. Gurney’s The Dining Room, which, Jennifer wrote in an essay, “hit me hard when I saw it in 1982”—considered herself a dramatist first and foremost. Her play The Red Doors was staged at the Workhouse Theatre on White Street in 1995 before she turned 28. By then she’d become a member of Playwrights Collective, a group of young writers looking to make their names on the stage.
This group—which included Colette Burson and her former husband, Dmitry Lipkin, who created Hung for HBO; Kate Robin, the show-runner of One Mississippi on Amazon Prime; and Eduardo Machado, the revered Cuban playwright (Machado was Farber’s drama teacher at New York University and considered himself her mentor)—was written up in The Village Voice. You can find a photo online: six young artists in various states of repose. Jennifer, in coat, hands clasped at her waist, thick glasses and bangs, will go unrecognized to current readers of the Stamford Advocate, who came to know her at the other end of her life.
A Weakness: Her Taste in Men
If Jennifer Farber had a weakness, it was her taste in men, the way she became infatuated with exactly the wrong sort: too old, or not interested in women, or emotionally unavailable. She apparently was attracted to the famous and powerful. In her mid-20s, according to several friends, she had flings with future #MeToo ne’er-do-wells Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer. Lauer was in his mid-30s in the early 90s, the rising star at NBC’s Today show. Rose was in his 50s, the host of one of the most important talk shows in the country, and in a committed relationship, according to a friend of Jennifer’s.
Lauer, contacted through his girlfriend, the publicist Shamin Abas, denied having been romantic with Jennifer, but did so in a tepid, gun-shy, post-scandal way. Rose, who responded by e-mail, was even more circumspect: “I would like to be helpful but I just don’t remember being involved with her.”
“Between the ages of 23 and 25, [Jennifer] dated Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, while each of them were otherwise occupied romantically,” a friend of Jennifer’s said recently. “She never felt used by [these men]—I don’t think she would be able to relate to the #MeToo movement. She seemed content to exchange her youth and beauty for their power and glamour.”
“I Want Home, Family, Fresh Cut Flowers”
These relationships tell us something about Jennifer. It was no secret. She had a fantasy. She’d written about it most pointedly in an essay included in the 1998 anthology Personals: Dreams and Nightmares from the Lives of 20 Young Writers, edited by Thomas Beller, the literary man-about-town (and later boyfriend of indie darling Parker Posey), who was himself romantically involved with Jennifer. “The New York Times wedding pages held a hypnotic sway over me ever since I discovered them at age eleven,” Farber wrote. “Entering the structured, ambitious black-and-white world at the back of the Sunday paper, I was window-shopping for a life.… No, I don’t need three children, but probably more than one. No, I don’t have to get married next week, but I am someone who does want marriage, and this has not changed. I want home, family, fresh cut flowers.”
When you take this passage as your lens, Jennifer Farber’s decisions make more sense.
“[Jennifer] dated Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, while each of them were otherwise occupied romantically,” said a friend. “She never felt used by [these men].... She seemed content to exchange her youth and beauty for their power and glamour.”
On January 7, 2020, Fotis Dulos, 52 years old, father of five, business owner, cheating husband, and waterskiing aficionado, was arrested for the murder of his wife, Jennifer Farber Dulos. For those who knew and loved Jennifer, murder is not a strong enough word. If he’d killed her, that was awful enough. That he’d allegedly done so with conspirators—Michelle Troconis, Fotis’s paramour; Kent Mawhinney, Fotis’s friend and attorney—made it worse. She’d been ganged up on by strangers; a crime of passion but one executed with cold calculation.
Troconis and Mawhinney, who allegedly gave Dulos an alibi and, in the case of Troconis, helped him hide evidence, were arrested the same day as Fotis. There are pictures of Troconis being led into the courthouse, hands cuffed behind her, a state trooper leading her by the arm. She is dressed like a model in a ski catalogue: low-cut jeans, red parka, red V-neck sweater, white T-shirt. She seems to be scowling.
She was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, pleaded not guilty, made bail—it had been set at $1.5 million—then returned to Avon, where she’s been living with her daughter ever since.
Divorce Buddy and Film Noir Character
When Fotis learned he was to be arrested along with his co-conspirators, he warned Kent Mawhinney, who lived in South Windsor, a town northeast of Hartford, according to the Hartford Courant. Mawhinney, who had a law office in Bloomfield, had done legal work for the Fore Group, Fotis’s home-building business, and over time had become a special kind of friend for Dulos—a divorce buddy who could listen, commiserate, and bitch about his own breakup, which, on paper, was even worse than the Dulos divorce. In January 2019, South Windsor police charged Mawhinney with spousal sexual assault, disorderly conduct, and second-degree unlawful assault.
Mawhinney is exactly the sort you expect to turn up in a film noir, sandy-haired, double-chinned, and balding, his intense asymmetrical face furrowed in every picture. His mouth is a line drawn by a cartoonist. As the warrant makes clear, Dulos and Mawhinney had allegedly been plotting. Their plans read like a Hitchcock screenplay: You help me with my problem, I help you with yours. Crisscross.
Jennifer vanished on May 24, 2019. Five days earlier, Fotis had met with Mawhinney’s estranged wife at Max’s Oyster Bar in West Hartford.
Dulos and Mawhinney’s plans read like a Hitchcock screenplay: You help me with my problem, I help you with yours. Crisscross.
We can imagine how Mawhinney’s wife felt that day. Suspicious, scared. Fotis surely tried to calm her. He could be very charming. Lean in close, touch the wrist, hold the glance. Fotis told her that Kent wanted to settle the divorce amicably. Maybe there could even be a reconciliation. He offered his house at 4 Jefferson Crossing as a safe place for the couple to meet. If things went really well, they could use one of the bedrooms to reconcile fully.
His wife said she was willing to meet Mawhinney, but only in the presence of lawyers. Fotis said he’d take this offer back to his friend. He followed up with more calls until she was freaked out enough to contact her lawyer. She later told the police she “felt she was being baited and was uncomfortable with the fact that Dulos kept inviting her back to his residence.... She believed Dulos was indebted to Mawhinney and that she believed Dulos was working on behalf of Mawhinney to get rid of her. She stated that she believed that Mawhinney wanted her dead.”
Meanwhile, on the same weekend that Fotis and Mawhinney’s wife were meeting at Max’s Oyster Bar, two men at the Windsor Rod & Gun Club, a 25-acre property in East Granby, Connecticut, came across an oddity in the trees: a freshly dug hole, six feet long, three feet deep, hidden beneath barbecue grates that had been covered with leaves.
One of the men, Jay Lawlor, later identified this hole to police as “one hundred percent a human grave.” There was a blue tarp in the hole and two open bags of lime, the sort sometimes used to mask a smell. Not only was Mawhinney a former member of the Windsor Rod & Gun Club, he was one of its founders. Had Fotis not spooked Mawhinney’s wife on the phone, might two estranged Connecticut wives have gone missing in the spring of 2019?
Members of the Windsor Rod & Gun Club came across an oddity in the trees: a freshly dug hole, six feet long, three feet deep, hidden beneath barbecue grates that had been covered with leaves.
The cops focused on Mawhinney soon after Jennifer disappeared. He was Fotis’s lawyer and friend, after all, with serious legal troubles of his own. And Mawhinney was all over the alibi scripts, the crumpled-up sheets of paper found in the trash at 4 Jefferson Crossing on which Troconis and Dulos had each written what they were to say to the cops. If Mawhinney could tell them he’d had a business meeting with Fotis at Jefferson Crossing the morning of the disappearance, it would put Fotis 70 miles from the crime scene. This story would work in tandem with Troconis’s: she’d tell the cops she’d woken up beside Fotis in Farmington at 6:40 A.M. on May 24, was intimate with him in the shower, then got her daughter ready for school. Mawhinney told police he arrived at the house around 7:40 A.M. and left about an hour later. How could Fotis have been lying in wait in New Canaan if he’d been meeting Mawhinney in Farmington?
The alibi fell apart when Troconis, confronted with inconsistencies in her story, began to flip. She told police, among other things, that she had not awakened beside Fotis that day, nor been intimate with him in the shower. Fotis had possibly not even spent the night at 4 Jefferson Crossing, but instead slept at a Fore Group spec house at 80 Mountain Spring Road, in Farmington. He’d set his alarm, as a search of his phone indicated, for 4:20 A.M. Who is about at that hour other than fishermen, disc jockeys, long-haul truckers, and night nurses?
When presented with these discrepancies, Mawhinney tried an ancient tactic: he apparently feigned injury. In his second interview with police, he said he’d suffered a concussion on May 25, the day after Jennifer went missing, so he could not really remember anything.
A Run for It
Dulos and Troconis went willingly with the police—“I know what I’ve done and I know what I haven’t done,” Fotis said in a TV interview after his arrest—but Mawhinney, playing to type, seems to have made a run for it. The police caught him on I-84 near the Massachusetts border, Canada shimmering like Elysium in the distance. He was arrested at Exit 68 and brought to heel by a gun-waving cop, according to The Hour. He’s been a resident of the Connecticut penal system ever since.
Fotis was charged with murder. That means, according to a law dictionary, “unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, meaning that it was committed after planning or ‘lying in wait’ for the victim.” Fotis, though he would plead not guilty, seemingly did both. Switching cars, the French racing bike, leaving his cell phone behind, the altered license plate—there was a tremendous amount of planning that went into his attack. And lying in wait? It’s as if the term were coined to describe the ambush Fotis prepared for his wife. Which is one reason why Fotis’s bail was set at an astronomical $6 million.
As a rule, the richer the accused, the higher the bail. Bernie Madoff’s bail was $10 million. Robert Durst’s was $3 billion, one of the highest ever. Seeing as Fotis was nearly insolvent by January 2019, that $6 million was likely meant to keep him behind bars. He was able to come up with the money by tapping friends and creditors. When the creditors questioned Fotis’s collateral, the defense team turned to Ira Judelson, a go-to guy for athletes and rappers in trouble. Judelson helped spring Plaxico Burress and Lawrence Taylor, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ja Rule, and DMX. Of these, only DMX skipped. “I believe I have the vision to read people,” Judelson told The New York Times.
Fotis’s “Best Friend”
Fotis secured help from a surety company to cover most of his bail, using 4 Jefferson Crossing and other properties as collateral. The balance was paid by Anna Curry, a 42-year-old businesswoman whom Fotis characterized on documents as his “best friend.” They’d met years before in New York when both worked at the technology company Capgemini, where Curry, who graduated from Duke University in 1999—she was a Kappa Alpha Theta, and, from all reports, a tremendous social success—was a senior consultant. You can find Curry in the party pics in back issues of Hamptons magazine, posed beside this or that socialite. Blue-eyed and pretty, long auburn hair parted in the middle, Curry, according to the New York Post, “bears a striking resemblance to both Jennifer and Troconis.”
Curry, who moved back to North Carolina in 2013—she works at LPL Financial—signed a $3 million promissory note to help cover Fotis’s bail, adding $147,000 in cash, according to the Hartford Courant, money she likely knew she’d never get back. She stayed at 4 Jefferson Crossing in the last winter weeks of Fotis’s life. Sources told the New York Post that Curry and Fotis were more than friends, Fotis apparently being one of those charismatics who attract lovers no matter their circumstances—young or old, flush or busted, on skis or accused of murder.
Fotis was being watched while he was out on bail. People in Farmington and New Canaan hated the fact that, despite an ankle monitor and other restrictive terms of release, he was basically living like a free man. Seemingly everything he did in the months that followed Jennifer’s disappearance was filmed and put on the Internet, where it met with a collective admonition. Seen jogging on a country road—you know who can’t go jogging? Seen goofing around on what looks like a hoverboard—you know who can’t go hoverboarding? Seen walking, smiling, eating sushi in New Canaan—you know who doesn’t, can’t, and never will again?
People hated the fact that Fotis was basically living like a free man. Seemingly everything he did in the months that followed Jennifer’s disappearance was filmed and put on the Internet.
Here and there, people gathered to memorialize Jennifer. Rocks, flowers, notes. In Farmington, a makeshift shrine was set up close to Fotis’s house. One day, shortly after his murder arrest, Fotis was seen removing items from this memorial. Destroying it. Prosecutor Richard Colangelo believed that, in doing this, Fotis had violated his terms of release. Fotis was called before a judge. He stood beside his attorney, Norm Pattis, who, while acknowledging that Fotis should not have touched the shrine, justified his client’s actions, saying, “This isn’t a memorial.... It’s a means of taunting Mr. Dulos.” The judge admonished Fotis (“Don’t ever come back here again on this issue. What [you] did was stupid”), further restricted his terms of release, and sent him home.
For thousands who followed and wrote about the case on the Internet or on one of the several Facebook groups that had appeared, the big question was also the most basic: Where is Jennifer Dulos?
Jennifer had her phone on her when she died. At 10:25 A.M. the cellular data seemed to put her near Waveny Park, where she was allegedly moved from her Chevy Suburban to the Tacoma pickup truck Fotis was driving that day. According to the Daily Mail, her phone went off-line 40 minutes later—that’s the key moment; that’s when whatever happened must have happened.
By the end of 2019, every variety of detective and law-enforcement officer had searched throughout Fairfield and Hartford Counties: ponds, forest glens, landfills, and dumps. Every inch of Waveny Park. Houses Fotis owned or the Fore Group was building. They had searched with drones, helicopters, dogs. From all indications, Fotis Dulos was clever but not especially smart. It’s hard to hide anything in this country, let alone a body whose whereabouts have become a popular obsession.
So, what the hell happened?
There are many theories. In some, Jennifer was dropped into the ocean and carried away on the tide. In others, Fotis handed her body to Mawhinney, who buried Jennifer in the northern reaches of the state. In still others, she was covered in cement and sunk in the foundation of one of the Fore Group’s spec houses.
For prosecutors, the trick was charging murder without a body, a case that was made with forensic evidence and common sense. Fotis long expressed a desire to be rid of Jennifer. He had allegedly been violent in the past. He left his DNA at the scene of her disappearance and, police say, spilled her blood in the garage—an amount of blood that suggested a violent death. He was captured on surveillance video throwing out Jennifer’s bloody clothes near his house that night.
What was Fotis thinking as the police closed in? If guilty, this man not only killed his wife but destroyed his kids. Your father murdered your mother? How do you live with that? The Dulos children will be haunted. And not just the children. According to the Bible, a certain kind of sin can curse a family to the fourth generation. How did Fotis get through all the days that followed Jennifer’s disappearance? How did he jog, hoverboard, eat sushi? Did he feel justified for what he had done? Did he tell himself that she had pushed him to it? Had he gone insane with rage? Or was he a sociopath who did not accept the reality of other people?
Fotis Dulos killed himself on January 28, 2020, though it took him 48 hours to die. His Farmington house had lost value. He may have believed he was going to lose his bail bonds and get sent to jail as a result. He was supposed to report to the judge in Stamford. He must have believed that, once he entered the courthouse, he’d never be free again.
When he did not show up, the police sent a unit to his house for a well-being check. The house was empty. Anna Curry had gone shopping, according to the Hartford Courant. They checked the garage. It was shut, but a car was running. They forced their way in, and there was Fotis Dulos, sitting in his own Chevy Suburban, drowning in a cloud of carbon monoxide.
They carried him out to the lawn and performed CPR. Nothing. He was thought dead. This news leaked and was reported in the media. Then someone detected a heartbeat. He was rushed to the University of Connecticut’s John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, then airlifted to the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, which has one of the only emergency hyperbaric chambers on the East Coast. These machines, in which the patient breathes pure oxygen, are the best way to treat carbon-monoxide poisoning.
His sister flew from Greece to sit by his side, to watch as they tried to pull him back. In the end, he was sustained by machines. They kept him alive just long enough for his children to come say good-bye. Imagine Gloria Farber, Jennifer’s mother, riding with those five children, all under 15, through Manhattan to the Bronx. Imagine the children at the bedside of their dying father, who allegedly killed their mother, and left them with this gruesome legacy.
Fotis was removed from life support on January 30. Norm Pattis released a statement soon after: “Mr. Dulos was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. Now he has been executed.”
Imagine the children at the bedside of their dying father, who allegedly killed their mother, and left them with this gruesome legacy.
Fotis left a suicide note, which was released to the public. “If you are reading this,” it began, “I am no more.” He killed himself, he said, because he “refused to spend even an hour more in jail for something I had NOTHING to do with. Enough is enough. If it takes my head to end this, so be it.… Please let my children know that I love them, I would do anything to be with them, but unfortunately we all have our limits.”
In this way, Fotis doomed yet another lover. Michelle Troconis, who by the time of the suicide said she had come to hate Fotis, according to the New York Daily News, had just one card to play: testify against him in exchange for a lighter sentence. But with Fotis gone, the full weight of the prosecution now falls on Troconis and Mawhinney, both of whom have pleaded not guilty and who go on trial this spring.
On March 3, a Connecticut judge dropped the charges against Dulos. Norm Pattis stated his intent to prove his client’s innocence posthumously. “If the case did go to trial, Judge, we would have proceeded under the theory—and we have reason to believe that this theory is, in fact, true—that Ms. Dulos came to a violent end at the hands of a third party unrelated to Mr. Dulos.... As to his disposal of certain items in the Hartford-area on the night of her disappearance,” Pattis said, “[Fotis] had left his home at one point that evening and saw a third party known to the participants in the trial standing near a pile of debris in his yard and he panicked and disposed of that debris.” In other words, someone else killed Jennifer, then drove 70 miles to dump her bloody clothes on Fotis’s front lawn.
The Carnival Mirror
This is the story of a particular generation. Most of the key players, Jennifer Farber and Fotis Dulos, Richard Colangelo and Kent Mawhinney, were born around the same year and lived through the same stretch of history. They grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, when it seemed the only direction was up. They occupied a demographic dip squeezed between larger generations and accordingly learned to accommodate themselves to the values established by those who came before and those who came after. They were the last generation to truly believe in the greatness of America. They believed that every year would be better than the year before, and that if they worked hard they would get what they wanted—not because they were lucky but because it’s what they deserved—only to discover that no one gets what they deserve, that people are sometimes rewarded for work they did not do and punished for crimes they did not commit.
Maybe that progression from dream to reality, or from good dream to nightmare, is the story of every generation, and maybe it’s why the fate of Jennifer and Fotis and their kids resonates so deeply. Or maybe it’s because their lives are so much like our lives—or our lives in a carnival mirror, if everything had gone horribly wrong.
What could Jennifer have thought when she saw Fotis waiting for her in the garage? Were her last thoughts about her children, her mother, or nothing at all?
A few years ago, Jennifer sent a text to an old friend after a mutual friend had died. In it, she might as well be talking about herself: “He may need a couple of months to find his own peace in Heaven, and after that he will tend to those he loved so dearly on earth.”
Rich Cohen is an Editor at Large for AIR MAIL