Du­los case in­spires so­cial me­dia groups, sto­ries

The News-Times - - OBITUARIES - By Ta­tiana Flow­ers

In the wake of Jen­nifer Du­los’ dis­ap­pear­ance, and an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of her es­tranged hus­band, thou­sands have taken to so­cial me­dia to discuss their per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Some have shared sup­port for other vic­tims like Jen­nifer Du­los, the New Canaan mother of five who was re­ported miss­ing more than two weeks ago. Others have joined the Face­book group to search for more in­for­ma­tion on the high-pro­file case.

The Face­book group has ac­quired nearly 7,000 mem­bers since Jen­nifer Du­los van­ished on May 24. It has at­tracted con­cerned res­i­dents from Connecticu­t — and from across the coun­try.

Jac­que­lyn Alsentzer, 35, of South Florida, joined the so­cial me­dia group about a week ago, af­ter she saw a story about Du­los on ca­ble news.

“I just couldn’t be­lieve it,” Alsentzer said. “Now I’m ad­dicted to it. I can’t get off.”

A survivor of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, Alsentzer com­pared in­stances in Jen­nifer Du­los’ mar­riage to her own trou­bled mar­riage, which ended in 2007. Af­ter en­dur­ing a phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally abu­sive re­la­tion­ship, Alsentzer said any woman who no­tices warn­ing signs or red flags in their re­la­tion­ship should get out.

The Face­book group, called “Jen­nifer Du­los, Fo­tis Du­los, Michelle Tro­co­nis, Connecticu­t Case Dis­cus­sion,” fol­lows the de­tails of the case of Jen­nifer Du­los’ dis­ap­pear­ance, and in­cludes links to dozens of news sto­ries.

It is filled with art­work de­pict­ing Jen­nifer Du­los and questions from group mem­bers, about her es­tranged hus­band, Fo­tis Du­los, and his girl­friend, Michelle Tro­co­nis, who have been charged with tam­per­ing with or fab­ri­cat­ing phys­i­cal evidence and first-de­gree hin­der­ing the pros­e­cu­tion.

Fo­tis Du­los and Tro­co­nis were spot­ted on video footage dump­ing garbage bags in more than 30 trash re­cep­ta­cles along Albany Av­enue in Hart­ford, ac­cord­ing to an arrest war­rant. Po­lice found bloody cloth­ing and other blood­stained items in the bags. The blood was a match to Jen­nifer Du­los.

As po­lice con­tinue the search for Du­los, mem­bers of the Face­book group are of­fer­ing prayers for her and her five chil­dren and her mother, Glo­ria Far­ber, who hired an armed guard to pro­tect her grand­chil­dren in her New York City apart­ment.

“Devel­op­ments like this on so­cial me­dia are not un­usual for high-pro­file cases, such as this one,” said former Time mag­a­zine re­porter Rich Han­ley, who is now an as­so­ciate jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sor at Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity.

“There’s a lot of opin­ion­ated folks on so­cial me­dia, a lot of folks who wish to help on so­cial me­dia, and so you have th­ese con­ver­sions in the for­ma­tion of th­ese pages, of sup­port pages, of dis­cus­sion, to help peo­ple un­der­stand what’s go­ing on within their own com­mu­ni­ties,” Han­ley said.

Not all of the mem­bers have ties to New Canaan, but about 50 per­cent live in Connecticu­t, said Jonathan Riches, of Florida, an ad­min­is­tra­tor and cre­ator of the Face­book group.

Since 2015, he and five other in­di­vid­u­als, none of whom are from Connecticu­t, have set up so­cial me­dia pages that doc­u­ment na­tion­ally cov­ered tragedies, with group lead­ers and mem­bers up­load­ing more in­for­ma­tion as the the cases un­fold.

“We have over 50 of th­ese tragedy (so­cial me­dia) groups, any­thing from the Park­land school shoot­ing, to the Ghost Ship fire in Oak­land, to Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires, to the Pulse night­club shoot­ing,” Riches said. “We don’t do it for the money. We do it (as) vol­un­teer work. We just feel it’s our duty, and we take pleasure in creating th­ese groups and al­low­ing peo­ple to share.”

He ex­pects the Du­los page to sur­pass 10,000 to­tal mem­bers, es­pe­cially if additional ar­rests are made. The num­ber of mem­bers tends to grow with each new devel­op­ment, and he sus­pected fam­ily mem­bers and friends of all in­volved are mem­bers of the group.

“We talk about the former spouse of Mr. Du­los, (about) former spouses of Tra­co­nis,” Riches said. “We talk about all kinds of things; We don’t leave any­thing off the ta­ble. We’re just putting up as much in­for­ma­tion about th­ese in­di­vid­u­als, who they are, their back­ground ... and maybe law en­force­ment can look at this and put to­gether new the­o­ries about what hap­pened to Jen­nifer.”

Though she hasn’t reached out to any­one specif­i­cally to share her own ex­pe­ri­ence, Alsentzer noted that there is a post in the Face­book group that shows a woman at an un­known court­house, hold­ing doc­u­ments for a re­strain­ing or­der against her abu­sive hus­band. In the post, others of­fer words of sup­port, thank­ing the woman for her brav­ery. A few others on the thread ex­pressed a de­sire to also file for re­strain­ing or­ders.

“I think the group is great,” Alsentzer said. “I think it will help a lot of women in the long run be­cause they’ll feed off of each other and hope­fully see that they can get out or find a way to get out.”

While Fo­tis Du­los has not been con­victed of any crimes and his role in his wife’s dis­ap­pear­ance is un­known, Jen­nifer Du­los and her at­tor­ney de­scribe in­ci­dents of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in the di­vorce doc­u­ments filed in state Su­pe­rior Court in Stam­ford, in­clud­ing many red flags that ad­vo­cates say show signs of es­ca­lat­ing vi­o­lence in the re­la­tion­ship.

Riches plans to ar­chive the Face­book group af­ter the case is re­solved. That would al­low his­to­ri­ans and others in­ter­ested in fol­low­ing the case to do so from start to fin­ish. It would also mean the na­tional mes­sages in sup­port of find­ing Jen­nifer Du­los would too, live on.

At least one other sim­i­lar Face­book group has been cre­ated.

This Face­book group has ac­quired al­most 7,000 mem­bers in the two weeks since Jen­nifer Du­los’ dis­ap­pear­ance.

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