Dulos case inspires social media groups, stories
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.