For over a decade, the Dulos family nanny has helped care for Jennifer and Fotis’ five children – including the years after the beloved Connecticut mother disappeared and her estranged husband died by suicide after being charged with her murder.
On Tuesday, Lauren Almeida, 32, who still works as a nanny for the children, took to the witness stand in court in Stamford to testify at the trial of Fotis Dulos’ then-lover Michelle Troconis, who is charged with conspiracy to murder.
Ms Almeida told the court that she began babysitting for the Dulos children in September 2012, and became their full-time nanny in 2013 after graduating from college.
At that time, the oldest set of twins were six, the other twins were four and the couple’s youngest daughter had just turned one year old.
Over the years, Ms Almeida grew close to Jennifer before her sudden disappearance one day in 2019.
It was Ms Almeida who alerted police after discovering the mother-of-five was missing.
During courtroom testimony on Tuesday, Ms Almeida described Fotis as someone she used to think of as a “role model”, a “mentor” and a “friend”.
Other than her regular nanny duties, she had also been offered a part-time job at Fotis’ construction company.
“I saw him as like a role model and a mentor and I thought at the time that he’s giving me this really great opportunity so I really, I considered him a friend,” she told the jury.
When asked about the former couple, Ms Almeida said that they used to be “nice to each other”.
But then there was a “big dynamic change”, she said.
It happened in March 2017 when Ms Almeida said that Jennifer confided in her during a family vacation to Miami that she believed Fotis was having an affair.
“She said she had this feeling that he was acting weird. I didn’t really believe her at first,” Ms Almeida said. “I believed him to be an honest guy and I couldn’t imagine him having an affair when there were five little kids involved.”
“I told her I didn’t think it was true... she was very anxious, kind of tight and she seemed upset,” she continued.
Ms Almeida added: “She was my boss, but she was someone that I always just connected really well with. I confided in her with a lot of things. I just always trusted her. We had a really good relationship.”
When asked how Jennifer felt about her husband, Ms Almeida said she confided in her that he had a bad temper.
“He was harsh and she didn’t like conflict,” Ms Almeida testified.
Ms Almeida told jurors that while the five children always followed their father’s orders, they had a “silly” relationship with their mother.
Jennifer was a “soft-spoken" and “incredibly nurturing” mother who loved pumpkin picking and picking out a Christmas tree with her children, Ms Almeida told the court.
“It was very silly, her relationship with the kids," she added. "She would sing to them and laugh with them and she never raised her voice.”
She recalled: “They always wanted to be next to mommy. She never raised her voice, never got angry. She was just so nurturing.”
Jennifer was last seen on 24 May 2019 after dropping off the children at school in their wealthy New Canaan neighbourhood.
She and Fotis were going through a contentious divorce and custody battle at the time.
Fotis killed himself in 2020 after being charged with her murder. He continued to claim his innocence, with his attorney bizarrely claiming Jennifer staged her disappearance in a Gone Girl-style plot.
While Jennifer Dulos’ body has never been found, she has since been declared dead. Her mother Gloria Farber was granted custody of all five children.
Investigators believe Fotis killed her in the garage of her home and that Ms Troconis, 49, helped him cover up the murder.
Ms Troconis is charged with conspiracy to murder, tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution in the case.
She has pleaded not guilty to the charges and denies having anything to do with Jennifer’s disappearance or death.
Her trial is expected to last six weeks.