ORLANDO, Fla. — After about five hours of deliberations Thursday, jurors said they are deadlocked on some of the charges against Anthony Todt, the Connecticut physical therapist accused of killing his wife, children and dog at their Central Florida home.
The foreperson of the 12-member jury informed Circuit Judge Keith Carsten in a note about 5:40 p.m. that the panel had been unable to reach a unanimous verdict on all counts. Asked by the judge, the foreperson said the jurors do agree on some of the charges, but not all.
Carsten instructed the jurors to return any verdicts on which they had been able to reach a unanimous decision.
Todt, 46, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of animal cruelty in the killings of 42-year-old Megan Todt; the couple’s children Alek, 13, Tyler, 11, and Zoe, 4; and their dog Breezy. Todt has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors had told jurors that Todt wanted “control” over not only the lives of his family but also their deaths.
After the killings, Todt used their phones to tell their relatives they were all sick, Assistant State Attorney Danielle Pinnell said. When Todt’s sister asked law enforcement to check on the family, she got a text from Megan Todt’s phone about believing in the apocalypse.
“How did she learn about this information? From the defendant,” Pinnell told jurors during Todt’s trial at the Osceola County Courthouse. “Because we already know Megan’s dead.”
The prosecutor said Todt was deceptive after law enforcement found the bodies to maintain control, pretending his wife was sleeping and his kids were away. When he confessed to the killings in an interview with detectives, Todt told them he and his wife believed “they bring their children into this world, they should get to decide when they leave,” Pinnell said.
“(Todt) wanted control over the lives of his kids and over the life of Megan,” she said. His attorneys, though, argued Todt’s initial confession to killing his family contradicts evidence from a medical examiner and toxicologist. Todt described how he stabbed and smothered his children one by one, but the medical examiner said stab wounds on two children happened after their deaths.
“The state is essentially picking and choosing when they want you to believe Mr. Todt and when they don’t,” Assistant Public Defender Alesha Smith said.
Smith said law enforcement did little to corroborate Todt’s initial confession, including finding blood evidence in any rooms where the killings happened.
“We don’t see any phone searches,” Smith said. “We don’t see any Google searches. ... (The detective) took Mr. Todt at his word and decided, ‘Hey, my job is done.’”
Although he confessed to the killings at first, Todt has since blamed his wife. On the witness stand Wednesday, Todt testified he wasn’t even present at their Celebration home when his three kids were killed by their mother, who he claimed gave them a poisoned dessert and stabbed them in their sleep before killing herself.
“I was covering for my wife,” he told jurors about his confession. “Obviously, unsuccessfully. I had no clue how my kids died.”
Authorities discovered Todt living with his family’s blanket-wrapped decomposing bodies Jan. 13, 2020 while serving a warrant to arrest him on federal health care fraud charges related to his Connecticut physical therapy business. Megan Todt and her three children had been dead for “at least a couple weeks” before they were found, according to a medical examiner.
After his arrest, Todt told detectives he and his wife had an agreement to kill their family, prosecutors said.
“Everybody needed to die in order to pass over to the other side together because the apocalypse was coming,” Pinnell told jurors in the trial’s opening statements.
Todt said he and his wife spoke to their children about killing themselves.
“We don’t want you to die,” Todt claimed his kids said. “We want to die with you.”
Jurors watched a video of the interrogation, in which Todt described how suffocated his children one by one, then his wife after she failed to commit suicide by stabbing herself. The cause of death for all four victims was homicidal violence of “unspecified means” in association with a Benadryl toxicity, the medical examiner said.
Testifying in his own defense, Todt said his wife became fixated with reincarnation as her health declined and came to believe that if they “burned the family karma” in their current life, they would be reincarnated to a better life.
“Mr. Todt, what could have prevented Megan from killing her children?” Orange-Osceola Public Defender Bob Wesley asked his client.
“I have no idea,” Todt testified. “We woke up that morning she was pain-free. Everything was good. ... That’s the biggest thing that affects me. I didn’t see this coming.”
In the weeks after the slayings, Todt told jurors he tried to kill himself in a variety of ways, including overdosing on Benadryl, though he “chickened out” of using a knife. He claimed to have no recollection of his interviews with detectives, and only remembered falling and waking up in jail.
“My testimony today is the fact that Megan killed her kids and killed herself,” he said.
Todt shed tears when questioned by his attorneys, but Pinnell said he became angry on the witness stand when she asked him to corroborate his version of events.
“He described himself as this loyal ‘I’ll do anything, I’ll take the blame for Megan’ man,” Pinnell told jurors. “But something interesting that he said is, ‘Megan killed her kids.’ Not our kids. Not my kids. Her kids.”