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Anthony Todt defense: Jury shouldn't see 'cadaver photos' of wife, kids found dead in Florida home

Monivette Cordeiro, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

ORLANDO, Fla. — Defense attorneys for Connecticut physical therapist Anthony Todt asked a judge Monday to prohibit prosecutors from showing jurors “cadaver photos” of Todt’s wife and three children after they were found dead inside the family’s Celebration home.

Prosecutors should also be banned from discussing the dismissed federal health care fraud allegations against Todt at his upcoming murder trial, or mentioning that the word “Todt” translates to “death” in German, said Assistant Public Defender Peter Schmer in a series of motions.

“Photographs of the deceased victims are shocking and unduly prejudicial,” Schmer wrote.

Todt is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of animal cruelty in the killings of his wife, 42-year-old Megan Todt; the couple’s children Alek, 13, Tyler, 11, and Zoe, 4; and their dog Breezy.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Federal authorities and Osceola deputies were at the family’s Celebration home Jan. 13, 2020, to arrest Anthony Todt on insurance fraud charges related to his physical therapy business when they found the blanked-wrapped bodies of his wife, children and dog.

The value of showing jurors the “cadaver photos” is “extremely limited” because the medical examiner’s office could not make definitive autopsy findings due to the victims’ decomposition, Schmer said.

The official cause of death for Todt’s wife and three children was “homicidal violence of unspecified means,” though autopsies also found that the victims had stab wounds and toxic amounts of Benadryl in their bodies.

The Florida Supreme Court has allowed juries to see photos that may be considered gruesome as long as they are “independently relevant or corroborative of other evidence,” Todt’s attorney said.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office said when he was arrested that Todt confessed to killing his family, though the confession itself has not been made public. Schmer’s motion to bar the pictures from the trial indicated that Todt told authorities he strangled them.

 

“The decomposed cadaver photos are not relevant under that standard since they do not corroborate Mr. Todt’s account of his alleged strangulation of the four victims,” Schmer wrote. “[Associate Medical Examiner Jennifer Nara] admitted in her deposition that she was not able to detect in the autopsies any signs of strangulation of the victims (due to their state of decomposition). In addition, she was unable to determine the exact mechanism of death due to the victims’ bodies’ decomposition.”

In another motion, Schmer asked the court to prohibit prosecutors from mentioning at trial the translated meaning of the German word “Todt,” calling it “improper.”

“It is clearly improper for the prosecutor to engage in vituperative or pejorative characterizations of a defendant,” Schmer said.

Federal prosecutors asked for a judge to dismiss their fraud complaint against Todt in February so that his criminal trial could “proceed expeditiously and without undue concern or complications,” court records show.

“The Government reserves the right to pursue federal proceedings at some future date,” federal prosecutors said in a Feb. 12 motion.

Todt’s attorney argued evidence of those alleged crimes should be excluded from the murder trial because the “potential for unfair prejudice is great.”

“Any evidence introduced at his homicide trial of Mr. Todt’s alleged health care fraud will be ‘inflammatory’ and ‘difficult for the jury to ignore,’ Schmer wrote. “... The Defense assumes the State will not present any evidence of the dismissed federal health care fraud allegations against Mr. Todt, though files this motion ... in an abundance of caution.”

Todt’s trial is set to begin Sept. 27.

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