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Anthony Todt had violent family past: His mother was shot, father convicted

Anthony Todt, a Colchester business owner who was charged in the deaths of his wife, three children and family dog in Florida this week, had experienced family violence before.

When he was just 4 years old, he was a witness to his mother's attempted murder in Bensalem, Pa., in 1980, for which his father was convicted and served years in prison.

Todt was charged Wednesday with four counts of homicide and one count of animal cruelty in Osceola County Fla., after allegedly killing his wife, Megan, their children — Alek, 13, Tyler, 11, and Zoe, 4 — and their dog, Breezy, according to Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson.

Todt was arrested Monday when authorities went to the home the family rented in Celebration, Fla., to serve Todt a federal arrest warrant related to an FBI and Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General investigation out of Connecticut. Todt owns two physical therapy practices in Colchester, on Park Avenue and Middletown Road.

When police entered the home to perform a safety check, they found four people dead. Gibson said Todt confessed to killing his wife and three children, as well as the family dog. The Florida medical examiner ruled that the manner of death was homicide, but had not yet determined how they were killed.

This was not the first time Anthony Todt had been at the scene of a violent crime.

In March 1980, he was asleep in his family's home in Bensalem, Pa., when he awoke to the sound of his mother screaming, according to a 1981 report in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The young Todt walked into the hallway and saw one man "wrestling with mommy on her bed," before another man picked him up and brought him back to his bed, the Inquirer reported that Todt told police.

His mother, Loretta Schmidt — then Loretta Todt — had been shot in the face while sleeping in the family's home, according to court records and news archives in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News.

She survived the attack but was badly injured.

"The bullet fired destroyed her left eye and remains lodged in her skull," according to an appeal filed by the elder Todt in the case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Robert Todt.

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer report published on Sept. 8, 1981, Loretta's memory from the night wasn't all clear. She remembered that she tucked her two children, Anthony and his sister, into bed and then went to bed herself. She woke up later that night to find one man in bed with her and another standing in her room.

The next thing she remembered was feeling pain in her head and looking in the mirror and seeing blood. She used the family telephone to call a neighbor, and police arrived just before midnight, the Inquirer reported.

She was taken to a hospital and treated for a gunshot wound, first thought to be a beating, that caused her to lose her left eye and later required an artificial eye, court records and news reports said.

The day after the shooting, police reportedly spoke with Anthony. The boy told police he saw two men, one of whom carried him back to bed, according to the Inquirer's report on the arrest report.

Four months later, on July 25, Robert Todt was arrested and charged with trying to kill his wife in a murder-for-hire plot.

His case was heard before a jury and Judge Edmund V. Ludwig, and after a lengthy trial he was found guilty of attempted homicide, criminal conspiracy and criminal solicitation. In April 1981, he was sentenced to two consecutive terms of five to 10 years in prison.

Robert Todt was a board-certified special education teacher employed at a high school in Bensalem Township School District. Marriage records from Bucks County show that he and Loretta married in November 1974. According to their marriage records, he was a student at the time, living in Cornwells Heights, Pa., and she was a lab technician in Philadelphia.

According to the Inquirer, the couple met at a school dance at Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia in 1969. 

Court records show Todt wasn't home on the March night when his wife was shot but someone entered the house and attacked her.

Todt had told his wife he would be at Trenton State College that night for night classes he was taking to earn his master's degree. Police later learned he was never enrolled in the college.

The night his wife was shot, Todt was actually with Colleen Fecho, a woman who had taken one of his "lifesaving classes" with whom he was having an affair and was engaged to be married. The two had even taken photos cutting a cake to celebrate their engagement and had set a wedding date, the Inquirer reported.

One of his other former students, John Chairmonte, who had been in the high school's program for students with learning disabilities, testified in the trial that he shot Loretta after Robert Todt paid him $800. According to court records, Chairmonte had a criminal record and a history with alcohol and drugs.

Court records show that Todt gave Chairmonte a .32 caliber pistol, bullets and the keys to the family house and told him to enter the house, stage a burglary and shoot his wife.

For his role in the crime, Chairmonte was sentenced to two to four years at a drug rehabilitation hospital.

Before Robert Todt's arrest, police saw him and his son watching as they searched the Neshaminey Creek for the gun that allegedly was used to shoot Loretta. When confronted, Robert Todt reportedly told police that he was just taking his son on a fishing trip, the Inquirer reported.

Throughout Robert Todt's trial, his wife maintained his innocence, testifying on his behalf.

"I'm not sticking up for him because he's my husband, I'm sticking up for him because he didn't do it," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported her saying in 1981.

That same year, Loretta filed for divorce but continued to live in the home where she was shot, with remnants from the fired bullet marking her headboard and nightstand, the Inquirer reported.

The home, the Inquirer wrote in 1981, remained "a sort of lived-in attempted murder scene, a reminder — like a chalk outline around a since-buried homicide victim — that something awful happened."

The Inquirer also reported that Loretta had moved Anthony into a different bedroom "in hopes of stopping his nightmares." She allegedly wanted to leave the home and move to a new town to forget what happened to her, which she soon did.

Records show that in the early 1980s, Loretta, who moved to Montville with her children and her new husband, Erwin Schmidt, a member of the Navy from Philadelphia whom she married in December 1981, according to Bucks County records.

The Philadelphia Daily News reported that she allegedly had had a change of heart. The woman who once "passionately defended her husband," the article states, by 1984 believed that Robert Todt had tried to kill her that night and "really did want her dead so he could marry one of his former students."

Loretta reportedly told the newspaper that the move from Bensalem gave her some clarity.

"Being away from him and the whole situation in Bucks County, it all started to make sense," she reportedly said. "His lies, his cheating it just got to the point where I couldn't take it anymore. I always knew there was something going on, but before, I thought it was just me."

Loretta and her husband spoke at a Montville Board of Education meeting in August, according to board minutes.

Robert Todt admitted to the affair with Fecho, court records show, but for years adamantly denied hiring Chairmonte to kill his wife, filing several appeals and lawsuits, including a $30 million lawsuit against police and prosecutors for what he believed was an illegal arrest and unlawful trial.

In April 1984, he returned to Bucks County Court and was re-sentenced to a maximum of five to 10 years in prison after the state Superior Court found that his original sentence was excessive, the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

According to his Facebook page, Robert Todt has since remarried, to a woman named Danielle. He lives in Westfield, Mass., the page says.

t.hartz@theday.com 

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