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Todts remembered fondly at funeral

Montville — In an emotional eulogy delivered Friday morning, the family of Megan, Alek, Tyler and Zoe Todt told funeral attendees to be angry, to be devastated, but not to languish in that anger and devastation.

"It's OK to be upset. It's OK to cry. It's OK to be mad. But don't stay there," said Mike Caplet, who delivered the eulogy on behalf of the family.

It brought tears to the eyes of dozens in St. John the Evangelist Church as Caplet recalled the lives of the four family members who were allegedly killed by husband and father Anthony Todt in December. They were found dead in their rented Celebration, Fla., home on Jan. 13.

"It's hard to put into words the impact that Megan, Alek, Tyler and Zoe had on our lives," Caplet said. "It was hard to meet them and not love them."

More than 200 people gathered in Montville on Friday morning for a Mass of Christian Burial honoring the lives of the mother and her children.

Inside the church, flower arrangements and framed photos of Megan, 42, Alek, 13, Tyler, 11, and Zoe, 4, lined the altar. A photo of the four walking in the ocean at sunset sat in the center. The same photo was used on memorial cards given out at a wake the night before.

People filled the church to witness the funeral liturgy and attend a reception that followed. Police cars, news photographers and news videographers were staked outside the funeral for the family, whose deaths have gained national attention and news coverage.

In the Catholic faith, a Mass of Christian Burial suggests burial of the dead will occur right after or in the days and weeks following the Mass. The bodies had been released to the family and returned to Connecticut after being held in Florida, where investigators and medical examiners still were trying to piece together what happened to them and their dog weeks before the bodies were found decomposing in a second-floor bedroom.

Among those in attendance at the Mass and wake were Chrissy Caplet and Kellie Ball, Megan's sisters-in-law and aunts to her children; Caplet's husband, Tim; the Caplets' daughter; the Todt children's paternal grandmother and step-grandfather; and Megan's aunt and uncle, grandparents and great-grandparents.

Caplet, the brother-in-law of Chrissy Caplet, said in the eulogy that Megan was a "kind, generous soul." He said "her children were what she was most proud of." He described Alek as "the serious older brother" who would "conspire with Tyler whenever the opportunity would arise." Tyler, on the other hand, was mischievous. "He was the one to stir the pot as Alek watched and waited to see when he should jump in." And "Princess Zoe and her sassy self" was "full of life and so sweet and loving."

Caplet also spoke of Breezy, the family's dog who also allegedly was killed by Anthony Todt, who goes by Tony.

"Breezy was much more than a family dog," he said. "She was playful, lovable and devoted to her family. Breezy went everywhere with them and posed for as many pictures as she could."

In an especially moving part of the tribute, Caplet read a long list of memories, which he implored friends and family members to cling to.

"Remember the fun. Remember the love. Remember the laughter, and the smiles, and the jokes and the sounds; the music recitals, piano, violin and folk guitar; the soccer games; the cookies, chrusciki and pierogis; the beans, the hummus, the guacamole ... Teaching Breezy new tricks. Sunsets, swing sets, bike rides and bathing suits. Puzzles, tree forts, secret missions. Lego Star Wars, Mardi Gras necklaces and hide and seek. Movies, fluffy blankets and snuggles, graham crackers and crocheting. Wild mushroom pasta. Camels and Sesame (Street) Place and Minnie Mouse. Ice cream, fishing and merry-go rounds. Christmas, Halloween, Easter and birthday parties. Corn on the cob and yoga. Blue eyes. Hugs and kisses and smiles and laughter. Remember them for who they were and what they brought to our lives."

Photos of the family at the reception showed these happy memories. In a few photos, Tyler was captured eating corn on the cob, sitting in a yoga position and playing piano. His older brother, Alek, struck a yoga pose outdoors in another photo and snuggled with Breezy and held his baby sister in many.

In other photos, the boys were building snowmen, swimming in pools, holding fishing poles and dressed up as pirates and as Frankenstein. In many, the boys beamed as they posed with Cookie Monster and Big Bird on trips to Sesame Street Place when their aunt and uncle visited Florida.

Zoe's infectious smile beamed in dozens of photos, showing her from infancy through toddlerhood, when she grew her blonde curls. She carried a baby doll in one, was dressed as an elephant in another and was pictured with soccer balls and footballs.

One collage featured dozens of photos of Breezy, snuggling with her family, playing with baby Zoe and waiting to devour a birthday cupcake.

During Friday's ceremony, an organist played for about 20 minutes before Father Robert Buongiorno led proceedings, which included prayers, the singing of hymns and receiving of communion.

Chrissy Caplet offered the first scripture reading from Psalm 23:4. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me," she said.

Cindi Kopko, Megan Todt's aunt, read soon after, this time from the letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians. "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things," she said.

Buongiorno gave remarks recognizing how difficult life has been lately for those close to the Todts. "For their family and closest friends, the past weeks have been a living nightmare for you," he said. "As much as all of us have wanted to help you, we felt maybe too small to offer what we so deeply want to: comfort, peace."

He later prayed that the family could find comfort until they get answers about what happened, and find peace if they never get those answers.

On Thursday evening, lines wound through the church during the wake, as hundreds waited to offer their condolences to family members. Flowers and nearly a dozen photo collages lined the altar. There were no photos with Tony Todt.

During the wake Thursday, Chrissy Caplet said the family still was in shock and confused about what happened to their family and the horrific crimes her brother is accused of. "It just doesn't make sense and I don't know if it will ever make sense," she said. "We don't know if this will ever get any easier."

"We're just taking it day by day," her husband said.

Kopko said at the wake that she and Caplet will be flying to Florida soon. They plan to go to the family's home on Reserve Road in Celebration to retrieve the ashes of Megan's father, Al Gula, who died in 2002.

Kopko said they will be bringing the ashes home to scatter at the final resting place they choose for Megan and the kids. "They'll all be together," she said.

Megan, Alek, Tyler and Zoe's remains had been returned to the family, Caplet said.

The results of toxicology tests, which the medical examiner's office said could take 10 to 12 weeks, had not yet been released, according to Chief Medical Examiner for the district Dr. Joshua Stephany.

Stephany said last week that the bodies had likely been dead for weeks by the time they were found. Charges filed this week alleged that Anthony Todt killed his family sometime in December.

On Thursday, just before crowds gathered in Montville to remember the family, new court filings were posted in Anthony Todt's case showing he had entered a not guilty plea. Police say that he confessed to the killings on Jan. 13.

The new filings show that Anthony Todt has been charged with four counts of second-degree murder, a reduction from his original first-degree charges.

In Florida, a defendant must be indicted by a grand jury to be charged with first-degree murder, according to a statement by the Office of State Attorney Aramais D. Ayala for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, who filed the second-degree charges Wednesday.

The charges were changed to second-degree "to ensure the defendant remains in custody until the Grand Jury is convened," the statement said.

A pre-trial hearing for Todt's case has been scheduled for April 15 and a jury trial is scheduled to begin April 27.

First-degree murder charges could carry the possibility of the death penalty, while second-degree murder charges could mean a sentence of up to a lifetime in prison.

s.spinella@theday.com

t.hartz@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version corrects that the remains of Megan, Alek, Tyler and Zoe Todt have been released to the family and are in Connecticut. The article has also been updated to reflect that Megan Todt's father, Al Gula, died in 2002.

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