Dad blamed apocalypse for killing wife and kids as he lived with their bodies

With brightly coloured houses and white picket fences, the town of Celebration in Florida resembles a picture- perfect film set. Unsurprising, as Celebration was built by Disney.

Just a short drive from Disney World, Orlando, the area used to be swampland until The Walt Disney Company developed the suburban utopia. With carefully thought-out green spaces and friendly neighbourhoods, it became popular with US families. Even when it was sold to a private company in 2004, the rules, and the Disney magic, remained.

The Todt family moved to Celebration in 2017 to become part of the dream. Anthony Todt and his wife Megan, 42, had been living in Connecticut, but they sold up and started renting a home in Celebration. They also bought a condo nearby. The couple had three children, Alek, 13, Tyler, 11, and Zoe, four, and a family dog called Breezy.

Todt, 46, had a physical therapy practice in Connecticut and he’d fly back to work during the week. At the weekends, he coached local children to play soccer and was a hands-on dad.

Gentle-natured Megan home-schooled her talented children. Young Zoe was curious and energetic. Tyler and Alek both played the piano and loved books. The well-dressed family took holidays and had an affluent lifestyle. But in November 2019, Todt’s business was being investigated for fraud. He was accused of billing private insurers for patients who he hadn’t treated.

Todt also had several high-interest loans to keep up with the family spending, totalling about $200,000. When questioned by the fraud investigators, Todt insisted that Megan had no idea he was in debt. Todt wasn’t arrested and he was allowed to go back to his family in Celebration where he was struggling to pay the rent.

An eviction notice was filed on their rental home.

Despite his money problems, he told Megan’s family they’d be going on another holiday, so they’d be out of touch. They also got messages to say that the family were all poorly. But from mid-December, Megan’s loved ones grew worried.

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Christmas came and went, and Megan remained silent. An eviction notice was put on their door but when neighbours messaged Megan about it, she replied with just a few words. Megan’s family called police and on 13 January 2020, officers went to the Todt home. Todt answered the door, shaking. He mumbled that his kids were on a sleepover and said that his wife was sleeping – he even called out to her. But when police entered the home, it was a crime scene.

Megan and her three children were dead in the master bedroom. Their decomposing bodies were wrapped in blankets, and it was clear that they had been dead for weeks. The family dog was dead, too.

The victims, apart from Zoe, had stab wounds and all had dangerously high amounts of Benadryl in their systems. Bottles were found in the house. Todt had clearly been living in the family home with the corpses of his wife and kids.

When questioned, Todt claimed that Megan had suffered with her health and had become obsessed with the idea of reincarnation.

Todt said they made a suicide pact because she believed that there was an apocalypse coming – and that if they all died and “burned the family karma” they’d be rewarded with a better life and salvation.

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Incredibly, he said that he and Megan had sat down and told the children about dying. Todt told police they had said, “We want to die with you.” So, they had gone forward with the plan. But if that was the case, why was Todt still alive?

He described smothering four-year-old Zoe with a pillow. Then he stabbed and suffocated his young sons. Megan had allegedly stabbed herself in the abdomen, and drank more medicine, but when she didn’t die, she had begged him to help her be with her kids, and he suffocated her with a pillow. Todt put their bodies in the bedroom, but he didn’t “join his family on the other side”.

He had Benadryl in his system, but said he’d been unable to stab himself. He admitted he’d gone out for alcohol, and to check the mail – and went to get fast food “once or twice”.

Deadly spiked pudding

Todt was arrested and charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of animal cruelty. Suddenly, his version of events dramatically changed. He said he’d actually returned home to find that Megan had already killed the children, by spiking their “pudding pie” with Benadryl and then stabbing them. When he’d confronted her, Megan had stabbed herself in the stomach and died in front of him.

The case of the killer “Disney Dad” made headlines across the US. Todt’s lawyers made a motion to suppress his earlier confessions and reference to his alleged fraud, and any mention that the German translation of Todt is “dead”. The confessions were allowed as evidence and were played to the jury at the trial this year where Todt pleaded not guilty.

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He took the stand and insisted Megan was the killer. He said that his initial confession – that he was involved – was a lie. “I was covering for my wife,” Todt told the court. Todt spoke about his wife’s troubles with Lyme disease and also depression after a miscarriage.

The defence said the case wasn’t proved beyond reasonable doubt and that Todt had confessed while drugged and suffering from trauma. Todt was often seen dramatically crying on the stand but the prosecution said that he sought “control over the lives and deaths” of his family. They pointed out that Todt’s initial taped confession, where he described going into each child’s room and killing them, was consistent with the evidence at the crime scene.

Why hadn’t he called the police when he discovered what his wife had done? How had a man of his size been unable to overpower his wife when she allegedly began stabbing herself and drinking Benadryl? While the defence said the bodies were too decomposed to determine the exact details of their deaths, the prosecution said that Todt had deliberately let his family rot for about three weeks, to add more doubt to the case.

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Killer controller

In April, after six hours of deliberation, Todt was found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of animal cruelty. He was sentenced shortly afterwards. Todt, 46, shook his head in seeming disbelief at the verdict. “I loved my wife. I loved my kids,” he said. “They were first and foremost in my life. I did not do this.”

He said that he had put his wife on a pedestal due to her health problems, and had even put weight on, because he was so busy putting her first.

Megan’s aunt, Cynthia Copco, described Megan as having a “giving heart”. She revealed that Alek wanted to learn the violin and Tyler wanted to play folk guitar, and that she called Zoe a princess.

The judge handed down four consecutive life sentences without the chance of parole and added another year for animal cruelty. “You, Anthony John Todt, are the destroyer of worlds,” the judge told him.

Todt had tried to hide his guilt with a story about an impeding apocalypse. But he was the darkness who brought death to his innocent family.

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