Family members wept openly in court Monday as a jury convicted an Iowa pig farmer of impaling his wife with a corn rake multiple times in a rage over an extramarital affair and her wish for a divorce.
Todd M. Mullis, 43, of Earlville, grimaced and shook his head as a first-degree murder verdict was delivered inside a courtroom at the Dubuque County Courthouse. According to The Telegraph-Herald in Dubuque, Mullis faces a mandatory life sentence, without parole, in the Nov. 10 murder of 39-year-old Amy Mullis.
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Tears streamed down the face of Amy Mullis’ brother, Jeff Fuller, as the judge read the verdict.
“We aren’t going to have any comments,” Fuller told The Telegraph-Herald as the courtroom cleared after the proceedings had adjourned.
Delaware County Attorney John Bernau argued during the six-day trial that Todd Mullis had contemplated killing his wife for years, the newspaper reported. The couple had been married since 2004, according to Amy Mullis' obituary.
Bernau also told jurors the defendant waited for Amy Mullis to undergo a medical procedure to provide authorities with a ready-made excuse as to why she might suffer an accidental fall on a corn rake.
Court TV, which covered the trial live, described a corn rake as a tool similar to a pitchfork that is used by farmers to scoop up corn. The case, which garnered national attention, led a judge to order a change of venue from Delaware County to Dubuque County.
An accidental death was ruled out by a forensic pathologist, who testified Wednesday that Amy Mullis was impaled by the rake “at least twice, possibly three times,” according to The Associated Press. Dr. Kelly Kruse testified that Amy Mullis also suffered injuries to her face, hands and knees.
Defense attorney Gerald “Jake” Feuerhelm did not dispute that Amy Mullis had been “viciously and deliberately murdered,” but said the evidence failed to prove his client was her killer.
Prosecutors argued, however, that Todd Mullis had motive beyond his anger over his wife’s affair: To prevent himself from losing half of their farm and millions of dollars in a divorce.
“Being a farmer means everything to him. He has put his life into that farm,” Iowa state Prosecutor Marie Hughes told jurors last week, according to video of the trial. “The defendant had to find a way to keep his farm.”
Court records indicate that Todd Mullis once told his wife's stepmother, Eileen Fuller, that he “wasn't going to lose the farm over this,” referencing Amy Mullis' affair. A friend told investigators Amy Mullis stood to walk away with a trust worth $2 million, as well as half of the farm, if the couple divorced.
GUILTY: Todd Mullis convicted of murdering his wife Amy with a corn rake on their family farm.— Julia Jenaé (@JuliaCourtTV) September 23, 2019
Formal sentencing will be scheduled later but first degree murder in IA carries a sentence of Life without parole. #MullisTrial @grinsli pic.twitter.com/VclM0521qt
Todd Mullis stared out at his own family members in the gallery as bailiffs shackled him and took him into custody after the verdict, The Telegraph-Herald reported. Taking the stand in his defense last week, Mullis denied killing his wife.
He also denied performing several Google searches that investigators discovered on his iPad, including searches that used phrases including “killing unfaithful women” and “what happened to cheating spouses in historic Aztec tribes,” according to the newspaper.
Multiple searches conducted on the device dealt with how ancient cultures dealt with adulterers, according to testimony and court records. The device, which was linked to Todd Mullis’ Gmail account, was also used to search for information and diagrams indicating where a person’s internal organs are located.
The searches about human organs were conducted four days before Amy Mullis was killed. The searches regarding killing cheating spouses dated back as far as January 2018.
An arrest affidavit in the case indicates that Todd Mullis called 911 just after noon on Nov. 10 to report finding his wife unresponsive on their farm. He said that he, Amy Mullis and the oldest of the couple’s three children, a 13-year-old son, had been working in one of their hog buildings.
#ToddMullis - Amy Mullis's body was on the floor inside the red shed in this narrow walkway. Todd said he pulled the corn rake out of her back, put her in his truck. Her body was lying across their son's lap as 911 was called. pic.twitter.com/pygbb3wp6C— Law & Crime Network (@LawCrimeNetwork) September 19, 2019
Todd Mullis told police it was his wife’s first day out of the house following a surgical procedure a few days earlier.
“Todd stated that he had observed Amy while working, and she appeared to have dizzy spells,” the affidavit states. “Todd stated that he then instructed Amy to stop working and go to the house to rest.”
Mullis said he’d asked his wife to retrieve a pet carrier for him before going inside. She disappeared in the direction of a nearby shed to do so, he said.
Mullis told investigators he didn’t know anything was amiss until he and his son went to the farm’s front office for something to drink. He said he didn’t see the carrier where he’d asked his wife to put it, so he asked his son to go check on his mother.
The boy found his mother’s body, the corn rake protruding from her back, the affidavit says.
Read the affidavit in the Todd Mullins case below.
“Todd stated that he then laid Amy down, pulled the corn rake out of her back and picked her up and carried her out of the shed,” the document states.
He said he loaded her into his pickup truck and began driving toward Regional Medical Center in Manchester, calling 911 along the way. An ambulance met him midway and took her to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Todd Mullis told detectives he believed his wife must have fallen on the rake, but an autopsy performed at the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office revealed a total of six puncture wounds in Amy Mullis’ body.
The corn rake, which was introduced as evidence during the trial, has only four tines.
#ToddMullis - Jurors see the corn rake - murder weapon. Both sides agree Amy Mullis was killed with this corn rake. Prosecutors say her husband Todd is the killer. Defense says Amy was murdered but not by Todd. pic.twitter.com/b9wGWppNQu— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) September 17, 2019
In addition, two of the six wounds were at an upward angle and four were at a downward angle, indicating the tool had been thrust into her body at least twice.
The couple’s son, now 14, took the stand on the first day of the trial to describe finding his mother’s body, including the amount of time his father had been out of his sight the day his mother died. In a pre-trial deposition, the boy said his father was out of his sight for no more than a minute and 40 seconds, The Telegraph-Herald reported.
He admitted on the stand last week, however, that his time estimate was not accurate, the newspaper said.
Todd Mullis was re-interviewed six days after his wife’s death, court records show. In that interview, he admitted that he and his wife had problems related to her affairs, including one in 2013.
“Todd said his son had learned of the affair and the two of them had grown closer because of the incident,” the affidavit says. “Todd said the affair in approximately 2013 had devastated him, and he agreed it had shattered his trust of Amy.”
Todd Mullis initially denied confronting his wife about other affairs, but later relented, telling detectives he had become suspicious in July 2018, when he found evidence on their phone bill of text messages between his wife and a man identified during the trial as the field manager of the couple’s hog farm.
That man, Jerry Frasher, testified Wednesday that Amy Mullis was deathly afraid of her husband, the AP reported.
“I know she wasn’t happy,” Frasher testified, according to the AP report. “She said she felt like a slave or a hostage around there. She said she was wanting (to leave Todd). One time, she said if he ever found out (about the affair), she would disappear.”
Frasher testified that Todd Mullis confronted him about the texts, which number more than 100. Frasher told Mullis the texts dealt with farm business, including the showing of pigs.
Todd Mullis called Frasher’s wife to ask her about the texts, and her response to his questions appeared to satisfy Mullis, Frasher said.
“Two days later, he called us both back and apologized,” Frasher testified. “He asked us to quit texting, and we did.”
Frasher said he warned Amy Mullis that they needed to slow down their affair, though court records indicate they continued seeing one another until the week of her death. He said he continued to work for the couple until her death, as well, and that Todd Mullis never showed him any animosity.
Todd Mullis told investigators in his second interview following his wife’s death that he believed her and Frasher when they denied the affair, the affidavit states.
He described his relationship with his wife as “tight” and said they shared great communication.
“Todd described his relationship with Amy at the time of her death as good. Todd said he and Amy did not argue or fight,” the court document says.
Detectives’ investigation into Amy Mullis’ death indicated otherwise. Fuller, her brother, testified on the first day of the trial that his sister wanted desperately to leave her husband, and the farm, behind. The registered nurse, who loved hunting, fishing and the outdoors, had quit her job to help on the pig farm.
According to The Washington Post, Fuller testified that she told him in August 2018 that as soon as all their crops were out of the fields, she planned to leave and file for divorce.
Fuller told investigators that he had furniture stored in preparation for his sister and her children leaving Todd Mullis, court documents show. He said he planned to help his sister find a new home and move into it.
She predicted that Todd Mullis would “flip out” if she left, Fuller testified.
Amy Mullis’ friends also described Todd Mullis as extremely controlling of his wife. One longtime friend told detectives Todd Mullis required her to document trips to their local Walmart and to let him know both when she left and when she was coming home.
According to court documents, Amy Mullis had a nickname that intimated the level of control Todd Mullis exerted over his wife: The “POT” wife, short for “Prisoner of Todd.”
Detectives learned during the investigation that Todd and Amy Mullis had not slept in the same bed for the five months prior to her killing. Text messages Amy Mullis sent to at least one friend in that time frame described a tense household, according to court documents.
The morning of her death, Amy Mullis texted her friend, “Still very tense around here. Just not sure of anything anymore.”
The friend told police she was aware of Amy Mullis’ affair with Frasher and had voiced her concern that Todd Mullis would kill his wife if he found out, the affidavit says.
“The friend said near the end of August 2018, she had a phone conversation with Amy in which Amy told the friend she feared Todd would kill her, and that if she came up missing, the friend should instruct people to look for her body in a wooded area she and Todd had recently purchased,” the document states. “Amy told the friend if she (Amy) was found dead, ‘You’ll know Todd did something to me.’”
Multiple people told authorities that Amy Mullis lived in fear of her husband, with one telling investigators she’d feared Todd Mullis would “kill her and throw her to the pigs” if he ever found she was having an affair. One friend who had known Amy Mullis for several years and Todd Mullis since childhood recalled a phone call with Amy in late October.
Amy Mullis was screaming and crying on the phone.
“The friend stated that Amy had told them that Todd had found out that she was having an affair and that her minor child was crying and didn’t want to get onto the bus because they didn’t know if Amy would still be there when they got home (from school),” the affidavit says.
Another friend told police Todd Mullis had made some curious statements during a visit following his wife’s death.
“You really have to watch what you text on your phone because it could come back to bite you,” Todd told the friend, according to court documents.
When the friend asked what he meant, Mullis responded, “Oh, well, you know, if you write something like, ‘I wish you were dead’ or ‘It would be so easy to have you killed or have you dead.’”
Mullis told the friend his cellphone had been seized by authorities, the affidavit says.
He was arrested for his wife’s murder on Feb. 28.
Bernau told The Telegraph-Herald following the guilty verdict that prosecutors are happy for Amy Mullis’ family, but he declined to comment further prior to sentencing.
Feuerhelm said his client would appeal the guilty verdict.
“We’ll sort things out and talk to Todd about that and go from there,” Feuerhelm told the paper.
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