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A jury in Iowa has found a hog farmer guilty of murdering his wife with a corn rake.
Todd Mullis, 43, was convicted Monday in the first-degree murder of his wife Amy Mullis on their Iowa acreage in 2018. The 39-year-old woman, who was discovered with a pitchfork sticking out of her back, had repeatedly told a number of friends and family that she feared for her life and felt "trapped" in the months and weeks leading up to her death.
“We’re pleased with the jury’s verdict and thank the jurors for their service,” Lynn Hicks, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Justice, told Oxygen.com.
On Nov. 10, 2018, the couple’s 13-year-old son found his mother in a “crouched” position in the doorway of a red shed on their farm. A pitchfork-like rake was protruding from her back. The woman’s husband initially suggested it was a freak accident — and that his wife may have had a dizzy spell and fallen on the rake while she was doing chores. But a pathologist testified that Amy’s body had been punctured at least twice by the rusty four-tined rake.
During the course of the trial, prosecutors presented a mountain of evidence against Mullis, who they painted as a tyrannical and vengeful husband. Mullis killed her, the state argued, to block his wife — who long wanted to leave him — from cashing in on millions and a large chunk of his farm, should they divorce.
“I would love for you to meet Amy,” Assistant Attorney General Maureen Hughes told jurors last week, according to Iowa Local 5 News.
“Instead, you will sit in a courtroom with her killer.”
Authorities learned Amy had cheated on in husband in the past, and was actively engaged in an affair at the time she was found dead. The Iowa couple, investigators said, hadn't slept in the same bed for nearly half a year prior to Amy’s death.
A friend of Amy’s told law enforcement that she had felt like a “prisoner” months before she turned up dead.
“She feared Todd would killer 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 criminal complaint stated.
The Iowa woman’s lover, who last saw her days before her death, told police she was “scared to death” of Mullis and that the hog farmer would “leave or kill her” if he discovered their secret relationship, according to the criminal complaint against him.
"I know she wasn't happy," said Jerry Frasher, a hog farm field manager, who testified about having an affair with Amy, according to the New York Times.
"She said she felt like a slave or a hostage around there,” he added. “One time, she said if he ever found out (about the affair) she would disappear."
Hughes argued that Mullis performed internet searches on his iPad about “organs” and “killing unfaithful women,” shortly before Amy’s death. Prosecutors also played the audio of the 911 call from the day of Amy’s murder and accused Mullis of whispering “cheating whore” into the telephone receiver.
But Mullis’ attorney, Gerald Feuerhelm, downplayed those claims, arguing that the 911 audio, muffled by Mullis’ heavy breathing, made it difficult to ascertain what he actually said. Instead, he argued, Mullis had uttered, “She’s cold,” referring to his wife’s body.
“We listened to those clips from that 911 call and I told the jury to listen closely,” Feuerhelm told Oxygen.com.
“[Mullis] was panting because he was trying to do CPR,” he added. “He was out of breath and he was puffing.”
As for the grotesque internet searches, Feuerhelm said it was possible someone else — maybe even Amy — had accessed Mullis’ iPad to conduct them.
“There’s always going to be negative things — the searches on the internet and so forth — but maybe she was making the searches?” Feuerhelm asked. “Maybe she’s worried about her behaviors and cheating on him.”
Feuerhelm insisted during the trial that an unknown intruder had stumbled upon Mullis’ wife while she was alone on the farm doing chores, had killed her, and fled. The 66-year-old criminal defense attorney pointed to the fact that investigators collected DNA from under Amy’s fingernails, but said it was unclear if it ever tested it, which he said could have potentially led to another suspect and cleared Mullis.
The couple’s teenage son, who found his mother’s body, initially told authorities that he had only been separated from his father for just under two minutes the morning Amy was killed, but later was unable to confirm the exact window.
Feuerhelm, who described the case as an Iowa “murder mystery novel,” said Mullis was in “disbelief” over the conviction, which carries a life sentence without parole.
“Of course, we’re disappointed,” said Feuerhelm, who said he plans to file post-trial motions challenging the jury’s decision.
The Delaware County Attorney’s office said no date has been set for Mullis’ sentencing.
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