A Delaware County farmer who learned his wife was cheating on him is guilty of first-degree murder for repeatedly impaling her in the back with a corn rake and leaving her body to be discovered by the couple’s teenage son, a jury concluded Monday.
Todd Mullis, 43, rolled his eyes as the verdict was read. He later was shackled and led from the courtroom. A first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory life prison term.
Prosecutors said Mullis killed his wife, Amy, 39, with the corn rake on Nov 10, 2018, on their farm in rural Earlville.
They argued the hog-and-soybean farmer had an obvious motive: Not only was he angry she was having an affair and wanted to end their 14-year marriage, he feared losing half his land and potentially millions of dollars if she filed for divorce.
Amy Mullis was discovered in the farm’s shed by her then-13-year-old son — a corn rake sticking out of her back.
Todd Mullis, taking the stand last week in his own defense, recalled the moment when he joined his son in the shed.
He saw his wife hunched over, raised her head and tried to get a response, he testified.
“I picked up her up a little bit. It was nothing — no response,” he said.
Initially, Todd Mullis told authorities it must have been an accident, that she fell on the rake. But that theory quickly fell apart after a state forensic investigators determined Amy Mullis was stabbed at least twice — maybe three times — with the corn rake tines.
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As the trial began last week, defense attorney Jake Feuerhelm surprisingly told the jury there was no doubt Amy Mullis was “viciously and deliberately murdered.”
But he said there were plenty of reasons to question whether his client was the one who did it.
“Todd, did you ambush your wife, Amy, in the shed that day and brutally beat her and chop her up with that corn fork?” the defense asked him on the witness stand.
“No I did not,” Todd Mullis answered.
“Do you know who did?’ the defense asked.
“I have no idea,” he replied.
Under the scenario put forth by the prosecution, Todd Mullis slipped away from being with his teen son in an office area that day to kill Amy Mullis, but then pretended not to know where she had gone and asked his son to help find her,
A weak link in prosecution’s case was a lack of specificity in the timeline that day — the son, now 14, testified he had left his father alone in the office to go get a drink of water, but wasn’t able to say just how long he was gone.
During the trial, Jerry Frasher testified he was having an affair with Amy Mullis and that she feared her husband.
“I know she wasn’t happy,” said Frasher, a hog farm field manager. “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.”
Todd Mullis’ attorney suggested that Amy Mullis startled someone in the farm’s shed where she was found, prompting that person to impale her in the back while Todd Mullis was working in a nearby barn.
But prosecutors said Todd also had conducted internet searches on his iPad that spoke to premeditation — including “killing unfaithful women,” “what happens to cheaters in history” and “what happened to cheating spouses in historic Aztec tribes.”
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Todd, testifying in his defense, said he did not make those searches. His wife and children, he said, sometimes used the iPad instead.
Amy Mullis was born in Ames and graduated from Eldora-New Providence High School in 1997, according to her obituary from the Leonard-Muller Funeral Home & Crematory. She later graduated from Kirkwood Community College as a registered nurse and worked at UnityPoint-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids before joining the Regional Medical Center in Manchester. She left there after the birth of her children to help raise them and work on the farm operation.
The couple had three children, and it was not disclosed who is caring for them now.
The murder trial was moved on a change of venue from Delaware County to Dubuque County. Jurors spent nearly eight hours over two days deliberating the verdict. After it was read, the judge did not give a date for sentencing.
The Associated Press and the Washington Post contributed.