A verdict in the closely watched murder trial of an Earlville, Iowa, man will have to wait until next week.
The jurors in the Todd M. Mullis case in Dubuque have been excused for the weekend. They will return to the Dubuque County Courthouse on Monday morning to resumed their deliberations.
They spent about two and a half hours deliberating today before being excused.
A prosecutor this afternoon argued that it was impossible that someone other than Todd Mullis killed his wife, saying that such a person would have had to have known she was alone in another building and then impaled her with a corn rake without being noticed by him or his son.
“How would this person know that Amy was going to the shed?” asked Iowa Assistant Attorney General Maureen Hughes. “Is there somebody waiting there, hoping that there is a murder weapon there?"
Hughes said Amy Mullis had been scared of her husband, expressing concerns about her safety to friends and family.
Hughes also argued that internet searches completed on Todd Mullis' iPad show that he had considered the killing for some time, saying it was highly unlikely that anyone else would have used the device to search for phrases regarding murder and infidelity.
Hughes said Mullis planned his wife’s killing, then waited for her to undergo a medical procedure as a way of providing an excuse for why she would fall on a corn rake.
She also highlighted the testimony of Trysten Mullis, the 14-year-old son of the couple, who was working with his father in a barn when the killing occurred.
During a deposition, Trysten had said his father was out of his sight for one minute, 40 seconds, but testifying Tuesday, the teen said that time estimate was inaccurate, though he did not provide a new time estimate.
“He will not commit to a time because he does not know how long he was separated,” Hughes said in her closing argument.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Gerald “Jake” Feuerhelm said Trysten Mullis’ testimony showed there was little time for Todd Mullis to sneak out of the hog barn, head to the shed and kill his wife.
Feuerhelm also questioned the validity of statements that Amy Mullis made to her friends about how she feared Todd Mullis, instead characterizing them as her trying to slander her husband as a justification for her engaging in another affair.
“Amy is justifying her actions,” Feuerhelm said. “She is making Todd the bad guy.”
Feuerhelm insisted that someone else killed Amy Mullis, saying that the shed door had been frozen open the night before and that someone might have snuck in. The following day, Amy Mullis possibly scared that person in the shed, which prompted that person to kill her.
The defense also attacked the claim that Todd Mullis whispered “cheating whore” while on the phone with 911 operators. Feuerhelm said he actually said, “She’s cold,” but he could not be understood because he was panicked.
“You’re going to do that on a 911 call,” Feuerhelm said. “That is a Hail Mary by the state here, folks.”
Feuerhelm argued that the death investigation was too narrow and focused on proving Todd Mullis' guilt rather than exploring other options.
He noted that investigators did not test Amy Mullis' fingernail clippings, which could have pointed them toward another suspect.
Closing arguments wrapped up at about 2 p.m. today, at which point the jurors were dismissed to begin their deliberations.
Prosecutors this morning cross-examined an Earlville, Iowa, man accused of killing his wife, asking him about the day of the woman's death and a series of internet searches that performed on his iPad.
The questioning came on the fourth day of testimony in the first-degree murder trial of Todd M. Mullis, 43, at the Dubuque County Courthouse.
Iowa Assistant Attorney General Maureen Hughes questioned Mullis when he took the stand this morning.
She probed for details about Nov. 10 -- the day of Amy Mullis' death.
Todd Mullis said his wife chose to go outside and assist with chores on their farm that day, despite recovering from a recent surgery.
He recalled that there were several times when Amy Mullis appeared to be dizzy, which he attributed to the recent procedure.
“I was concerned,” Mullis said. “I don’t know if I was extremely concerned. I just asked if she was OK.”
Mullis said Amy Mullis insisted on staying out to help.
Later, it was determined that a pet carrier needed to retrieved from the shed. When asked whose idea it was to have Amy retrieve the pet carrier, Mullis said it was a joint decision between him and his son, Trysten.
“It was both of us really,” Mullis said.
Amy later was found unresponsive in that shed, impaled by a corn rake.
Hughes asked Mullis what he and his son were doing during that time period. Mullis said they were working a hog barn about 150 feet away.
Asked if he heard any kind of struggle or Amy screaming, he said he had not.
He also said he didn't hear any vehicles pull up or footsteps outside.
“I heard what we were doing,” Mullis said.
Mullis later was asked if he could think of anyone that would have wanted to kill his wife. Mullis said he could not.
Mullis also was questioned about internet searches that were done on his iPad.
He said he was not the person who searched for the phrases “characteristics of cheating woman,” (sic) “did ancient cultures kill adulterers,” and “killing unfaithful women."
However, he said he was responsible for searching for the phrases “thrill of the kill” and “once you want man, you will always feel the thirst."
When later asked by defense lawyer Gerald “Jake” Feuerhelm about those searches, Mullis said he heard a quote in a movie that he watched with his wife, and he was trying to find its origin.
“It ended up being Ernest Hemingway,” Mullis said. “We were trying to figure it out.”
Toward the end of questioning by the prosecution, Maureen Hughes played the audio from the 911 call that Mullis made while driving Amy Mullis to the hospital. En route, Mullis was told to stop and start performing CPR while waiting for emergency responders.
Hughes played a short section of the call when Mullis was performing CPR.
After hearing distorted whispering toward the end of the clip, Hughes paused the audio and asked Mullis, “Did you whisper ‘cheating whore’ right there?”
“No,” Mullis said, not displaying any change in emotion.
Hughes then continued the clip until another portion of what sounded like distorted whispering could be heard, paused the audio and asked, “Right there, did you say ‘go to hell, cheating whore?’”
“No,” Mullis said.
As of 11 a.m., the questioning of Mullis had concluded and the defense rested. Closing arguments were to follow.
ORIGINAL STORY PRINTED IN FRIDAY'S EDITION
An Earlville, Iowa, hog farmer took the stand Thursday and addressed the central question in his first-degree murder trial.
“Todd, did you ambush your wife, brutally beat her and chop her up with a corn fork?” defense attorney Gerald “Jake” Feuerhelm asked his client, Todd M. Mullis, 43.
“No, I did not,” he replied.
“Do you know who did?” Feuerhelm asked.
Mullis’ voice cracked when he answered.
“I have no idea.”
Prosecutors say Todd Mullis fatally stabbed his wife, Amy L. Mullis, 39, with a corn rake on their farm on Nov. 10, then tried to make it look like an accident. Authorities said he was enraged over her latest affair.
His testimony Thursday came on the fourth day of his trial, which was moved to Dubuque over concerns about pretrial publicity.
On Thursday morning, an investigator said Todd Mullis’ internet history included searches for information about infidelity, historic punishment of cheating spouses and the placement of the organs of the body.
Deputy Travis Hemesath, of Delaware County Sheriff’s Department, said law enforcement used search warrants to seize all electronic devices in the Mullis home after Amy’s death. An ensuing warrant with Google produced 700 pages of Google search history associated with Todd Mullis’ iPad.
It covered Dec. 25, 2017, to four days before Amy Mullis’ death. The history included searches for topics including “was killing more accepted centuries ago,” “characteristics of cheating woman (sic),” “did ancient cultures kill adulterers,” “the thrill of the kill” and “once you hunt man you will always feel the thirst.”
Hemesath testified that the iPad was the possession of Todd Mullis and that other searches included ones for Jerry Frasher — the farm’s field manager who testified on Wednesday that he was having an affair with Amy right up until her death — and the field manager’s wife.
But while on the stand later in the day, Todd Mullis said at least three other people had access to the iPad and knew the password, including Amy.
“She’s the one who put (the password) in there for me,” he said.
He also addressed some of the search phrases that raised suspicions among law enforcement.
“We used the iPad a lot for research,” Mullis said. “Amy used it a lot. She would research price quotes. I didn’t track what she looked up.”
Asked about internet searches about cheating spouses, Mullis said, “I have no idea who looked that up.”
He was questioned about searches about Aztec punishments.
“We watched the History Channel a lot,” he said. “That often led to follow-up searches. We both would watch a show and look stuff up. If there was a movie, we might have talked about something like that.”
He also questioned about a search regarding the location of the body’s organs that was done on Nov. 6, 2018 — four days before Amy’s killing.
“That was the day of Amy’s (uterine procedure),” he said. “My daughter Taylor and I were sitting on the couch, and she was asking about (Amy’s) surgery.”
Asked about internet search queries concerning “gaping chest wounds,” Mullis said, “That was actually Taylor going through a hunter education program she was studying for.”
Defense attorneys noted that the batch of Google search results obtained by investigators also included queries about wedding dresses, designing wedding rings, bridal shops and Pinterest.
“I have no idea what Pinterest is,” Mullis said.
Special agent Jon Turbett, of Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, also took the stand Thursday.
He testified that, in a Nov. 16 interview, he confronted Todd Mullis with the medical examiner’s finding that Amy Mullis’ death was a homicide and that Todd Mullis was the suspect. The hog farmer remained unemotional.
“The most I get from him is, ‘How? What evidence do you have?’ He never denied killing Amy,” Turbett said.
Mullis never instructed Turbett to look for anyone else who could have killed his wife. Turbett said Mullis’ reaction was “very unemotional, very flat.”
On the stand, Mullis said that, in his mind, he denied the investigator’s assertion that he was responsible.
“I stated, ‘You want me to confess to something I didn’t do,’” Mullis said.
Mullis testified that Turbett’s rapid-fire interrogation style left little room for response.
“He wouldn’t give me a chance to say two words,” Mullis said.
Also during Turbett’s testimony, prosecutors showed jurors a video clip of the Nov. 16 interview.
Mullis initially characterizes his wife’s relationship with Jerry Frasher as strictly businesslike. Later, Mullis admits he confronted Frasher and Amy separately about a large number of text messages between the pair.
On the stand, Mullis testified that he called Frasher after noticing that Amy “was acting a little different, and I had looked at phone records and saw a large number of communications with him. I was curious. I wanted to know what was going on.”
Mullis said Frasher explained that the text messages were about showing pigs and children’s activities, such as gymnastics.
“He said, ‘I guarantee there is nothing going on,’ but I was a tad bit unsure,” Mullis said.
That uncertainty prompted him to call Frasher’s wife. Mullis testified that after speaking with both of them, his suspicions subsided.
Hemesath testified that Jerry Frasher was initially a “person of interest” in the case.
“We sought a search warrant for his cellphone activity and his Gmail records,” the investigator said.
Using cellphone tower data, investigators determined that Frasher never strayed from his home in Anamosa, Iowa, between 10:14 a.m. Nov. 10, when he sent an email to Amy, and 12:01 p.m., when Todd Mullis called 911 to report his wife’s injuries.
The Mullises’ son Trysten testified on Tuesday that he found his mother impaled by a corn rake when he went to check a shed on the family’s farm for a pet carrier. He called for his father immediately.
On the stand Thursday, Todd Mullis testified about the next moments.
“When I stepped in, I looked over and I seen (sic) Amy hunched up, facedown,” he said. “I dove down by her and put my head down next to hers. ‘Amy! Amy!’ I was yelling at her. I picked her head up a little bit but there was no response.”
Feuerhelm asked why Mullis began driving his wife to the hospital, then placed a 911 call.
“I’m a doer,” he said. “I just wanted to help her go to the hospital. There was something wrong.”
Court adjourned Thursday afternoon before prosecutors had an opportunity to cross-examine Mullis. The trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. today.