The Iowa Court of Appeals on Wednesday heard arguments over whether there was sufficient evidence to convict a Delaware County man of killing his wife.
Todd M. Mullis, 45, is appealing his first-degree murder conviction and mandatory sentence to life in prison without parole. He was convicted of killing Amy Mullis, 39, with a corn rake on Nov. 10, 2018, at their farm near Earlville.
“We believe this was an accident,” said Aaron Hamrock, an attorney for Todd Mullis, during the oral arguments. “We don’t believe this was a murder.”
The proceedings took place in Des Moines but also were livestreamed.
Hamrock said Todd and Amy Mullis, as well as their then-13-year-old son, Trysten, were working in a hog barn on Nov. 10, 2018.
Amy Mullis, who had a medical procedure a few days prior, left the barn after not feeling well. She then walked to a shed to retrieve a pet carrier at her husband’s request.
Todd Mullis and his son continued to work in the hog barn for about another hour and a half, and Trysten went to get two drinks of water during that time.
“We don’t have an exact amount of time it took to get two drinks of water, but with common sense, we know that it wouldn’t be more than a few minutes,” Hamrock said.
In order for the murder to have been committed in those few minutes, Hamrock said, Todd Mullis would have had to run more than 100 yards to the shed, attack his wife and return to the hog barn without seeming out of breath or disheveled.
“It would have been physically impossible for Mr. Mullis to have traveled the only way he could’ve gone and not be seen,” Hamrock said.
But Iowa Assistant Attorney General Bridget Chambers argued that just because Trysten did not see his father leave the hog barn does not mean it did not happen.
“He was not keeping track of where his father was every second that morning,” she said. “He had no reason to have a heightened awareness of where his father was.”
Attorneys also argued over whether Amy Mullis’ death could have been an accident. She sustained six wounds, though the corn rake had four tines.
Hamrock said Amy Mullis could have fallen onto the corn rake, especially after feeling dizzy from a medical procedure.
“Did she slip or fall again? She could have,” he said. “... That’s certainly an explanation to there being six puncture wounds.”
Chambers argued that a jury could “extremely, reasonably determine” that Amy Mullis did not get her wounds by falling twice on her back.
“Those wounds are not superficial scratches,” Chambers said. “Those are deep, penetrating wounds.”
Chambers noted that Todd Mullis had motive to kill his wife, as he knew she was having an affair and that he could have lost part of the farm if the couple divorced.
“The evidence of Todd Mullis’ guilt is simply overwhelming,” Chambers said.
The Court of Appeals will file a written decision in the case at a later time.