The son of an Earlville woman who was allegedly murdered last fall testified at his dad’s trial on Tuesday.
14-year old Trysten Mullis gave his testimony to the jury via video conference from a location outside of the Dubuque County courtroom.
His dad, Todd Mullis, is accused of fatally stabbing his mom, Amy Mullis, with a corn rake on their farm near Earlville on November 10, 2018. He has pleaded not guilty to First Degree Murder.
Trial got underway Monday with jury selection, with twelve jurors and two alternates chosen. The courtroom was full on Tuesday morning, with members from both families present. The day started with opening statements.
The State’s prosecution team, represented by Assistant Attorney General Maureen Hughes and Delaware County Attorney John Bernau, began by telling the jury Amy was having an affair and was planning to leave Todd, but Todd “wasn’t going to let Amy leave and take half of his property”. Hughes called Todd “cold and calculated”, saying November 10th was the day he’d carry out his plan to kill her by stabbing her in the back with a corn rake while the couple worked with their oldest son, Trysten, on their family farm.
Todd’s defense attorneys, Gerald “Jake” Feuerhelm of Des Moines and Robert Sabers of Dubuque, agreed that Amy was murdered, but that the jury needs to decide “not who did it, but did Mr. Mullis do it?” Feuerhelm told the jury that in the months leading up to her death, Amy was having an affair with Jerry Frasier, who had been coming to the Mullis farm on a regular basis for business.
Several witnesses were called to testify on Tuesday, beginning with Amy’s brother, Jeff Fuller of Eldora, and her stepmother, Eileen Fuller of Iowa Falls. The two were questioned about their knowledge of the affair and conversations with Todd and Amy in the months leading up to Amy’s death.
Trysten was next to testify. He had a calm demeanor as he answered questions and rehashed the timeline of events on the day of his mom’s death. Though he remained poised during the trial, he said his mom’s death was a traumatic experience, with his “anxiety going from 0 to 100 in a split second”. As he was questioned by the State, he told the jury he had been working with his parents in a hog barn when his mom left the building to grab a pet carrier out of a nearby shed about thirty yards away. Trysten told the jury he and his dad continued working in the hog barn for about an hour and a half. Trysten originally said in his deposition earlier this month that Todd was out of his sight for a total of about a minute and forty seconds, but he now says he’s not sure how long it actually was. After not seeing the pet carrier outside where Todd had told Amy to place it, Todd told Trysten to “check on Mom” in the shed, which is where Trysten found Amy unresponsive on her hands and knees face down with a corn rake in her back. Trysten told the jury he did not see or hear anyone on their farm before his mom’s death. He testified he would never do anything to hurt his mom, and that he didn’t want anything bad to happen to his dad.
A recording of Todd’s 911 call was played for the jury. In the call, Todd sounded out of breath and appeared to have an urgent concern for Amy, telling the 911 operator “she fell on a fork!” and “she’s not responding”. He told 911 he had removed the corn rake from her back so he could get her out of the narrow door opening of the shed. The operator asked Todd if he was comfortable performing CPR, to which he replied, “I can try… I’ll try anything.” On the call, he can be heard attempting CPR with the operator’s guidance.
Delaware County Sheriff’s Deputies Luke Thomsen and Eric Holub were also called to the stand on Tuesday afternoon. Both deputies had responded to the 911 call made by Todd, who had jumped in the truck with Trysten – with Amy laying across Trysten’s lap – and started driving to the hospital while on the phone with 911. Deputy Thomsen, who met them along the way, said Todd told him he wasn’t sure what happened to Amy and described him as “excited, talkative, not a whole lot of emotion (not crying)”. Deputy Holub agreed that Todd seemed excitable and said Todd was having a hard time staying focused, concerned about the younger two children back at the house.
The four-tine corn rake was submitted as a piece of evidence, with Dr. Craig Thompson from Regional Medical Center in Manchester taking the stand to testify next. Dr. Thompson said he knew Amy, who had previously worked as an emergency room nurse at the hospital. After Amy had been pronounced dead at Regional Medical Center, Dr. Thompson performed a preliminary exam to determine an injury pattern, checking her entire body and taking photos. He noticed six puncture wounds across her back, which he told the jury got his attention because a corn rake typically only has four tines. Two of the puncture wounds were caused by upward strikes, while four were caused by downward strikes. Dr. Thompson also noticed other minor injuries (not puncture wounds), including to the bottom side of her jaw – which was what he described as a “clean” wound, likely caused by blunt force trauma such as a strike and not an accident such as falling. There were also abrasions to her kneecaps and knuckles. Photos of Amy’s injuries and clothing were also submitted as evidence and shown to the jury.
Todd Mullis listened quietly and intently throughout the testimonies on Tuesday.
Further testimony will come Wednesday, with trial getting underway at 9 am. Stay with Mix 94.7 KMCH for updates.
photos courtesy of Telegraph Herald