Todd Mullis took the stand at his own trial on Thursday.
Mullis is charged with First Degree Murder in the death of his wife, Amy. He is accused of stabbing her in the back with a corn rake on their farm near Earlville on November 10, 2018. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prior to Todd’s testimony on Thursday afternoon, the State called their final two witnesses – including Delaware County Sheriff’s Deputy Travis Hemesath, who also serves as an investigator for the department. He processed the crime scene and analyzed the area the evening of Amy’s death. He said he performed 30 to 34 interviews and issued 19 search warrants, including on Todd’s iPad and Todd, Amy and Trysten’s cell phones. Deputy Hemesath said a search history of the iPad showed searches such as “organs of the body” four days before her murder and “killing unfaithful women”, as well as numerous other searches and visits to websites about cheating women. Deputy Hemesath testified that Todd was initially hesitant to turn over his iPad to authorities. The Defense argued there were also searches for Pinterest and bridal shops, asking “Why would Todd Mullis search for those things?”, arguing that Amy could have made searches on Todd’s iPad if she had access to the password.
A search warrant on Amy’s Gmail account showed her last email was sent at 10:14 am to Jerry Frasher. The 911 call made by Todd Mullis came in at 12:01 pm.
Deputy Hemesath also noted a security camera system was set up on the farm, with two cameras – one displaying the center of the yard, the other positioned towards the red shed where Amy was found. A DVR recording system was taken as part of the investigation, but Deputy Hemesath says they were not able to obtain any video from the camera pointing at red shed. Part of the recording of other camera was missing in the days surrounding her death, with video starting back up again the day after Amy’s death.
Deputy Hemesath said Todd was the main suspect during the three and a half month long investigation. Jerry Frasher was initially a person of interest, but email and phone records put him in and around Anamosa from 10:40 am to almost 1 pm that day, so he was ruled out as a suspect. He said Jerry’s wife, Kristy Frasher, was interviewed and never considered a suspect.
He also said DNA testing was not performed on the corn rake – he had inquired about Touch DNA evidence, but they no longer do due to inconsistencies.
The State then called their final witness, special agent Jon Turbett with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. Turbett interviewed Jerry Frasher on November 14th and followed that up by talking to his wife and son.
Turbett interviewed Todd at the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office on November 16th, talking to him for two and a half hours. He asked Todd about the events of November 10th. Todd told Turbett his marriage was “good, healthy”. He says Todd did not initially admit to confronting Jerry Frasher about an alleged affair with Amy. Turbett says when he told Todd “it was a homicide and you did it”, he did not deny it. Turbett testified, “I said, ‘The evidence is overwhelming. It is a homicide. You killed Amy.’ He just sits there.”
A video of the police interview between Turbett and Todd Mullis is then shown to the jury. Turbett, who does most of the talking in the video, tells Todd, “We both know what happened…” to which Todd replies, “You want me to confess to something I didn’t do?”
Turbett tells the jury he took photos of Todd – his hands, face, neck, body – and noticed no injuries. Turbett had also observed Jerry’s body and noticed no visible injuries.
The State questioned, “Did you ask for analysis of the fingernail clippings?” Turbett said no – that would be used in a “who done it” case – this was not that kind of case because they had a clear suspect.
The Defense questioned why no other suspects? Turbett replied, “We have to go where the evidence takes us. Other than the initial suspects of Todd (and Jerry), there is no evidence to indicate anyone else on the property.” As the investigation continued, he says it always led back to Todd.
The Defense’s final question to Turbett, “All I’m asking… could those fingernail clippings have led to someone else?” to which Turbett said “Sure”.
The State had no other witnesses to call, so Judge Thomas Bitter called for a break – that break didn’t happen as the Defense suddenly presented a Motion for Judgment of Acquittal (to dismiss the case), arguing that there was not enough evidence for conviction. The State objects, saying “in this case, the evidence is clear”. Judge Bitter sided with the State – saying the internet searches, defendant at the scene in close proximity, testimony of the witnesses, video of the police interview, etc. is all evidence the jury can use. The Defense’s motion was denied.
The Defense then called their first witness – Todd’s brother, Mike Mullis. Mike said he knew the password to Todd’s iPad. “Everybody knew what the password was.” Mike also testified that he also had security cameras on his farm that didn’t always work.
The Defense then called Michael Krogmann of Troy Mills as their second witness. Krogmann testified he was in the Earlville area on November 10th and followed the deputy car into Brian Krogmann’s driveway, where he saw Todd and Amy’s truck pulled over. He said he grabbed Trysten and turned him away from Amy, who was on the ground where emergency personnel were doing CPR on her.
The Defense then called the Defendant, Todd Mullis, to the stand to testify, a rare move in First Degree Murder cases. Todd testified that their marriage seemed to be progressing after they started seeing a marriage counselor after Amy’s first affair. Todd said Amy didn’t complain to him about Todd being too restrictive, contrary to what witnesses earlier this week had said. He testified that it was Amy’s decision to quit her job at Regional Medical Center and that she seemed “overwhelmingly happy” with being a stay-at-home mom. Todd said he confronted Jerry Frasher, but still had some doubt and contacted Jerry’s wife. He later called to apologize to both. He kept a friendly business relationship with Jerry up until Amy’s death. At the end of August 2018, Todd said Amy told him there may be rumors of an affair. “I thought about it for a day or two and then let it go.”
The Defense asked Todd about his iPad use – he said others used it too, including Amy. Todd testified Amy had the password. He said he did not do any searches on cheating wives, but did not know who did. He also had an explanation for the other searches – including “how were cheating spouses killed in Aztec tribes” (“We watched the History Channel a lot… would lead to some searches”) and “organs in the body” (done by Todd’s daughter, Taylor).
Todd was asked to talk about the day of Amy’s death, November 10th. He says he, Amy and Trysten were in the hog barn working. Amy was cleaning light fixtures in the barn when she started feeling dizzy. She reluctantly agreed to go in the house and get the pet carrier out of the red shed first. Todd testified he and Trysten kept working, with Trysten stepping out for a “matter of seconds” to get a drink of water. The Defense asked if Todd if ever left the barn during that time, to which Todd said, “No, I did not”.
Todd testified they worked for about another hour or so when they noticed the pet carrier was not where they asked Amy to put it. Trysten went to check on Amy and yelled over to Todd, who yelled back “What?” When Trysten yelled again, Todd ran over. Todd said Trysten seemed speechless, just saying “Mom…” That’s when Todd said he looked over and saw Amy hunched over leaning against the door. He said he picked her up and put her in the truck. “Yes, I was excited… I had adrenaline pouring out of my ears… I was in reaction mode.” He told the Defense he remembered saying to people in the hours that followed, “I don’t know what happened… I think she fell on a corn rake.”
After making the 911 call, meeting emergency personnel on the road in the truck and going to Regional Medical Center where he found out she had died, Todd testified that he cooperated when Deputy Luke Thomsen asked him to come to the Sheriff’s Office to talk about what happened. He said he then went back to the hospital to wait for Amy’s family. In the days that followed, he said he made plans for Amy’s wake and funeral – and didn’t sleep much.
Todd testified that he never expected to be accused of his wife’s murder. Regarding his interview with special agent Turbett in the police video, Todd said “Yes, I did deny killing Amy… I said ‘You want me to confess to something I didn’t do?’ I tried several times to explain things and he didn’t give me a chance to say two words.”
Todd testified that he did not know the security cameras were not operating. The day after Amy’s death, it was suggested that he check the cameras, thinking it may have shown what happened. He said that when he noticed the camera equipment had been knocked down by the cats that had climbed into the nearby window.
The Defense asked Todd, “Did you ambush your wife Amy in the shed that day and brutally beat her and chop her up with that corn rake?” to which he replied, “No, I didn’t.”
Defense: “Do you know who did?” Todd: “…I have no idea.”
The State will perform cross-examination on Todd Mullis will take place first thing Friday morning. The jury could deliberate as early as Friday afternoon.
photos courtesy of Telegraph Herald