This story originally aired on September 26, 2020.
It was a fall day in 2018 when Amy Mullis was found grievously injured on her family farm in Earlville, Iowa. She was face down with a corn rake sticking out of her back. The farm tool had four steel tines, but doctors who examined her found six puncture wounds.
Police started investigating Mullis’ husband, Todd Mullis, after learning she was considering leaving him. However, Todd Mullis had an alibi – their 13-year-old son.
The investigation revealed what had appeared to be a good marriage was actually one fractured by Amy’s affairs. A divorce could have split the family apart and might have meant the loss of the farm, which was worth millions.
“Everyone knew Amy Mullis,” says Dina Nesheiwat, a legal expert hired by “48 Hours” to look at the defense’s case. “You know, she was … very bubbly, outgoing. … All of a sudden one day she’s dead.”
So, what happened?
“This is not a long-distance gunshot,” says Matthew Troiano, a legal expert hired by “48 Hours” to look at the prosecution’s case. “This is up close and personal.”
Todd Mullis told investigators that he didn’t know what happened and that he assumed she fell on the corn rake. His son told police he was with his father working in the hog barn when Amy was injured. But the number of puncture wounds, combined with the couple’s marital problems, led investigators to think otherwise. Todd Mullis was arrested and charged with Amy’s murder.
At trial, would Trysten’s testimony save his father?
GRIEVING HUSBAND OR SUSPECT?
In September of 2019, almost a year after Amy’s murder, family and friends packed the Dubuque County courthouse as lead prosecutor Maureen Hughes described what she says happened to the woman they knew so well.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Amy Mullis was a young and beautiful woman. She was 39 years old. She was a daughter, a sister … a friend, and a mother to her three young children. … Amy had so much life left to live. But that life was viciously taken from her on November 10th, 2018 taken at the hands of this defendant.
Amy’s husband, Todd Mullis — the hardworking farmer who many saw as a devoted father to Trysten, Taylor and Wyatt — was on trial for first-degree murder.
MAUREEN HUGHES: This brutal, senseless murder happened … in a town called Earlville.
Amy was found in a red shed on the family’s hog farm by her 13-year-old son, Trysten; she was face down with a corn rake sticking out of her back.
GERALD FEUERHELM: Amy Mullis was viciously and deliberately murdered.
From the start of the trial – covered by Court TV — Todd Mullis’ attorney Gerald Feuerhelm agreed with prosecutors that Amy had been murdered — but argued it wasn’t Todd who killed her.
GERALD FEUERHELM: I believe that you will find … that there’s a reasonable doubt about Mr. Mullis’ guilt.
Daniel Nesheiwat: There’s no way that Todd could have killed Amy. He did not have the opportunity to do this.
“48 Hours” hired legal experts Daniel and Dina Nesheiwat to look at the evidence from the defense point of view, and Matthew Troiano to look at the prosecution’s perspective.
Matthew Troiano: This is not a random third party. … This is not a long-distance gunshot. This is … close and personal. … as serious and brutal and violent as it comes.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Doctor, did you know Amy Mullis?
DR. CRAIG THOMPSON: I knew her as a nurse in the emergency department.
Dr. Craig Thompson was on duty the day Amy was rushed to the hospital in Manchester, Iowa, where she once worked as a nurse.
DR. CRAIG THOMPSON: Shortly after arrival at the hospital, I — understood that — Amy Mullis had been pronounced dead.
The first thing Thompson, the medical director of emergency services, was told: Amy’s death was a freak accident.
DR. CRAIG THOMPSON: Amy had been injured falling on a — on a corn rake that was upended.
Thompson is also a medical examiner, and he needed to make sure her injuries matched that story.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Did you notice any — or observe any injuries on Amy?
DR. CRAIG THOMPSON: Well, notably, she had six puncture wounds across the back.
DR. CRAIG THOMPSON: I found it very difficult to see how — four tines could cause six holes in a single impact.
Jim Axelrod: Literally, the math doesn’t add up.
Matthew Troiano: Yeah. It’s — it’s basic math. … we have a problem here.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Dr. Kruse, did you perform an autopsy on Amy Mullis?
DR. KELLY KRUSE: I did.
Thompson contacted Dr. Kelly Kruse, a forensic pathologist for the State Medical Examiner’s Office.
DR. KELLY KRUSE: So, she has a small abrasion or a scrape in the middle of her upper lip …
Kruse found blunt force injuries to Amy’s face, hands and knees — possible evidence of a struggle.
DR. KELLY KRUSE: This is a photograph of the corn rake that was brought to the autopsy suite.
DR. KELLY KRUSE: There were two different directions of the six puncture wounds.
MAUREEN HUGHES: And what do those different directions indicate to you?
DR. KELLY KRUSE: To me they indicate that she would have to be impaled with the rake at least twice. … possibly three times.
Which meant the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office now had a murder to solve.
It was dark by the time Deputy Travis Hemesath arrived at the farm.
TRAVIS HEMESATH: I went immediately to the — the red shed. … And there were … a couple of drops of blood on the floor and that’s where it was described to me that that’s where she was positioned. … I looked on all the equipment in there … for any other indication … such as — blood markings … that would indicate an injury where she had fa — had fallen, anywhere else but where she was located.
MAUREEN HUGHES: And did you observe anything?
TRAVIS HEMESATH: I did not.
Daniel Nesheiwat: He’d noticed the few drops of blood, and with his own eyes, couldn’t notice anything else, and had concluded the investigation at the red shed.
Daniel and Dina Nesheiwat wonder whether Amy’s death was even a murder.
Dina Nesheiwat: If this was a murder … and somebody is stabbing Amy … Not one, not two, but three times. … You’re gonna see blood drops on the chemical totes, on the shed walls, on a suspect, you’re gonna see it on Amy. And none of that was found.
The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t investigate many homicides – Amy’s was only the fourth in the last 10 years, so they asked for help from Iowa’s Division of Criminal Investigation.
Deputies began digging into the Mullis’ marriage. They discovered Amy had cheated on Todd five years earlier.
Dina Nesheiwat: Amy crushed the foundation of their marriage, the trust of their marriage– by having an affair
Amy and Todd decided to try to work it out. They went to counseling. Amy quit her job at the hospital to work on the farm. Todd said she wanted to spend more time with her family. But Amy told friends she had no choice.
TERRI STANER: She left because it was kind of a deal she made with her husband.
Jim Axelrod: The terms of the deal … is that Amy, you’re done in the hospital. … You’re back on the farm. I’m keeping my eye on you.
Matthew Troiano: Yeah. And Todd’s position is she signed up for that. Right? We agreed that this was gonna be the way it was gonna go.
TERRI STANER: It took Todd a very long time. I don’t think he ever really trusted Amy again.
In fact, she told Terri Staner she felt like a prisoner.
TERRY STANER: it was very regulated who she could do things with…. it was kind of a joke, the approved friend list — that could actually do things with Amy. She was timed when she left home and when she got back.
Matthew Troiano:There was a line that was used that she was a prisoner of Todd. … So, this is pretty intense stuff. It’s controlling behavior.
By 2018, Amy was confiding in friends like Patricia Christopherson that things were not going well.
PATRICIA CHRISTOPHERSON: She wasn’t happy — in her marriage and she hadn’t been happy for many years.
But Todd told a very different story to Jon Turbett, a special agent assisting with the investigation.
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: Were you a loving husband, would you say? Were you kind to your wife?
TODD MULLIS: You can ask anybody. I was…
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: Yeah.
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: …How would you describe your marriage to me?
TODD MULLIS: Pretty tight actually.
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: Yeah.
TODD MULLIS: Communication was great. We, we were together all the time, you know. I mean, we, it was good. … Yeah, between us it was good.
It just wasn’t the whole truth. In July of 2018, five years after Amy’s affair, Todd had noticed a change in her.
Jim Axelrod: His radar is up.
Matthew Troiano: His radar’s up.
Jim Axelrod: Hey, wait a minute. I’ve seen this movie before.
Matthew Troiano: Yup. … and that raises a red flag.
Going over phone records, Todd discovered his wife had been communicating with another man, Jerry Frasher, a field manager for the Mullis farm. Todd couldn’t see their 128 texts, but Matt Troiano says when Todd confronted Frasher, he was told:
Matthew Troiano: Nothing going on. This is a business stuff. … We’re talking about kid’s activities. … nothing scandalous.
Jim Axelrod: All those texts … they were all about kids activities and the pig farm?
Matthew Troiano: Correct. That’s the story.
Todd even called Frasher’s wife.
Daniel Nesheiwat: Jerry’s wife convinces him everything is fine. … They have a happy marriage and she has no concerns about her husband. And that puts his mind to rest.
But as investigators quickly discovered — Amy and Jerry Frasher were having an affair. That provided what they needed: a motive for Todd to kill her.
Matthew Troiano: The obvious choice always is the husband.
But Todd also had an air-tight alibi: his son, Trysten. Which means as his father is tried for the murder of his mother, Trysten will be the most important witness for both the prosecution and the defense.
Dina Nesheiwat: Everyone was on the edge of their seats of, “What’s the son gonna say?
MAUREEN HUGHES: Now Trysten I’d like to direct your attention to November 10th, 2018. Do you remember that day?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: Yes.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE RED SHED?
One of the most anticipated witnesses at Todd Mullis’ murder trial was Todd and Amy’s now-14-year-old son Trysten. “48 Hours” has chosen not to show his face. He testified via closed-circuit TV.
JUDGE BITTER: Do you swear that the testimony you give here today will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: Yes, your honor.
Everyone knew the stakes. From the first moments of the investigation, Trysten had provided an alibi for his father. Legal expert Matthew Troiano says Trysten told police …
Matthew Troiano: “I’m with my dad.”… I didn’t lose sight of him. I’m with my dad the whole time” … he may not know it, but he’s alibiing his father. If they are together the whole time, then he can’t be … assaulting his wife and killing his wife.
With the monitor facing the jury, Trysten spoke of the close bond he shared with his dad.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: We would go hunting, fishing — go on a four-wheeler ride. We’d farm together, obviously.
The two often worked together on the farm. On the day Amy died, the two younger kids stayed in the house while Amy joined Todd and Trysten in one of their large hog barns.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: It’s kind of an open barn… It’s about a hundred … a football field long.
Trysten described the division of labor: he was setting up portable heaters anticipating a delivery of piglets to the farm. Todd was setting up equipment that provided water to the pens. Amy was cleaning the lights.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: She would get on a bucket, a 5-gallon bucket, and then she would reach up to these — the lightbulbs in the ceiling. … So, she would clean those out.
Everything seemed fine until Trysten noticed something was off with his mom.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: She said she was getting dizzy. … she had, when she got on a bucket, she had to hold herself from falling off. And she got down, and her legs– she was kinda shaky.
Trysten was worried. Four days earlier, Amy had undergone an outpatient medical procedure. This was her first time out of the house.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: I think I remember saying, you know, “Are you all right? Do you need help cleaning them?” And then Dad kinda asked the same thing. … She just said, “No,” like, “I’m fine.”
But a little while late Amy suffered another dizzy spell. According to Trysten, Todd became concerned.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: He said, “I really don’t think it’s wise for you to stay out here, ’cause,” you know, “I don’t want you falling off and getting hurt.”
Trysten testified Todd wanted Amy to go in the house and rest but asked if on her way she could grab a pet carrier out of the red shed some 30 yards away from the front of the barn. Todd told her he would need it later to round up a litter of kittens to protect them from some heavy machinery he planned to use.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: He said, “If you can get it to the shop, that would help. … But if you just can’t get it, then just leave it. We’ll get it.”
Amy left. Trysten said he and his dad continued working together for about another hour-and-a-half in the barn, then headed to an office at the front. That’s when Todd looked out the window and saw the pet carrier wasn’t where he had asked Amy to put it.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: So, he just told me to get it myself.
MAUREEN HUGHES: He asked you to go to the red shed to check on your mom.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: he asked to go check on her, ’cause, like, maybe we thought that she was still struggling to get it — to get the pet cage, or maybe she just went in the house. So … he just said, “Go check on Mom.”
MAUREEN HUGHES But he didn’t– he told you to go to the red shed.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: Yes.
When Trysten got to the red shed, he made the horrifying discovery.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: She was kinda on her hands and knees, facedown.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Did you see anything that was protruding or sticking out of your mom’s body?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: Yes.
MAUREEN HUGHS: What did you see?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: A corn rake.
MAUREEN HUGHS: What did you do?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: I checked for a pulse on her, neck and her arm … I– just kinda freaked out. … my anxiety level went from zero to 100 in about a split second.
Trysten screamed for his dad. Todd arrived, saw Amy, and told Trysten to go get the family truck.
MAUREEN HUGHES: And what was your dad doing then?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: He was helping mom out of the barn.
Because the opening inside the shed was so narrow, Todd would later tell police he had to remove the corn rake from Amy’s back in order to get her out. Todd then picked her up and carried her to the truck.
Matthew Troiano: Tristan gets into the passenger seat. Todd puts Amy essentially on top of Tristan [sighs] and drives.
Jim Axelrod: Can you imagine the trauma Tristan must be feeling? His mother on top of him as they’re driving away with these serious injuries.
Matthew Troiano: Yeah … massive bleeding. Yeah, it’s — it’s terrible, right? It’s terrible.
Trysten described to the jury that as they raced towards the hospital Todd dialed 911:
TODD MULLIS: I — I’m headed there — I’m about to — Oneida.
911 OPERATOR: OK, so you’re headed to — where OK, what’s the—
TODD MULLIS: The hospital … I just grabbed her, and I threw her in the truck.
Dina Nesheiwat: He’s frantic. He’s … excited. …When he’s on the phone with 911, the dispatcher says, “Can you pull over?” And so, he pulls over on the side of the road.
First to arrive at the scene was Deputy Luke Thomsen.
DEPUTY LUKE THOMSEN: I saw a young man look — like he had blood on his coat, flagging me down as I pulled up.
Thomsen rushed to help Amy.
DEPUTY LUKE THOMSEN: She was unresponsive and — not breathing, no pulse. … She had quite a bit of blood on her — on her — on her clothes. … we put her on the ground and I … started doing chest compressions.
While Deputy Thomsen worked on Amy, he asked Todd what had happened. Todd told him he wasn’t sure. But that day Todd also said he suspected Amy had become dizzy and accidentally fell on the rake while trying to get the pet carrier. As for Trysten?
Jim Axelrod: Trysten tells the police what?
Dina Nesheiwat: His dad was with him the whole time. He was with his dad working in the hog farm the entire time.
So, if Todd didn’t kill Amy, who did?
Matthew Troiano: There was certainly somebody else who had access to that farm … And that person also had a relationship with the Mullis’s, and a relationship with Amy Mullis.
That man Amy was having an affair with — Jerry Frasher — may have had his own reasons for wanting Amy out of the picture.
Dina Nesheiwat: Jerry Frasher had motive to kill Amy. He had a wife, he had children. He didn’t want to leave his family.
A TROUBLED MARRIAGE
Dina Nesheiwat: Amy often complained that Todd works too much. … He preferred to stay home when she preferred to go out. You know? At some point those opposites didn’t attract anymore. And Amy sought attention elsewhere.
The attention came from Jerry Frasher. The married father of two managed the Mullis’ hog operation.
Matthew Troiano: … And it’s in that capacity, that he meets Amy.
Since she was the farm’s bookkeeper, Matthew Troiano says it was normal for them to be in contact.
Matthew Troiano: And then it morphs into a personal, romantic, sexual relationship.
Their affair began in late May of 2018.
MAUREEN HUGHES: How often would you and Amy meet for this physical relationship?
JERRY FRASHER: It just depended. I mean, it was – everything was very short. It was maybe once a week. … Maybe more, depending on just how it worked out.
They would meet in secret on the farm, on back roads, and occasionally motel rooms.
MATTHEW TROIANO: Well, I think it was strictly or more sexual for Jerry than it was for Amy. … It seemed like Amy had very strong feelings … for Jerry.
And Patricia Christopherson told jurors Amy envisioned a future with him.
PATRICIA CHRISTOPHERSON: He made her happy. She had talked about wanting to get married eventually with him.
But after Todd discovered those phone records and began asking questions, Frasher got nervous.
JERRY FRASHER: I told her that we needed to slow down.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Were you afraid about Todd finding out about your affair?
JERRY FRASHER: Yes.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Why?
JERRY FRASHER: Well, why wouldn’t you be.
But they kept seeing each other. By late summer 2018, word was out about Amy’s latest infidelity. Her friend Terri Staner says Amy was worried.
TERRI STANER: She said, “I’m going to tell Todd that there’s rumors out there, to stop this, so if he hears it, he’ll think it’s just the rumor mill going around.”
Dina Nesheiwat says Jerry Frasher was also feeling pressure.
Dina Nesheiwat: He had a wife, he had children. … he didn’t wanna leave his family. … She is a threat to Jerry and his family.
So, when Amy was murdered just two months later, Jerry Frasher immediately became a person of interest.
Dina Nesheiwat: He had motive, he had means. He is on that farm all the time. … He would have had just as much motive as Todd did.
Special Agent Jon Turbett interviewed Frasher.
Jon Turbett: He sat next to me in my unmarked police vehicle and we talked for an hour-and-a-half.
Frasher readily admitted to the affair but insisted he couldn’t have killed Amy. He was home in Anamosa – 45 minutes away. And just like Todd Mullis, his son was his alibi.
Jon Turbett: His college-aged son–had excellent recall. … And, so, they had gotten up and spent all Saturday morning doing work and then they watched college football.
Investigators went through Frasher’s cell phone records at the time Amy was murdered.
Jon Turbett: We could see that Jerry Frasher’s cell phone had cell phone activity around 10:45, 11:45, 12:45, all of that down in the Anamosa.
But Daniel Nesheiwat says …
Daniel Nesheiwat: If someone wanted to commit murder … in today’s day and age know, don’t bring your cell phone. Leave it at home.
Jim Axelrod: The cell phone pinging only means that’s where the cell phone was.
Daniel Nesheiwat: Correct. Doesn’t mean where Jerry was.
Investigators concluded Jerry Frasher wasn’t involved, and they turned their attention back to Todd Mullis in spite of his alibi. Word was Amy wanted a divorce.
Matthew Troiano: That’s motivation.
Jim Axelrod: Because if she leaves and they get divorced, he loses the farm.
Matthew Troiano: Loses half at least. Pays her alimony, child support … Splits probably his life in half … So, he needs things to be together.
Investigators were especially interested in what Amy told her friends that Todd might do to her.
PATRICIA CHRISTOPHERSON: I asked her why she stayed and … she said she was scared of Todd and if he found out about – wanting a divorce or an affair that he would kill her.
JERRY FRASHER: One time, she did say that if he ever found out, she would disappear
She even told Terri Staner where to search for her on the Mullis property.
TERRI STANER: She said, “Ter, if I ever come up missing, make ’em – have ’em look in our new timber.”
Staner worried Amy’s affair would provoke Todd.
TERRI STANER: I told her, you know, “Amy, you’re putting yourself in a really dangerous situation.” And I said at that time, “He is going to kill you.”
MAUREEN HUGHES: And why did you say that?
TERRI STANER: Because Todd is just – the person you don’t mess with.
As they built their case, investigators began focusing on Todd’s actions the day Amy died; like sending Trysten to the red shed long after Amy had gone to get the pet carrier.
Matthew Troiano: Why would she still be in the red shed?
Jim Axelrod: So, an instruction would be wider than just the red shed.
Matthew Troiano: Absolutely.
Jim Axelrod: Go find mom. Search the farm… So why would Todd pick red shed of all the possibilities?
Matthew Troiano: The prosecution would want you to believe that he wants Trysten to find Mom. He needs Amy to be located by somebody other than him.
And then there was Todd’s police interview when Jon Turbett accused him of murdering his wife.
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: We’ve completed our investigation at this point. And the case facts clearly show us that you’re responsible for, for Amy’s death at this point.
TODD MULLIS: I’m responsible?
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: Yeah.
TODD MULLIS: How?
Matthew Troiano says Todd’s reaction was revealing.
Matthew Troiano: If you get put into an interrogation room, and you had nothing to do with the death of your wife, the death of anybody, but you are accused wrongly, you are gonna fight back. You’re gonna scream. You’re gonna yell.
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: Todd, you were there. You were there.
Jim Axelrod: And none of that from Todd?
Matthew Troiano: No. Not enough.
But Dina Nesheiwat disagrees.
Jim Axelrod: How would you describe his reaction?
Dina Nesheiwat: Baffled. “What? Me? I’m responsible?”
Jim Axelrod: If somebody said, “You killed your spouse,” would you have an emotional reaction to that?
Dina Nesheiwat: Everybody reacts differently to everything. … He tried to deny it several times. … And Todd even said, “… you want me to confess to something I didn’t do.”
But what about Todd Mullis’ airtight alibi? It turns out there may be some cracks in Trysten’s story.
AN AIR-TIGHT ALIBI?
Todd Mullis was the prime suspect in the death of his wife Amy. But he’s always had a solid alibi from his teenage son, Trysten. Trysten told authorities he was with his father all morning.
Jim Axelrod: How important was that for Todd?
Dina Nesheiwat: Crucial. … That was his saving grace.
But everything changed just days before the trial when Trysten was re-interviewed and admitted he did not have eyes on his father the whole time. Trysten said he lost sight of Todd a couple of times when Trysten went to get some water in the office at the front of barn.
Matthew Troiano: This is not the situation that we had before where Trysten is saying I’m with him the whole time.
Jim Axelrod: I have eyes on my dad the entire time?
Matthew Troiano: Correct.
Jim Axelrod: And once you don’t have that?
Matthew Troiano: Game changer.
In that interview, Trysten estimated he was gone less than a minute each time. But when he was questioned by prosecutor Maureen Hughes at the trial …
MAUREEN HUGHES: At some point, did you lose sight of your dad?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: Yes.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Do you know exactly how long your dad wasn’t in your sight?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: No.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Trysten, would it be accurate to say that you don’t know how much time you were away from your dad when you were in — when you were working in the hog barn?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: Yes.
And with Trysten’s revised statement, the prosecution insisted Todd had the opportunity to kill Amy.
Matthew Troiano: Every statement that he’s given has been worse and worse for his father because the first one was pretty airtight.
Jim Axelrod: What do you think’s goin’ on with Trysten?
Matthew Troiano: I think he’s like any other 13- or 14- or 15-year-old where … there’s probably, “I wanna try to do the right thing. I wanna try to maybe help my mom and help my dad” … And you know, that’s culminated in he has to testify against his father. It’s awful.
But there was still room for doubt. Trysten said he never saw blood on Todd. And that at no point while they were working together in the hog barn did his demeanor change. What’s more, Dina Nesheiwat maintains that no matter how long it took Trysten to get those drinks of water in the office. There was no way Todd had enough time to get from the hog barn to the red shed.
Dina Nesheiwat: To expect him to stab his wife with a corn rake, not once, not twice, possibly three times. Wait for her to make sure she’s dead and then come with no blood, no torn clothes, same composure as if nothing happened. It’s not possible.
Investigators didn’t have any physical evidence linking Todd to the scene. But they did have electronics from the Mullis farm, including a security camera system.
Matthew Troiano: There’s two vantage points for these cameras that look out over the property, one of which would’ve captured the area around the red shed. Not inside the red shed, but around the red shed.
And when investigators searched for any footage from the day Amy died …
Travis Hemesath: We were unable to find any video.
But strangely, one of the cameras had a recording from the next day.
Jim Axelrod: Well, now, that doesn’t seem to add up.
Jim Axelrod: Do you think he deleted the footage?
Matthew Troiano: I think that the reasonable explanation is that he deleted the footage.
To make matters worse for Todd, investigators found a series of disturbing internet searches on his iPad, including “what happens to cheaters in history,” “thrill of the kill” and “killing unfaithful women.”
Jim Axelrod: if I’m investigating a homicide and the guy I think committed the murder of his wife has been searching online about what happens to cheating wives, don’t I have an open-and-shut case? …
Matthew Troiano: It doesn’t look good.
With the prosecution’s case laid out, all eyes turned to Todd, who took the stand in his own defense.
Jim Axelrod: Were you surprised that Todd testified?
Matthew Troiano: You know, his reactions and — and his actions and what he does and doesn’t do are made such an important part of the case that the best person to explain that is Todd Mullis.
For about three hours, Todd calmly addressed the many questions swirling around him, including why he didn’t call 911 right away.
TODD MULLIS: I — I just wanted to — help her. I just wanted to — let’s – let’s go to the hospital there’s something wrong. … I’m a doer, I guess. I just — I wanted to help. … I was in reaction mode. I – I — wanted to get her to the hospital.
Todd also told the jury why there was no security camera footage from the day Amy died. He said he believed his cats had accidentally knocked the antennas off the window ledge while they were trying to find a warm spot to sit.
TODD MULLIS: The colder it gets, cats go to heat. And — there’s a heater right below the window, sun comes up in the morning, they sit in the window.
In fact, there were no recordings for nearly two weeks leading up to Amy’s death. And the reason one of the cameras suddenly started working the following day:
TODD MULLIS: It was the day after. I think after — talking to family members and stuff, they go …”do you have anything on the camera?” … So, I went out … I seen everything was knocked off, hanging down by the floor. … I picked it all back up. … I did not know how long it had — been off or whatever.
As for those internet searches about cheating spouses, when defense attorney Gerald Feuerhelm asked Todd if he had done them …
TODD MULLIS: No. I did not.
GERALD FEUERHELM: Did you know who did?
TODD MULLIS: I have no idea who looked that up.
Todd said other family members used the iPad, including Amy.
GERALD FEUERHELM: have you ever searched for wedding dresses?
TODD MULLIS: I have never searched for wedding dresses.
GERALD FEUERHELM: Did you ever do a Pinterest search?
TODD MULLIS: No.
GERALD FEUERHELM: Do you know what Pinterest is?
TODD MULLIS: I have no idea what Pinterest is.
Then came the question everyone wanted to know.
GERALD FEUERHELM: Todd, did — did you — ambush your wife, Amy, in that shed that day and brutally beat her and chop — chop her up with that corn fork?
TODD MULLIS: No, I did not.
GERALD FEUERHELM: Do you know who did?
TODD MULLIS: I have no idea.
In closing statements, the prosecutor left the jury with a final thought about Todd’s motive.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Why did he kill Amy? Because he didn’t want to lose his farm, because she was cheating. … You might not like that Amy was having an affair, but that doesn’t mean she deserved to die.
As for the defense …
GERALD FEUERHELM: The State has not proven a case against Todd Mullis beyond a reasonable doubt. . .. the dots don’t even remotely connect, here.
Dina Nesheiwat: There was zero physical evidence linking Todd to anything that happened.
With the weeklong trial complete, the jury was excused to deliberate and decide Todd Mullis’s fate.
A VERDICT REACHED
After a week of testimony, it was now up the jury to decide if Todd Mullis had murdered his wife Amy.
Matthew Troiano: I think the question is this. Not so much is Todd Mullis innocent of doing this … I think the more critical question is: Did the state prove that he did it?
An alternate juror, who asked that we not use her name, weighed all of the testimony and evidence as she watched the trial.
Jim Axelrod: From where you’re sitting, did the prosecution do a good job?
Alternate Juror: I personally just wish that they would have been able to provide more forensics evidence.
And some of the 12 jurors who went into the jury room to decide Todd Mullis’ fate felt much the same way. Another juror, who also did not want to use her name, said the jury was split going into deliberations.
Jim Axelrod: What was the initial feel?
Juror: There was probably half, at least, that said he was guilty. And then … the rest were undecided. … there were some that had difficulty saying he was guilty when there was no witnesses.
Jim Axelrod: This was a big deal that you were basically sifting through circumstantial evidence and there was no witness to the crime.
Juror: Yes. … it was a serious — a serious verdict to come up with.
After roughly seven hours of deliberation — a verdict.
JUDGE BITTER: “We the jury find the defendant, Todd Michael Mullis, guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree …”
Guilty. Amy Mullis’ family breathed a sigh of relief, and Todd Mullis subtly shook his head before being led out of the courtroom in chains. As the juror who spoke with “48 Hours” explained, the jury reached a consensus by going back through all the evidence.
Juror: … we talked about all the different scenarios it could have been and it was — we couldn’t come up with a plausible explanation. But then we went back to Todd and … all the points against him. … It was … a series of unfortunate events that … just didn’t add up.
Starting with Todd’s decision to take the corn rake out of Amy’s back and drive her away to get help before calling 911.
Juror: I didn’t understand why he didn’t call 911.
Jim Axelrod: And the fact that he chose not to, was that a big deal for you?
Juror: Yes, I think he wanted to get her away from the farm.
And, she says Todd did not do himself any favors by taking the stand.
Juror: To me he seemed cold. He was a cold fish. … you know, he was probably a man of few words, which a lot of farmers are. But, you know, when you talk about things that they’re passionate about, like their families or their farms, or … their wives, or — they usually can muster up some emotion.
Then, there were those internet searches.
Juror: We spent quite a bit of time going line by line down them … looking at the searches before, looking at the searches after. And … we concluded that they — it was him. … it wasn’t just a crime of passion … He had premeditation.
After being found guilty, Todd Mullis hired a new legal team. And submitted a motion for a new trial, as he awaited sentencing.
Matthew Troiano: So now, the issue is gonna become a legal issue of did he get a fair trial? Was anything done wrong that shouldn’t have happened?
Todd’s motion claimed that, among other things, Todd’s trial lawyers “blatantly disregarded” his guidance to argue that Amy died from an accident right from the start.
Dina Nesheiwat: When that happened, Todd wrote on a sheet of paper, “What the F was that?”
Jim Axelrod: The job of the defense lawyer is not to convince the jury that Todd is innocent, the job is to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury.
Dina Nesheiwat: He should never have closed that door. He should have left it open for — for the jurors to wonder, “Well, was it an accident or was it a murder?”
The judge ruled on the motion:
JUDGE BITTER: As to the defendant’s motion for a new trial, and motion in arrest of judgement, I will deny those motions in their entirety. … We will go ahead and proceed with sentencing at this time …
Before being sentenced, Todd Mullis took one last chance to address the court:
TODD MULLIS: I did not do this. This is supposed to be America where … You shouldn’t have to prove your innocence. … I thought it was guilty until — innocent until proven guilty. I feel this was the other way around. And, I was a faithful and loving husband …
JUDGE BITTER: Mr. Mullis, for the charge of murder in the first degree … you are sentenced to life in prison with no opportunity for parole.
Now, as Todd Mullis is left to appeal his conviction from prison, the ripples of Amy’s death continue to be felt by all who loved her.
Dina Nesheiwat: This case is a tragedy all around. You have three beautiful children that not only lost their mother … they lost their father at the same time …
Matthew Troiano: What Todd Mullis did, if he did do this, is he acted selfishly in his own best interest to remove a potential problem in his life. … But he didn’t think, or think enough, about his three kids and all of the other layers of trauma that would result.
Jim Axelrod: Four victims, not one?
Matthew Troiano: Yeah, at least. At least.
Todd and Amy Mullis’ three children – Trysten, Taylor, and Wyatt – are now with Amy’s family.
Produced by Betsy Shuller, Lisa Freed and Lauren Clark. Marc Goldbaum is the development producer. Kat Teurfs is the field producer. Gary Winter, Greg Kaplan, Michael McHugh and Diana Modica are the editors. Peter Schweitzer is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.