Produced by Betsy Shuller, Lisa Freed and Lauren Clark
It was a fall day in 2018 when Amy Mullis was found seriously 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 teeth, but doctors who examined it found six puncture wounds.
Police began investigating Mullis’ husband, Todd Mullis, after learning he was considering leaving him. However, Todd Mullis had an alibi: their 13-year-old son.
The investigation revealed that what appeared to be a good marriage was actually one broken up by Amy’s affairs. A divorce could have divided the family and could 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 into the defense case. “You know, she was … very bubbly, outgoing. … Suddenly one day she died.”
So what happened?
“This is not a long-range shot,” says Matthew Troiano, a legal expert hired by “48 Hours” to look into the prosecution case. “This is up close and personal.”
Todd Mullis told investigators that he didn’t know what had happened and that he assumed she had fallen on the rake. Her son told police he was with his father working in the 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 have saved his father?
THEIR HUSBAND OR SUSPECT?
In September 2019, nearly a year after Amy’s murder, family and friends filled the Dubuque County Courthouse as Chief Prosecutor Maureen Hughes described what she says happened to the woman they knew so well.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Amy Mullis was a beautiful young woman. He 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 to live. But that life was brutally snatched from her on November 10, 2018 at the hands of this defendant.
Amy’s husband, Todd Mullis – the hardworking farmer many saw as a devoted father to Trysten, Taylor and Wyatt – was on trial for first degree murder.
MAUREEN HUGHES: This brutal and senseless murder took place … in a town called Earlville.
Amy was found in a red shed in the family pig 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 brutally and deliberately murdered.
From the start of the trial – covered by Court TV – Todd Mullis’ attorney, Gerald Feuerhelm, had agreed with prosecutors that Amy was murdered, but claimed it wasn’t Todd who killed her.
GERALD FEUERHELM: I believe you will find … that there is reasonable doubt as to the guilt of Mr. Mullis.
Daniel Nesheiwat: There’s no way Todd could have killed Amy. He didn’t have the opportunity to do that.
“48 Hours” hired legal experts Daniel and Dina Nesheiwat to examine the evidence from the defense perspective and Matthew Troiano to examine the prosecution’s perspective.
Matthew Troiano: This is not a random third party. … This is not a long range shot. This is … intimate and personal. … as serious, brutal and violent as it comes.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Doctor, did you know Amy Mullis?
DR. CRAIG THOMPSON: I knew her as an emergency room nurse.
Dr. Craig Thompson was on duty the day Amy was rushed to hospital in Manchester, Iowa, where she once worked as a nurse.
DR. CRAIG THOMPSON: Shortly after arriving at the hospital, I realized that Amy Mullis had been pronounced dead.
The first thing that was said to Thompson, the medical director of emergency services: Amy’s death was a strange accident.
DR. CRAIG THOMPSON: Amy was injured when she fell on a … on a corn rake that was overturned.
Thompson is also a medical examiner and he needed to make sure his injuries matched that story.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Have you noticed or noticed any wounds on Amy?
DR. CRAIG THOMPSON: Well, specifically, he had six puncture wounds on his back.
DR. CRAIG THOMPSON: I found it very difficult to see how: four teeth could cause six holes in a single impact.
Jim Axelrod: Literally, 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 coroner’s office.
DR. KELLY KRUSE: So, she has a little abrasion or a scratch in the center of her upper lip …
Kruse found blunt wounds 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 into the autopsy suite.
DR. KELLY KRUSE: There were two different directions of the six puncture wounds.
MAUREEN HUGHES: And what do these different directions show you?
DR. KELLY KRUSE: They indicate to me that she should have been speared with the rake at least twice. … maybe three times.
Which meant the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office now had a murder to solve.
It was dark when Deputy Travis Hemesath arrived at the farm.
TRAVIS HEMESATH: I immediately went to the – the red shed. … And there were … a couple of drops of blood on the floor and that’s where I was described as being where it was placed. … I looked at all the equipment in there … for any other indication … like – blood marks … that would indicate a wound where she fell, anywhere else but where she was.
MAUREEN HUGHES: And did you observe anything?
TRAVIS HEMESATH: I didn’t.
Daniel Nesheiwat: He had noticed the few drops of blood, and with his eyes, he could not notice anything else, and had concluded the investigation at the red shed.
Daniel and Dina Nesheiwat wonder if Amy’s death was a murder.
Dina Nesheiwat: If this was a murder … and someone is stabbing Amy … Not once, not twice, but three times. … You’ll see drops of blood on the chemical bags, on the shed walls, on a suspect, you’ll see it on Amy. And none of this has been found.
The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t investigate many murders – Amy was only the fourth in the past 10 years, so they asked the Iowa Criminal Investigation Division for help.
The deputies have begun to dig into the Mullis’ marriage. They found out that Amy had cheated on Todd five years ago.
Dina Nesheiwat: Amy destroyed the foundation of their marriage, the trust of their marriage, by having an affair
Amy and Todd decided to try and fix it. They went to the consultation. Amy quit her job at the hospital to work on the farm. Todd said he wanted to spend more time with his family. But Amy told friends she had no choice.
TERRI STANER: She left because it was some kind of deal she made with her husband.
Jim Axelrod: The terms of the deal … is that Amy, you’re done in the hospital. … You returned to the farm. I’m watching you.
Matthew Troiano: Yeah. And Todd’s position is that she signed up for that. Right? We agreed that this was going to be the way it would go.
TERRI STANER: Todd took a long time. I don’t think he’s ever trusted Amy again.
In fact, she told Terri Staner that she felt like a prisoner.
TERRY STANER: he was very regulated with who he could do things…. it was kind of a joke, approved friends list – that he could really do things with Amy. It was scheduled when she left the house and when she returned.
Matthew Troiano: There was a sentence that said she was Todd’s prisoner. … So, this is pretty intense stuff. He’s controlling the behavior.
In 2018, Amy confided to friends like Patricia Christopherson that things weren’t 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 who assists in the investigation.
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: You were a loving husband, would you say? Have you been nice to your wife?
TODD MULLIS: You can ask anyone. I was…
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: Yes.
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT:… How would you describe your marriage to me?
TODD MULLIS: Quite tight actually.
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: Yes.
TODD MULLIS: Communication was great. We were together all the time, you know. I mean, it went well. … Yes, between us it was nice.
It just wasn’t the whole truth. In July 2018, five years after Amy’s relationship, Todd noticed a change in her.
Jim Axelrod: Your radar is active.
Matteo Troiano: His radar is active.
Jim Axelrod: Hey, wait a minute. I’ve seen this movie before.
Matthew Troiano: Yes. … and that raises a red flag.
Examining the phone records, Todd discovered that his wife had communicated with another man, Jerry Frasher, a field manager at Mullis Farm. Todd couldn’t see their 128 messages, but Matt Troiano says that when Todd confronted Frasher, he was told:
Matthew Troiano: Nothing happens. This is business stuff. … We are talking about children’s activities. … nothing scandalous.
Jim Axelrod: All those lyrics … were they about children’s activities and pig farming?
Matthew Troiano: Correct. This is the history.
Todd even called Frasher’s wife.
Daniel Nesheiwat: Jerry’s wife convinces him that everything is fine. … They have a happy marriage and she has no worries about her husband. And that puts his mind at rest.
But as investigators quickly discovered, Amy and Jerry Frasher were having an affair. This provided what they needed: a reason for Todd to kill her.
Matteo Troiano: The obvious choice is always the husband.
But Todd also had a hermetic alibi: his son, Trysten. Which means that while his father is being tried for his mother’s murder, Trysten will be the most important witness for both the prosecution and the defense.
Dina Nesheiwat: Everyone was on the edge of their chairs of, “What will the son say?
MAUREEN HUGHES: Now Trysten I would like to draw your attention to November 10, 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 14-year-old son Trysten. “48 Hours” has chosen not to show his face. He testified on 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 what was at stake. From the earliest moments of the investigation, Trysten had provided his father with an alibi. Legal expert Matthew Troiano says Trysten told police …
Matthew Troiano: “I am with my father.” … I haven’t lost sight of him. I’m with my father all the time “… he may not know, but his father is alibi. If they are together all the time, then it can’t be … attack his wife and kill her.
With the monitor in front of the jury, Trysten talked about the close bond he shared with his father.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: We used to go hunting, fishing, riding on four wheels. We cultivated together, of course.
The two often worked together on the farm. On the day Amy died, the two younger children stayed indoors while Amy joined Todd and Trysten in one of their large stables.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: It’s kind of an open barn … It’s about a hundred … along a football field.
Trysten described the division of labor: he was installing portable stoves that anticipated the delivery of piglets to the farm. Todd was installing the equipment that supplied water to the fences. Amy was cleaning the lights.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: He would climb into a bucket, a 5 gallon bucket, and then he would reach for these – the light bulbs in the ceiling. … Then, he would clean them.
Everything seemed fine until Trysten noticed that something was wrong with her mother.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: He said he was dizzy. … she had, when she got into a bucket, she had to keep herself from falling. And she got down, and her legs … she was a little shaky.
Trysten was worried. Four days earlier, Amy had undergone an outpatient medical procedure. This was the first time he left the house.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: I think I remember saying, you know, “Are you okay? Do you need help cleaning them?” And then dad asked for the same thing. … He just said “No”, like “I’m fine”.
But a little late Amy suffered another dizziness spell. According to Trysten, Todd worried.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: He said, “I don’t think it’s wise for you to stay here, because” you know, “I don’t want you to fall and hurt yourself.”
Trysten testified that Todd wanted Amy to go indoors to rest, but asked her if on the way she could get a pet carrier outside the red shed about 30 meters 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 was planning to use.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: He said, “If you can take it to the store, it would help … But if you can’t get it, drop it. We’ll get it.”
Amy left. Trysten said he and his father continued to work together for about another hour and a half in the barn, then headed to an office out front. It was then that Todd looked out the window and saw that the carrier was not where he had asked Amy to put it.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: So, he told me to take it myself.
MAUREEN HUGHES: He asked you to go to the red shed to check on your mother.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: She asked to go check her out, because, like, maybe we thought she was still struggling to get it – to get the pet cage, or maybe she just walked into 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 arrived at the red shed, he made the grisly discovery.
TRYSTEN MULLIS: It was a bit on the hands and knees, face down.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Did you see something sticking out or sticking out of your mother’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 my pulse on her, on her neck and arm … I’m just a little freaked out. … my anxiety level went from zero to 100 in about a split second.
Trysten yelled for her dad. Todd arrived, saw Amy and told Trysten to go get the family truck.
MAUREEN HUGHES: So what was your father doing?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: He was helping Mom out of the stable.
Because the opening inside the shed was so narrow, Todd would later tell the police that he had to remove the corn rake from Amy’s back to get her out. Todd then picked her up and carried her to the truck.
Matthew Troiano: Tristan gets into the passenger seat. Todd essentially puts Amy on top of Tristan [sighs] and guide.
Jim Axelrod: Can you imagine the trauma Tristan must feel? His mother on top of him as they leave with these severe injuries.
Matteo Troiano: Yes … massive bleeding. Yes, it’s – it’s terrible, right? It’s terrible.
Trysten described to the jury that as they ran to the hospital Todd called 911:
TODD MULLIS: I – I’m going there – I’m going to – Oneida.
OPERATOR 911: OK, so you’re headed to … where it’s okay, what’s the …
TODD MULLIS: The hospital … I just grabbed it and threw it in the truck.
Dina Nesheiwat: It’s hectic. He’s … excited. … When on the phone with 911, the switchboard operator says, “Can you pull over?” And so, it stops on the side of the road.
The first to arrive on the scene was Deputy Luke Thomsen.
VICE LUKE THOMSEN: I saw a young man who looked – like he had blood on his coat, and he stopped me as I stopped.
Thomsen rushed to help Amy.
VICE LUKE THOMSEN: He wasn’t responding and – he wasn’t breathing, he wasn’t throbbing. … She had a lot of blood on her – on her – on her clothes. … we grounded her and I … started doing chest compressions.
While Deputy Thomsen worked on Amy, he asked Todd what happened. Todd told him he wasn’t sure. But Todd also said that day that he suspected Amy had gotten dizzy and accidentally fell on the rake while trying to get the carrier. What about Trysten?
Jim Axelrod: Trysten tells the police what?
Dina Nesheiwat: His father was with him the whole time. He was with his father working on the pig farm the whole time.
So if Todd didn’t kill Amy, who did it?
Matthew Troiano: There was definitely someone else who had access to that farm … And that person was also having an affair with the Mullis and an affair with Amy Mullis.
That man Amy was having an affair with – Jerry Frasher – may have had his reasons for wanting Amy out of the game.
Dina Nesheiwat: Jerry Frasher had reason to kill Amy. He had a wife, he had children. He didn’t want to leave his family.
A DIFFICULT MARRIAGE
Dina Nesheiwat: Amy has often complained that Todd works too hard. … He preferred to stay at home when she preferred to go out. You know? At a certain point those opposites no longer attracted each other. And Amy sought attention elsewhere.
The attention came from Jerry Frasher. The married father of two managed the Mullis pig operation.
Matthew Troiano: … And it is in that capacity that he meets Amy.
Since she was the farm accountant, Matthew Troiano says it was normal for them to be in contact.
Matthew Troiano: And then it turns into a personal, romantic, sexual relationship.
Their relationship began in late May 2018.
MAUREEN HUGHES: How many times do you and Amy meet for this physical relationship?
JERRY FRASHER: It just depended. I mean, it was all very short. Maybe once a week. … Maybe more, depending on how it worked.
They met in secret on the farm, on the back roads, and occasionally in motel rooms.
MATTHEW TROIANO: Well, I think it was strictly or more sexual for Jerry than it was for Amy. … It seemed that Amy had very strong feelings … for Jerry.
And Patricia Christopherson told the jurors that Amy envisioned a future with him.
PATRICIA CHRISTOPHERSON: It made her happy. She had talked about wanting to marry him sooner or later.
But after Todd discovered those phone records and started asking questions, Frasher got nervous.
JERRY FRASHER: I told her we had to slow down.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Were you afraid Todd would find out about your relationship?
JERRY FRASHER: Yes.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Why?
JERRY FRASHER: Well, why you shouldn’t be.
But they continued to see each other. At the end of summer 2018, word had spread about Amy’s latest infidelity. Her friend Terri Staner says Amy was worried.
TERRI STANER: He said, “I’ll tell Todd that there are rumors out there, to stop this, so if he hears it, he’ll think it’s just the rumors.”
Dina Nesheiwat says Jerry Frasher also felt the pressure.
Dina Nesheiwat: He had a wife, he had children. … he didn’t want to leave his family. … He’s 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 a motive, he had means. He’s on that farm all the time. … He would have had the same reason as Todd.
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 quickly admitted the affair, but insisted he couldn’t kill Amy. He was at home in Anamosa, 45 minutes away. And just like Todd Mullis, his son was his alibi.
Jon Turbett: His college-age son – had excellent memories. … And so, they got up and spent all Saturday morning working and then watched college football.
Investigators checked Frasher’s cell phone records at the time of Amy’s murder.
Jon Turbett: We could see that Jerry Frasher’s cell phone had cell phone activity around 10:45 am, 11:45 am, 12:45 pm, all of this in Anamosa.
But Daniel Nesheiwat says …
Daniel Nesheiwat: If anyone wants to commit a murder … nowadays, know that you don’t bring your cell phone. Leave it at home.
Jim Axelrod: The ping of the cell phone only means that that is where the cell phone was.
Daniel Nesheiwat: Correct. It doesn’t mean where Jerry was.
Investigators concluded that Jerry Frasher was not involved and turned their attention back to Todd Mullis despite his alibi. Amy was rumored to want a divorce.
Matteo Troiano: This is the motivation.
Jim Axelrod: Because if she leaves and gets divorced, he loses the farm.
Matthew Troiano: Loses at least half. He pays her alimony, child support … Probably splits her life in half … So, she needs things to be together.
Investigators were particularly interested in what Amy had told her friends that Todd could do to her.
PATRICIA CHRISTOPHERSON: I asked her why she stayed and … she said she was afraid of Todd and if he found out – she wanted a divorce or a relationship that would kill her.
JERRY FRASHER: She once said that if he found out, she would disappear
He also told Terri Staner where to look for her on the Mullis estate.
TERRI STANER: He said, “Ter, if you ever come out, show him in our new wood.”
Staner feared that Amy’s relationship would provoke Todd.
TERRI STANER: I told her, you know, “Amy, you’re putting yourself in a really dangerous situation.” And then I said: “He will 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 hut long after Amy went to get the carrier.
Matthew Troiano: Why should he still be in the red shed?
Jim Axelrod: So, an education would be broader than just the red shed.
Matthew Troiano: Absolutely.
Jim Axelrod: Go see mom. Search the farm … So why should Todd choose the red shed of all possibilities?
Matteo Troiano: The prosecution would like you to believe they want Trysten to find Mom. He needs Amy to be located by someone other than him.
And then there was Todd’s interview with the police when Jon Turbett accused him of killing his wife.
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: At this point we have completed our investigation. And the facts of the case clearly show us that you are responsible for Amy’s death at this point.
TODD MULLIS: Am I responsible?
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: Yes.
TODD MULLIS: How?
Matthew Troiano says Todd’s reaction was revealing.
Matthew Troiano: If you are placed in an interrogation room and have nothing to do with your wife’s death, someone’s death, but you are wrongfully accused, you will react. You’re about to scream. You’re about to scream.
SPECIAL AGENT JON TURBETT: Todd, you were there. You were there.
Jim Axelrod: And none of this from Todd?
Matthew Troiano: No. Not enough.
But Dina Nesheiwat disagrees.
Jim Axelrod: How would you describe his reaction?
Dina Nesheiwat: Bewildered. “What? Me? Am I responsible?”
Jim Axelrod: If someone said, “You killed your wife”, would you have an emotional reaction to that?
Dina Nesheiwat: Everyone reacts differently to everything. … He tried to deny it several times. … And Todd also said, “… you want me to confess something I didn’t do.”
But what about Todd Mullis’ infallible alibi? It turns out there may be cracks in Trysten’s story.
AN AIR-TIGHT ALIBI?
Todd Mullis was the prime suspect in the death of his wife Amy. But he always had a solid alibi from his teenage son, Trysten. Trysten told authorities that he has been with his father all morning.
Jim Axelrod: Quanto è stato importante per Todd?
Dina Nesheiwat: Cruciale. … Quella era la sua grazia salvifica.
Ma tutto è cambiato pochi giorni prima del processo, quando Trysten è stato nuovamente intervistato e ha ammesso di non aver tenuto d’occhio suo padre per tutto il tempo. Trysten ha detto di aver perso di vista Todd un paio di volte quando Trysten è andato a prendere dell’acqua nell’ufficio nella parte anteriore del fienile.
Matthew Troiano: Questa non è la situazione che avevamo prima in cui Trysten dice che sono con lui tutto il tempo.
Jim Axelrod: Ho occhi su mio padre per tutto il tempo?
Matthew Troiano: Corretta.
Jim Axelrod: E una volta che non ce l’hai?
Matthew Troiano: Cambio di gioco.
In quell’intervista, Trysten ha stimato di essere andato via meno di un minuto ogni volta. Ma quando è stato interrogato dal procuratore Maureen Hughes al processo …
MAUREEN HUGHES: Ad un certo punto, hai perso di vista tuo padre?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: Sì.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Sai esattamente per quanto tempo tuo padre non è stato sotto i tuoi occhi?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: No.
MAUREEN HUGHES: Trysten, sarebbe esatto dire che non sai quanto tempo eri lontano da tuo padre quando eri a casa, quando lavoravi nella stalla dei maiali?
TRYSTEN MULLIS: Sì.
E con la dichiarazione rivista di Trysten, l’accusa ha insistito sul fatto che Todd avesse l’opportunità di uccidere Amy.
Matthew Troiano: Ogni affermazione che ha dato è stata sempre peggio per suo padre perché la prima era piuttosto ermetica.
Jim Axelrod: Cosa pensi che stia succedendo con 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. Non è possibile.
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 Todd’s 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 …”
Colpevole. 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?”
Earlier this month, 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 tutti 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.