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The Corn Rake Killer: The Murder of Amy Mullis

“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, farming is the most dangerous job in America” (O’Leary, 2020). It comes as no surprise that farm accidents can leave farmers severely injured and sometimes cause death. On November 10th, 2018, a 911 call from an Earlville, Iowa farmer reported a horrible farm accident. The farmer told the operator he was on his way to the hospital with his wife who was bleeding severely after falling on a corn rake. The operator asked him to pull his truck over and begin CPR on his severely injured wife. This incident took the life of his wife, thirty-nine-year-old Amy Mullis. The medical examiner then through a curve ball at authorities when he ruled the death a homicide. This is the story of The Corn Rake Killer: The Murder of Amy Mullis.



Amy Lynn Fuller was born on January 23rd, 1979, to Robert and Peggy Fuller. She was raised in the Eldora area of Iowa and graduated from Eldora-New Providence High School in 1997. Amy chose to pursue a career in nursing and graduated as a Registered Nurse from Kirkwood Community College. She met Todd Mullis in 2003 at the Delaware County Fair. She married Todd in Manchester, Iowa, on September 11th, 2004. Amy and Todd welcomed three children, Trystan, Taylor, and Wyatt.

She was working as a nurse while her husband owned and operated a farming business that would eventually consist of three farming properties. She was a doting mother who absolutely loved her children. In addition to working on her family’s farm, Amy liked gardening, making t-shirts, hunting, fishing, and camping. She had many friends and was active in her community.

In 2013, Amy was growing bored in her marriage and started to have an affair with a man she met at work. When her husband learned of the affair, Amy quit her job at the hospital and became a full-time stay-at-home mother. According to Todd, Amy chose to do this to concentrate on repairing their marriage and raising their children. However, Amy’s close friends say that it was at Todd’s insistence that she stopped working as a nurse.


Around this time, the couple entered counseling and worked to repair the marriage. According to friends of Amy, Todd became very controlling and demanded Amy tell him everywhere she went. Her friends eventually came up with a nickname for Amy: P.O.T. which stood for “Prisoner of Todd”. He was beyond a jealous husband and had become so controlling it was abusive. According to Amy’s stepmother, Todd made this comment at the time: “I’m not going to lose my farm and what I’ve worked for” (Iowa V. Mullis).

The controlling behavior continued for the next five years. Despite counseling and spending time at home with her husband and children, Amy was apparently still bored in her marriage. In the summer of 2018, Amy began to have an affair with Jerry Frasher, who worked for Todd on the farm. According to Jerry, the affair was primarily sexual for him, but he believed Amy may have had stronger feelings. Jerry was also married and was not seeking a divorce from his wife.

Todd reviewed the phone records and noticed a large number of text messages exchanged between Amy and Jerry. Todd was suspicious and confronted Jerry. Jerry denied any affair and explained to Todd that the messages were about children’s activities and the farm. Todd didn’t know whether or not to believe Jerry and decided to call Jerry’s wife. Jerry’s wife told Todd he had nothing to worry about and thought “he was a little crazy” (Iowa V. Mullis).

Todd still had suspicions and talked to a friend of both Amy and him. He explained that her behavior was similar to the behavior he witnessed in 2013 when she had her first affair. The friend told Todd he may want to consider a divorce since the marriage was devoid of any trust. Todd replied, “I have worked for this farm since I was eleven and I will not give it up” (Iowa V. Mullis).

Amy shared with her close friend that she was having an affair with Jerry and wanted to divorce Todd. The friend told her “You’re putting yourself in a really dangerous situation. Todd is going to kill you” (Iowa V. Mullis). As is happens in small towns, rumors began to swirl about Amy and Jerry’s affair. The same friend of Amy’s told her about the rumors. She later testified that Amy began visibly upset and told her that if she ever goes missing, the friend should look in the timber on the property the couple recently purchased.

Amy told other friends that she was worried about Todd finding out about her affair and asked friends to put a stop to any rumors they hear. She told her friends that even her oldest son, thirteen-year-old Trystan told her “If dad finds out you’re going to have an affair, he’ll kill you” (Iowa V. Mullis”. She told her friends she wanted to leave Todd but was afraid. She told her friends that Todd refused to divorce her because “he would lose half of everything, and it is socially unacceptable” (Iowa V. Mullis).

In October of 2018, Amy was helping her uncle who was ill and had recently lost her grandmother. She was away from home caring for her uncle and had asked her brother to store her grandmother’s furniture. She explained to her brother that she planned to leave Todd soon. That month was a busy month for Todd as he was harvesting, running the hog operation on the farm, and caring for the children by himself most days.

In early November, Amy had an outpatient procedure done at a local hospital called a uterine ablation. The procedure is pretty routine but required Amy to have a ten-pound lifting restriction and she was instructed to rest. Four days later, on the morning of November 10th, 2018, her friend texted her to see how she was doing. Amy replied “Thanks. Okay. Things still very tense around here. Just not sure of anything anymore” (Iowa V. Mullis).

Amy prepared breakfast while Todd and Trystan worked in the hog barn. After the morning meal, Amy joined her son and husband inside one of the hog barns. There were two hog barns on the property, both the size of football fields. She emailed her lover, Jerry Frasher, the following message at 10:12 am: “Do you know what I’m doing today? Cleaning fucking light fixtures in the barn. WTF”. Amy now communicated via an email with Jerry to avoid suspicion from Todd.

According to Todd and Trystan Mullis, Amy came out to help them prepare for a load of piglets they were expecting that afternoon. Trystan was bringing in heaters for the piglets while Todd set up nipple feeders. He asked Amy to clean light fixtures. To reach the light fixtures, Amy was standing on a five-gallon bucket. Trystan and Todd both said she seemed unsteady, and they suggested that maybe she go inside and lie down instead of helping. Todd asked Amy to get a pet carrier out of their red barn on her way back to the house. He explained that he was going to put a litter of kittens in the carrier so he wouldn’t hit them when he backed up a piece of machinery.

Trystan and Todd continued to work in the barn for the next hour and a half. Todd noticed the pet carrier was not in the yard or on the porch as he had asked Amy to do, so he told Trystan to go get the pet carrier out of the red shed. When Trystan approached the red shed, he found his mother lying on her hands and knees with a corn raking protruding from her back. She yelled for his father who hurried over. Todd instructed his son to get the truck and bring it over. While he waited for Trystan, he did not render aid or call 911. He did, however, pull the corn rake from her back which he said was necessary in order to get Amy out of the narrow passageway in the shed.

When Trystan returned with the truck, Todd placed Amy on Trystan’s lap and he drove. Amy was unresponsive and bleeding profusely as her thirteen-year-old son held her. While driving to the hospital, Todd called 911. The operator instructed him to pull over and walked him through CPR. First responders arrived and took over CPR as they emergently transported Amy to the emergency room.

Listen to the 911 call here: Todd Mullis Complete 911 Call and What he Really Says - YouTube

Soon after arriving at the hospital, Amy Mullis was pronounced dead. The initial report from the medical examiner states Amy had six puncture wounds on her back. The examiner also discovered injuries to Amy’s chin, cheekbone, knees, and knuckles of each hand. The corn rake only had four tines, so the medical examiner requested a full autopsy by the forensic pathologist. The autopsy was performed two days later and concluded that Amy must have been struck at least twice by the corn rake and ruled the death a homicide.


A search warrant was executed on the Mullis home which included a camera system with two cameras covering the property and an iPad. The camera footage was not helpful as no video was recovered from the camera that is pointed toward the red shed. The other camera had footage from September 11th to October 29th but nothing else until November 11th, when it appears the camera was turned back on. Todd explained that the cats knocked the camera system, which is by a window of the house, over and he noticed it on November 11th, the day after Amy died. He said he fixed the issue on that day, explaining why there was no video.

The iPad, which was in Todd’s tractor, was much more useful. Among the search history on the iPad were things like “did ancient cultures kill adulterers”, “thrill of the kill”, “thrill of the hunt”, “famous quote no thrill like that of hunting men”, “Once you hunt man you will always feel thirst”, “what happens to cheaters in history”, “killing unfaithful women”, “what to do with large open chest wounds”, and “organs in the body” (Iowa V. Mullis). To be fair, there were also Pinterest searches on the iPad and searches for wedding gowns. Todd said the entire family used the iPad.

Investigators had conflicting reports from Todd Mullis and people who knew Amy. Todd described their marriage as “a very healthy marriage” (Iowa V. Mullis). In contrast, friends and family of Amy told authorities about numerous affairs, distrust, controlling behavior, and Amy’s fear of her husband. When Todd was confronted by investigators, he denied killing his wife and asked what evidence they had. He said, “You want me to confess to something I didn’t do” (Iowa V. Mullis). Todd said he believed that Amy had a dizzy spell and fell on the rake.

In March of 2019, four months after the death of Amy Mullis, Todd Mullis was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. In September 2019, the trial started after a successful change of venue to Dubuque County Iowa. The medical examiner explained that Amy had six puncture wounds, four going into her back at one angle and two others going at another angle. According to the medical examiner, she would have had to be struck at least twice with the corn rake to get those injuries. She had other wounds which were indicative of defensive wounds.

Jerry Frasher testified about his affair with Amy, which he said started in May 2018. He said that after Todd became suspicious, they began to utilize email to communicate instead of text messages. He also said “I know she wasn’t happy. She said she felt like a slave or hostage around there. She said she was wanting to leave. One time, she said if he ever found out about the affair she would disappear” (Associated Press, 2019). Jerry testified he asked Amy to slow their relationship down after Todd questioned him and his wife.

Perhaps the most important witness in this trial was Trystan Mullis. Trystan originally told investigators he was with his dad the entire time they were in the hog barn. However, the fourteen-year-old testified that he did lose sight of his father that morning. He said he could not estimate how long he was out of sight from his father, but that he went to the office of the barn several times to get water. He said that he found his mother in the shed with the corn rake protruding from her back and yelled for his father.

The prosecution also presented several witnesses that said Amy was fearful of Todd, had warned them he would kill her if he learned of her affair, and that Todd was fiercely jealous. Other witnesses testified that he was afraid of losing his farm in a divorce. Finally, the iPad searches were presented as evidence. Some of those searches about adultery and murder were just days before Amy’s death. The prosecutor also claims Todd whispers on the 911 call “Cheating Whore”.

The defense did not deny that Amy was murdered, despite Todd’s insistence that she was killed accidentally. Instead, they presented the theory that someone else could have murdered Amy that day. They argued that the time it took Trystan to get a drink of water would not have been long enough for Todd to sneak out, kill Amy, and get back to work without any change in demeanor or making any noise.

Iowa Assistant Attorney General Maureen Hughes told the jury, “He wasn’t going to let Amy take half of his farm. Being a farmer means everything to him. The defendant had to find a way to keep that farm” (Hogstrom, 2019). The prosecution believed that not only was Todd Mullis a jealous husband enraged by an affair, but he had significant financial motives to want Amy dead. The defense argued that “oh, they are going to kill me” is a figure of speech and not literal. The defense argued that Todd Mullis did love being a farmer, but not enough to murder the mother of his children. Todd took the stand in his own defense. On cross-examination, he conceded that Amy’s death was not an accident and someone stabbed Amy in the back with the corn rake two to three times (Iowa V. Mullis).

Todd Mullis was found guilty of first-degree murder. He immediately asked for a new trial, citing ineffective assistance of counsel because his attorney did not present the accidental death theory. His motion for a new trial was denied and in September of 2020, Todd Mullis was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. He was also ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution. Mullis plans to appeal his conviction and sentencing.



References

Associated Press. (2019). Iowa pig farmer convicted of killing wife with corn rake. NBC news. Iowa pig farmer convicted of killing wife with corn rake (nbcnews.com)

Hogstrom, E. (2019). Update: murder trial: son testifies he lost sight of dad on morning of mother’s killing. Dyersville Commercial. UPDATE: Murder trial: Son testifies he lost sight of dad on morning of mother's killing | News | dyersvillecommercial.com

Court TV. (2020). Corn rake murder trial: Todd Mullis sentenced to life in prison. Corn Rake Murder Trial: Todd Mullis sentenced to life in prison - Court TV

Crime and Corruption WTFF News. (2021). Todd Mullis complete 911 call and what he really says. Todd Mullis Complete 911 Call and What he Really Says - YouTube

O’Leary, F. (2020). Farming still most dangerous job in America. Wisconsin Agriculturist. Farming still the most dangerous job in America (farmprogress.com)

Leonar-Muller Funeral Home & Crematory. (2018). Amy Lynn (Fuller) Mullis. Obituary for Amy Lynn (Fuller) Mullis | Leonard-Muller Funeral Home & Crematory (leonard-mullerfh.com)

Harris, C. (2019). Iowa wife warned friends her husband might kill her before she was found impaled with farm tool. People Magazine. Man Charged With Killing Wife After Learning Of Second Affair | PEOPLE.com

Associated Press. (2019). Ex-lover takes stand in corn rake slaying. The Courier. 20 Sep 2019

Iowa V. Mullis. (2022). State of Iowa Vs. Todd Michael Mullis.

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