The field manager for the Mullis family’s hog farm testified that he and Amy L. Mullis started a physical relationship in the summer of 2018 and that he tried to slow down the pace of the affair after being confronted by her husband over text messages.

Jerry Frasher, 49, of Anamosa, took the stand Wednesday on the second day of testimony in the first-degree murder trial of Todd Mullis, 43, of Earlville. Mullis is accused of fatally stabbing Amy Mullis with a corn rake on their farm on Nov. 10.

Frasher said he oversees more than 40 hog confinement farms in eastern Iowa, providing marketing and other assistance to farmers. He had worked with the Mullis farm for about seven years.

Frasher said he usually communicated with Todd Mullis about the farm’s operations and only occasionally with his wife.

But in late May or early June 2018, Frasher said, his relationship with Amy Mullis became sexual.

The pair would meet “maybe once a week, maybe more depending on how it worked out,” Frasher said.

“I know she wasn’t happy,” Frasher said of Amy Mullis’ relationship with her husband. “She said she felt like a slave or a hostage around there. She said she was wanting (to leave Todd). One time, she said if he ever found out (about the affair,) she would disappear.”

THE CONFRONTATION

Todd Mullis confronted him in July 2018 after a phone bill showed more than 100 instances of Frasher and Amy texting, Frasher said.

“I said it was about other stuff, like showing pigs,” he said.

Todd Mullis called Frasher’s wife asking questions about the text messages, and that discussion appeared to satisfy him, Frasher said.

“Two days later, he called us both back and apologized,” he said. “He asked us to quit texting, and we did.”

Frasher told Amy, “We need to slow down.”

Instead, the pair set up email accounts, which they used to communicate up until her death. The pair last communicated via email at 10:14 a.m. on the day of her death.

During cross-examination, Frasher said he continued to provide professional services to the Mullis farm until Amy Mullis’ death and that Todd Mullis never showed any animosity toward him.

TESTIMONY OF FRIENDS

Several of Amy Mullis’ friends testified Wednesday about their correspondences with the farm wife.

Terri Staner said her friend’s marriage was at a crossroads as summer turned to fall in 2018.

“Amy didn’t know how to go on with her life,” Staner said.

Staner testified that Amy was having an affair and that rumors of it were circulating in the community.

“She was telling me, ‘I’m still not sure what I should do,’” Staner said of her conversations with Amy. “When she very first told me about the affair, I was so angry with her. I said, ‘You’re putting yourself in a difficult place. He is going to kill you.’ Todd is the person you don’t mess with.”

Staner testified that she tried to protect her friend while also avoiding answering questions from a concerned Todd Mullis. Staner said she did not want to lie to Todd.

Deb Scherbring is a longtime employee at Regional Medical Center in Manchester, where Amy Mullis had worked as a nurse until about five years ago. She testified about a frantic telephone call she received in the late summer of 2018.

“She was crying hard. She was very upset,” Scherbring said of Amy.

Amy asked that her friend, if she heard any rumors about an affair, please stop them from spreading.

AN UNHAPPY MARRIAGE

Patricia Christopherson said she talked or texted with Amy at least weekly.

“We would talk about their marriage and life in general,” she said.

During a June 2018 conversation, Amy told Christopherson that she needed to “unload” about her marriage.

“She wasn’t happy and hadn’t been happy for many years,” Christopherson said.

Christopherson said Amy Mullis admitted to having an affair with the farm’s field manager.

“He made her happy,” Christopherson said. “She talked about wanting to be married with him, eventually. Amy said she was done with Todd.”

Christopherson said she asked Amy Mullis why she remained in the marriage if she was so unhappy.

“She said she was scared of Todd, and if he found out about the affair, he would kill her,” she said.

In October, Amy Mullis told her friend about a confrontation with Todd Mullis’ mother, who accused her daughter-in-law of spending too much time away from the farm.

During cross-examination, Christopherson said Amy Mullis told her that Todd Mullis had stood up for his wife with his mother.

Christopherson also said she only met Todd Mullis twice.

“Once was at Amy’s grandmother’s visitation,” Christopherson said. “The other was at Amy’s visitation.”

FORENSIC PATHOLOGY

Earlier in the day, the forensic pathologist who performed an autopsy on Amy Mullis testified that the farm wife was impaled by a corn rake “at least twice, possibly three times.”

Dr. Kelly Kruse, of the state medical examiner’s office, said the direction of the sharp-force puncture wounds to Amy Mullis’ torso led her to that conclusion.

Kruse testified that four of the six puncture wounds documented by the autopsy procedure in Ankeny, traveled from back to front in a downward direction. Two additional wounds traveled back to front in an upward direction.

“She would have to be impaled by the rake at least twice, possibly three times,” Kruse said.

Kruse testified that the cause of Amy Mullis’ death was the sharp-force injuries to her torso.

“The manner of death was homicide,” Kruse said.

Kruse also testified that the autopsy revealed blunt-force injuries to Amy Mullis’ left jawline and in the areas of the knuckles of both hands.

Scrapes and bruises found on Amy occurred immediately before or during her death, Kruse testified.

The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. today at the Dubuque County Courthouse.