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A farmer's wife is found impaled on a corn rake — was it a horrible accident or murder?

The Corn Rake Murder
The Corn Rake Murder 42:12

A small Iowa farm community is rocked by the death of a young mother. But did Amy Mullis really fall onto a farm tool as her husband Todd claimed, or was there something more malicious at play? CBS News chief investigative and senior national correspondent Jim Axelrod explores a case for "48 Hours" that had everyone questioning what really happened in "The Corn Rake Murder,"   airing Saturday, December 4 at 9/8c on CBS and Paramount+.

By several accounts, Saturday, November 10, 2018 began like any other morning for the Mullis family. Todd and his 13-year-old son Trysten were up early to start chores around the family's Iowa hog farm.  Around 9:30 a.m., both Todd and Trysten say they headed to one of the two large barns on the property to prepare for a delivery of baby pigs, and Amy joined them while the two younger kids stayed in the house.

According to Trysten, Amy was standing on a bucket cleaning the lights and everything was fine for about 30 to 45 minutes. Then he noticed something was wrong with his mom. "She said she was getting dizzy," said Trysten. "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."

Todd and Amy Mullis Facebook

Trysten said he was concerned. According to Todd, Amy had undergone an outpatient medical procedure a few days earlier and this was her first time up and out of the house. Trysten asked his mom if she was OK and she insisted that she was. But a short while later he said Amy suffered another dizzy spell. At this point, Trysten said both he and Todd were worried. According to Trysten, Todd suggested Amy go in the house and rest, but asked if on her way she could grab a pet carrier out of a nearby shed. He told her he would need it later to round up some kittens and protect them from heavy machinery he planned to use. Amy agreed and left.

Trysten said he and his dad continued working in the hog barn for about another hour and a half. Todd recalls that they then went to an office at the front of the barn. Todd looked out the window in the office and noticed the pet carrier wasn't where he had asked Amy to put it. Trysten said his dad sent him to the shed to check things out. But, as Trysten would later describe, when he looked into the shed he made a horrifying discovery: his mother was lying face down with a corn rake — a heavy-duty farm tool with four sharp prongs – sticking out her back. She was unresponsive. "I checked for a pulse on her neck and her arm," said Trysten. "I — just kinda freaked out … My anxiety level was zero to 100 in about a split second."

Mullis farm corn rake evidence photo
Amy Mullins  was found lying face down with a corn rake — a heavy-duty farm tool with four sharp prongs  — sticking out her back. Delaware County Courthouse

Trysten screamed for his dad. According to Todd, when he arrived at the shed, he removed the rake from Amy's back, and asked Trysten to get the family truck. "I just wanted to — help her," said Todd. "I was in reaction mode. I wanted to get her to the hospital." Todd said he got Amy into the truck and he and Trysten raced to the hospital. While on the road, Trysten said Todd called 911. Todd told the 911 operator that Amy had fallen on the corn rake and had no pulse.

Iowa farmer calls 911 after his wife is found impaled by a common farm tool 01:41

The operator asked Todd to pull over and wait for help. First to respond was Deputy Luke Thomsen, who recalled that Amy had "quite a bit of blood" on her clothes. "We put her on the ground and I started doing chest compressions," he said. As the deputy worked on Amy, he asked Todd what had happened. According to the deputy, Todd said he wasn't sure. As for Trysten, that day he told police he had been with his dad in the hog barn the whole time.

An ambulance arrived and took Amy to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. Dr. Craig Thompson, who was on duty, said he was told Amy's death had been a freak accident. But when he examined Amy's body, he said saw six puncture wounds on her back. At that point, Dr. Thompson began to take steps that questioned if this had been an accident at all. 

How could a corn rake, which has four tines, create six holes in someone's back? Could Amy Mullis have been deliberately stabbed with the unwieldy object multiple times and left for dead?

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