An Iowa woman on trial for fatally stabbing her estranged husband’s new girlfriend is “responsible” for the murder but was acting out of intense loneliness and pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, not jealousy, defense attorneys say.
“This isn’t a movie, it’s not TV. What’s happening in here is a real-life tragedy,” Jill Eimermann, one of Michelle Boat’s lawyers, told jurors in Marion County District Court on Thursday. “But I’m going to tell you right now, standing right here...I will tell you that Michelle Boat is responsible. Michelle Boat is the one who had the knife...Michelle Boat is the one who stabbed her.”
“The police got the right person,” she added, as Boat began to cry.
The shocking admission came during the first day of Boat’s murder trial. Prosecutors allege the 59-year-old was “scorned, obsessed, [and] seething” when she fatally stabbed 46-year-old Tracy Mondabough on May 18, 2020, following a struggle in Mondabough’s car. Authorities say Boat and her husband had separated two months earlier following two decades of marriage.
Eimermann said that Boat’s “life fell apart” one day in March 2020, when she came home and realized her husband had left her. Insisting that her client was not “scorned,” she said Boat was “suddenly alone, in the midst of chaos” and a pandemic that had overrun Iowa.
“Her husband was gone. She was suddenly alone in the midst of chaos. Each of you remembers back to March of last year—how scary the world was. The fear, the chaos, the isolation that we all felt in the early days of the pandemic. That’s where Michelle was 69 days before May 18,” Eimermann said.
She said Boat should be charged with manslaughter, not first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence, and argued that the case was merely about the tragic decline of a woman who broke after her marriage ended.
Marion County Attorney Ed Bull, however, told jurors Thursday that Mondabough “was being hunted” on the day of the murder by Boat, who felt tossed aside by estranged husband, Nicholas Boat.
“[S]he hunted, she gloved up, and she plunged the knife into Tracy Mondabough’s heart, murdering her,” Bull said, adding that Boat’s husband had “moved on with his life. Nick’s wife, on the other hand, has not by a longshot. Not even close.”
Testifying for the prosecution, Nicholas Boat said he met Mondabough through Facebook in early March, and they began their relationship shortly after. Retired Marion County Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Bigaouette testified that during a search of Boat’s home, they discovered she’d kept a calendar that marked each day her husband had left her.
Bull argued that on the day of the murder, Boat followed Mondabough from a local Burger King drive-through to her husband’s job at Vermeer Corporation. The new couple had a short dinner break then Mondabough drove home, with Boat following her in a four-door Cadillac.
Authorities say Boat ambushed Mondabough as she parked outside her apartment complex.
“Before Tracy can undo her seatbelt,” Bull said that Boat attacked her, stabbing her multiple times while wearing latex gloves. Mondabough died from a stab wound to the heart. She “never stood a chance,” he added.
One neighbor, who heard the loud struggle, called the police to report a possible domestic dispute. Another witness, Dan Rumburg, told jurors on Thursday he heard someone shout “He don’t belong to you” during the fight but he did not want to get involved in a “girl’s fight.”
According to an arrest affidavit, Pella Police Department arrived at the Glenwood apartment complex at 8:21 p.m. to find Mondabough slumped in her car with multiple stab wounds. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
When officers arrived at Boat’s house, after witnesses identified her Cadillac, they saw “visible blood on the outside of her car” and found Boat “wearing a robe and having her head in a towel” after showering. Her washing machine was cleaning one outfit and a “pair of rubber gloves, with what appeared to be blood on them, were found in the upper tank of the toilet” in her bathroom, the affidavit said.
Bull said that while authorities did not find the murder weapon, surveillance cameras showed Boat stalking Mondabough during the day. The gloves, which had her fingerprints, proved the murder was not “spur of the moment,” he said.
Prior to Mondabough’s murder, court records show that Boat was also accused of abusing her estranged husband and violating a non-contact order several times. One of those instances occurred on March 20, when authorities said Mondabough called the Ottumwa Police Department “to report that [Boat] followed her from Pella, Iowa to Ottumwa, Iowa and that she was requesting law enforcement meet her at a gas station as she was fearful,” the affidavit states. Boat’s husband also reported to police that she had followed him and his new girlfriend around several times—and even assaulted him.