Michelle Boat took the stand in her own defense this week, telling jurors that when she decided to follow her estranged husband’s new girlfriend, Tracy Mondabough, last May, she simply intended to tell the woman she wanted her marriage of two decades back.
The jury unanimously found her guilty of first-degree murder after just 45 minutes of deliberations. The conviction comes with a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Boat’s sentencing date has not yet been set.
“I wanted to tell her how much I wanted him back, and I wanted her to leave him,” the 59-year-old, who’s on trial for Mondabough’s murder, said in Iowa’s Marion County District Court on Monday.
But when she opened Mondabough’s truck door, Boat claims the 46-year-old began to attack her and call her a “crazy bitch.” During the altercation on May 18, 2020, Boat said she “just snapped” and repeatedly stabbed Mondabough while she was still wearing her seatbelt.
“I just snapped, and I grabbed the knife. And I just stabbed her, and I dropped the knife,” Boat said.
Boat’s shocking confession comes after her defense team argued that she killed Mondabough while suffering from intense loneliness and pressure from the coronavirus pandemic after separating from her husband, Nicholas Boat, two months earlier.
“I don't want you to sympathize with Mrs. Boat,” Trevor Andersen, one of Boat’s attorneys, told jurors during Tuesday during closing arguments. “I don’t want you to give her mercy. She doesn’t deserve it. She killed someone seatbelted in her truck, with no weapon—killed her and left her for dead, drove off. That is not asking for sympathy when I ask you to consider: why.”
“We’re asking for you to find Michelle guilty of voluntary manslaughter. We believe the evidence has shown, and the lack of other evidence, that this is the charge that most fits the facts,” he added.
Prosecutors have argued that Boat was “scorned, obsessed, [and] seething” when she followed Mondabough the day of the murder—intent on confronting her husband’s new lover after feeling tossed aside. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Prosser on Tuesday questioned Boat’s argument that she was provoked, telling jurors during his closing argument that Mondabough’s conduct should not have sent anyone “into a homicidal rage.”
“The only provoking conduct, in this case, was by [Boat],” Prosser said.
On Tuesday afternoon, a dozen jurors began deliberations to decide whether Boat should be convicted of murder.
Breaking down several times on the stand, Boat said that on March 12, 2020, as the country was descending into chaos amid the pandemic, she learned that her husband was leaving her for another woman during her shift in the laundry room of a local hospital.
The mother of two said she was “heartbroken, sad, despondent, devastated, destroyed” when she learned he had left, adding that it felt “like my whole life had just walked out the door.” In the days after the separation, Boat said she started drinking heavily and became obsessed with determining the identity of the other woman.
On March 20, 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,” according to an arrest affidavit. Boat insisted Monday she only followed Mondabough to find out where her husband was living so she could beg him to come home.
Two days later, Boat said she was admitted to a local hospital for mental health treatment and stayed there for five days. Boat’s husband also reported to police around the same time that she had followed him and his new girlfriend several times—and assaulted him at least once.
During cross-examination on Monday, prosecutors noted that Boat sent Mondabough threatening messages before the murder, including several in April that asked her to tell Nicholas Boat to come home “because that’s where he belongs.” Another said: “You’ll be seeing my face in your dreams very soon because I’ll be there when you open your eyes in the morning and when you close them at night.”
In court, Boat insisted that she wasn’t “hunting” Mondabough on May 18, and only began following her after seeing her husband’s car at a laundromat.
“I parked there at the laundromat, and waited to see if it was him doing the laundry because I wanted to see him,” Boat said, adding that when she realized it was Mondabough she decided to follow her “because I wanted to know where my husband was living.”
Boat said she then followed Mondabough from a local Burger King drive-through to her husband’s job at Vermeer Corporation, where the new couple had a short dinner in the car.
Mondabough then drove home, with Boat following her in a four-door Cadillac. Once parked outside Mondabough’s Glenwood apartment complex, Boat said she put on some latex gloves and got out of the car to speak with her husband’s new girlfriend.
“I got out... of the car, and I went around to talk to her, and I opened the truck door and she started hitting me and screaming at me and calling me a crazy bitch,” Boat said. “She was hitting me and hitting me, and I had my hands up, she’s yelling at me. And I just snapped.”
Boat said that during the struggle, she went back to her car to grab a knife she kept inside after her husband left, then returned to Mondabough’s vehicle and stabbed her. She claimed that she had gloves in her car for work and would wear them into stores because of COVID-19.
“She’s not wearing gloves because of COVID folks—that’s really convenient. She’s wearing gloves because she doesn’t want to leave evidence like fingerprints behind,” Prosser said Tuesday.
One neighbor, who heard the loud struggle, called the police to report a possible domestic dispute. Another witness, Dan Rumburg, told jurors last week that he heard someone shout, “He don’t belong to you,” during the fight.
After the attack, Boat said she immediately ran off “in panic, [because] I knew I had hurt her.”
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.
“I heard somebody banging on the window. Banging and banging and so I got out of the shower as fast as I could, and I rinsed off the knife and I put it under the sink in the bathroom, and I put the gloves and the towel in the toilet tank. I didn’t know what else to do,” Boat said Monday.
“I knew I was in trouble, and I didn’t know what to do. And then I went out and opened the door for the police,” she added.
Boat said that out of fear she initially lied to police, saying that she didn’t stab Mondabough and hadn’t seen her in months. During police interviews, however, she described herself as “scorned” because her husband “just threw me away” like trash. She was arrested on May 19.