Michelle Lee Boat, 59, is on trial for first-degree murder in Iowa
A woman on trial for the murder of her husband’s new lover has argued that the isolation and chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic drove her over the edge.
Michelle Lee Boat, 59, took the stand in her own defense on Monday in Iowa‘s Marion County District Court, where she is charged with murdering 46-year-old Tracy Mondabough last May.
‘I just snapped, and I grabbed the knife. And I just stabbed her, and I dropped the knife,’ Boat testified, visibly emotional.
Boat’s attorneys argue that that the first-degree murder charge against her should be reduced to manslaughter, saying that she had a mental break in the chaos of the pandemic, and was not motivated by jealous revenge.
On March 12, 2020, as the nation descended into the grip of the pandemic, Boat was working in the laundry room of a hospital when she learned that her husband Nicholas was leaving her for the younger woman.
‘I just snapped, and I grabbed the knife. And I just stabbed her, and I dropped the knife,’ Boat testified on Monday in Marion County District Court, visibly emotional
Boat is charged with murdering 46-year-old Tracy Mondabough (left), after her husband Nicholas Boat (right) left her for the younger woman last spring
‘Heartbroken, sad, despondent, devastated, destroyed. Like my whole life had just walked out the door. There weren’t going to be any more Thanksgivings or Christmases without him,’ the mother of two testified of her reaction on learning her husband was leaving.
Two months later, on May 18, 2020, Boat stabbed Mondabough while the younger woman sat in her car outside of her apartment complex, police say. Witnesses described the attacker shouting ‘He don’t belong to you!’ according to an arrest warrant.
Jill Eimermann, one of Michelle Boat’s lawyers, told the jury in opening statements last week that police had identified the right suspect.
‘This isn’t a movie, it’s not TV. What’s happening in here is a real-life tragedy,’ Eimermann said. ‘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.’
Eimermann insisted that Boat was not ‘scorned’ or motivated by jealousy, but had snapped at finding herself ‘suddenly alone in the midst of chaos’ as the pandemic unfolded.
‘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.
Nicholas testified that he had met Mondabough on Facebook in early March, and said the two began dating soon after
However, prosecutors presented a different tale to the jury, describing Boat as a calculating killer motivated by jealousy.
Marion County Attorney Ed Bull said that Boat had carefully stalked Mondabough, following her from a Burger King drive-thru to Nicholas’ workplace, where the two had dinner, and then on to Mondabough’s own home.
Boat attacked Mondabough as she parked her car outside of her apartment complex, stabbing her in the heart before she could even unbuckle her seatbelt, prosecutors say.
Nicholas testified that he had met Mondabough on Facebook in early March, and said the two began dating soon after.
Bull also noted that Boat had worn latex gloves while carrying out the stabbing.
‘[S]he hunted, she gloved up, and she plunged the knife into Tracy Mondabough’s heart, murdering her,’ Bull said in opening statements.
Former Marion County Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Bigaouette testified that investigators found a calendar in Boat’s home that marked each day since her husband had left her.
Boat testified that she ‘snapped’ but prosecutors say that the murder was planned and carefully carried out, with Boat wearing latex gloves for the stabbing
Boat was immediately identified as a suspect in the murder, in part because Mondabough had already called police in March to complain that Boat had followed her from Pella, Iowa to Ottumwa, Iowa 40 miles away, saying she was fearful for her safety.
Witnesses to the murder also described the assailant’s grey Cadillac, matching Boat’s vehicle.
When officers arrived at Boat’s home, they found the Cadillac with ‘visible blood on the outside,’ according to a warrant affidavit.
Inside the home, Boat was wearing “wearing a robe and having her head in a towel” after showering.
A single outfit was found in her laundry machine, and a pair of ‘rubber gloves, with what appeared to be blood on them, were found in the upper tank of the toilet.’
The murder weapon was never recovered. Bull argued that the gloves demonstrated that the killing was planned in advance, and not spur of the moment.
The jury is due to hear closing arguments in the case on Tuesday.