Fullhart testifies at his murder trial
Wed, 07/24/2019 - 6:11pm admin
Marcie Klomp ~ News Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
CRESCO - The defense in the murder trial of Brian Fullhart called the defendant as its first witness on Wednesday, July 24.
Fullhart is on trial for the murder of his wife, Zoanne “Zoey” Fullhart in the late/early hours of Feb. 28-March 1, 2018 at a trailer at 700 S. Elm Street in Cresco, Iowa.
He testified he had been taken away from his birth mother at an early age. He and sibling(s) were passed from home to home. At about age 5-6, he was adopted by the Fullhart family of Winneshiek County. He had known Zoey since he was in high school, around age 14.
The couple met up again and were wed less than five years ago. They were married 3-3.5 years at the time of the homicide.
Fullhart was asked about his relationship with Zoey’s family. “They treated me like a son. I put them and their family through hell,” before and after the murder.
The defendant responded that he had been friends with Torrie Willie for 15-20 years. They first met at a halfway house. He had met Margaret Block through Willie. Fullharts were staying at the Block/Willie home at the time of the murder.
Fullhart’s public defender, Matthew Hoffey walked him through the six months preceding the murder. For approximately six months, Fullhart was at a halfway house. At that time, Zoey was living at her folks’ house.
When Fullhart was released, he said, “I found a place (to live) through an employer.” After he was asked to leave, the couple then lived in West Union. “I got in trouble again. I’d steal booze from the bar, and my landlord caught me and called police. Zoey had to move our stuff out.
“The day I got out, I was drinking. We stayed at my brother’s (Brent Fullhart) house then we went to Summer’s (Luster) house. I wanted to get a gun so I could steal stuff.”
The Fullharts then stayed with his brother, Brent until they were kicked out. “He was trying to do better,” Brian explained.
The week prior to the Thursday, March 1 event, the Fullharts stayed at the Block/Willie home. The first night, they slept on the living room floor. They didn’t have anything. One day, Brian went to Brent’s house to pick up a 55-inch TV so he could sell it to buy some methamphetamine.
He had wrecked the car he had and was asked how he would move it. “I would have walked.” He also had the option of asking Willie for a ride. His plan was to get enough Meth to sell some and make some money.
“Once I got the meth, we were all using. They (Block/Willie) can say what they want. They were lying on the stand,” he claimed. “We went through an 8-ball, 3.5 grams of meth. On a regular basis, I’d get one gram for me and Zoey, and it would last two days. So you can see how much we were using.”
It was Willie’s idea to go target shooting with a 9-mm pistol owned by Block that ended up being the murder weapon. After the getaway, Fullhart said the gun was in the possession of Willie and his friend, Gilbert Lopez.
On Feb. 28, the two couples ran an errand and then stopped at the bar in Kendallville. Fullhart stated, “My wife was in sheer terror. It was tense. She kept looking behind her (in the van). She was scared and nervous. I was, too. I thought Torrie was going to hurt me.”
The mood at the mobile home continued to escalate that evening. Fullhart claimed that Willie and others kept trying to remind him that Zoey had gone to Brent’s house, supposedly for an affair. “They kept hinting and suggesting them in my brain. I didn’t want to think it was true. I was angry at my wife, but I tried to forgive her.
“They (Willie and Block) were trying to put a divide between us. I should have just left, but I didn’t have any place to go. Lopez came over to give me the other 8-ball, and he brought the gun to Torrie.” It was put in the back (smoking/tool) room.
Willie gave the gun to Fullhart. “Zoey came in, and then I shot her. Zoey hit the floor, and Torrie shut the blinds and took off running. Margaret was still sitting there. It didn’t register with me. I couldn’t fathom what I had just done. I remember walking into the other room, and Torrie told me to give him the gun.
“He came over to me and gave me a hug and said, ‘I love ya. Now clean up your mess.’”
According to the testimony of Block and Willie, the couple, with their two children, drove around for a while and ended up at the Lopez residence.
In the meantime, Fullhart admitted to taking blankets into the back room and laying beside Zoey for a while.
The defendant said, “Then Gilbert and Torrie came over. They gave me a cigarette. Torrie took stuff out of the trailer. He came back to the room and asked for the 8-ball.”
Eventually, law enforcement was called, and a police officer knocked on the door. “I came to the realization of what I had done. I wanted to kill myself. That’s why there were knives in that room. I was going to slit my wrists.”
Fullhart says he shot the bows at law enforcement, hoping they would shoot him. He also shot two arrows in the trailer, “I thought people were in there.”
He sounded proud when he related how he figured law enforcement would use tear gas, so he was prepared with towels and shirts soaked in water.
He admitted to remembering only pieces of the video taped after he was taken into custody.
He later testified, “People talk to me all day olng in my head.”
Hoffey asked, “Do you feel responsible for Zoey’s death?”
Fullhart replied, “Absolutely.”
“Do you wish you didn’t do it?”
During cross examination, Scott Brown, assistant attorney general of Iowa, had Fullhart again state that “yes” he did tell Officer Reger he told Zoey to get to her knees and put the muzzle against her head and pulled the trigger.
During redirect, Fullhart told the defense, “I was not in my right frame of mind.”
The second and final witness for the defense was Dr. Thomas Gratzer, a forensic psychiatrist. He had looked over the video of Fullhart after he was taken into custody and talked to him on Aug. 3, 2018. Hoffey showed him up to 39 separate segments of the video.
His diagnosis was psychosis. He said the episodes of staring into space and looking and turning his hands indicated psychosis. Gratzer also mentioned many times it appeared Fullhart was responding to internal stimuli, which could be people talking or hallucinations.
“He was grossly psychotic . . . from my perspective of seeing thousands of people who are psychotic, he has severe psychosis and severe paranoia. A lay person may not have the same impressions.”
He mentioned Fullhart became psychotic over the time of the interview, as well as when he was seen in August.
During cross examination, Brown explained Fullhart could have been looking at his hands because they still contained Zoey’s blood.
Brown’s rebuttal witness was Dr. James Dennert, a physician who specialized in psychiatry, who interviewed Fullhart on April 12, 2019.
He did not see psychosis in Fullhart on the video. He gave some alternate reasons for the way the defendant was acting. He said his actions were likely because of his baseline behavior, along with meth use, no sleep, killing his wife, being involved in a police standoff and being arrested.
He said if Fullhart was in a psychotic state during the interview, he would have acted out when his clothes were taken and he was shackled. “I would have expected him to be more likely to assault a police officer rather than comply with commands.”
He added, “He was not suffering any mental impairment when he was performing a specific intent (killing his wife).”
Closing remarks will be given on Thursday, July 25 at 9 a.m. at the Howard County Courthouse. It is likely the jury will go into deliberation after lunch, but possibly before.