"But I'm a woman, and as the great poet so cleverly wrote, hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. Consider me your personal hell."
It was the 18th of May 2020. A Monday. Police were called to an apartment complex at 8.20pm in Pella, Iowa, United States. They were informed that there was a possible domestic dispute taking place behind 101 Glenwood #4, Pella, Marion County, Iowa in the alley. The caller informed police that there appeared to be two people arguing.
When police got there, they found a woman, forty seven year old Tracy Mondabough, slumped in a vehicle. She was slumped back against the vehicle seat and had a seat belt on. Police tried to help her but they were too late. Tracy was dead. The puncture wounds to her body indicated to police that she had been stabbed to death. There was a stab wound to her chest and lacerations to her hands.
Police discovered that Tracy, a mother of four young children, lived at the apartment complex at Glenwood with a man called Nicholas Nick Boat. She had recently moved to Pella from her home in Ottumwa.
When police found Tracy inside her car, it was parked at her apartment complex and it looked as if she had just arrived home and was stabbed before she could even remove her seat belt. So what exactly happened?
Police were told by witnesses that there had been a struggle between two women, Tracy who was in the vehicle and another individual standing outside of the vehicle. Police heard that the person standing outside the vehicle left the apartment complex in a gray 4 door Cadillac. Another witness heard the person standing outside of the vehicle shout at the person inside the vehicle:
"He don't belong to you."
Police believed that they knew who the person driving the Cadillac was.
Tracy had recently reported an incident that had frightened her, in March 2020, to the police. At the time, she told them that she was dating a man called Nick Boat, who had recently separated from his wife Michelle Boat, and that Michelle had followed her from Pella to Ottumwa, some 40 miles away. Tracy called police when she noticed Michelle following her and she was so afraid that she asked them to meet her at a gas station.
Police discovered that Nick and Tracy met when Tracy accidentally sent him a friend request on Facebook in February 2020. They went on their first date on the 8th of March and things moved quickly with their relationship. Within the space of a few weeks, they had moved in together. Police were aware, from various reports that had been made to police prior to Tracy’s death, that Michelle wasn’t happy about their relationship.
Michelle was accused of abusing Nick prior to Tracy’s death and violating a no-contact order several times. She was charged with domestic violence in March 2020. Nick and Tracy both told police that Michelle would follow them around town.
Shortly after police found Tracy's body, they went to fifty five year old Michelle's house. They observed a gray 4 door Cadillac parked outside her house. There was blood visible on the outside of the car and the car's engine and rotors were warm to the touch.
Michelle was home at the time and she opened the door wearing a robe and her hair was wrapped up in a towel. She told police that she just had a shower. When police searched her home, they found her clothes in the washing machine and they found a pair of latex gloves, which appeared to have blood on them, in the upper tank of the toilet inside the bathroom.
Police obtained surveillance footage from that day, the 18th of May, which showed that Michelle went to Nick’s workplace at Vermeer Corporation less than an hour before Tracy’s death. Further footage showed Michelle following Tracy into and out of the Vermeer parking lot. Tracy had called to Nick’s workplace to see him that evening. The footage showed that when Tracy left the parking lot, Michelle followed her. The two vehicles left the parking lot at approximately 8.10pm and police received the 911 call about an altercation just ten minutes later.
The blood that was found on and inside Michelle’s car was Tracy’s blood and as a result, police charged Michelle Boat with first degree murder.
Michelle pleaded not guilty to the first degree murder charge. She admitted that she stabbed Tracy but claimed that she was provoked to do so as her husband had left her for a younger woman and she just snapped that day after she saw them kissing.
It was the Prosecution's case that Tracy's death was not the result of some spur of the moment action and was instead a planned and premeditated attack. The Prosecutor told the Jury that Michelle was "scorned, seething and obsessed" after her husband left her and the evidence would show it was a carefully planned out attack.
The Prosecutor said the evidence would make clear that Michelle acted with the necessary premeditation to be convicted of murder and nothing short of it:
"It’s important to remember: Just because you took an oath to be a Juror doesn't mean you checked your common sense at that door. The facts will support it, the law will compel it and justice will demand it."
The Prosecutor, Marion County Attorney Ed Bull, told the Court that Michelle had stalked Tracy the day she was killed. He said:
“She hunted, she gloved up, and she plunged the knife into Tracy Mondabough’s heart, murdering her.”
The Court heard that Michelle followed Tracy from a Burger King drive-thru to Nicholas’ workplace the evening of the 18th of May. She watched as the two of them met for dinner and then she followed Tracy back to her apartment complex.
The Court heard that Michelle attacked Tracy as soon as she parked her car outside of her apartment complex. She was stabbed before she could even remove her seat belt.
The Court heard that Tracy’s blood was found on and inside Michelle’s car. When Tracy was found slumped in her car, she was clutching a handful of hair. DNA testing later confirmed that it was Michelle’s hair.
The Court heard that the murder weapon was never recovered but the gloves Michelle wore when she stabbed Tracy were found hidden in her bathroom. The Prosecution argued that the fact she wore latex gloves that day showed that this was no spontaneous act. In fact, the Prosecution said that it was part of a meticulous plan. The Prosecutor presented evidence that a calendar was found in Michelle’s home that marked each day since her husband had left her. She had been building up to the day when she could try to get him back. She sent warning texts to Tracy and told her to stay away from Nick.
The Prosecution told the Court that it was clear that Michelle had planned to attack Tracy as she had the knife, gloves and binoculars in her car when she followed her to her apartment complex that night.
Nicholas “Nick” Boat
Nick testified. He testified that he met Tracy via Facebook and they began dating soon after that. He testified that:
“She was trying to friend a friend but she fat fingered my picture."
Nick testified that Tracy was surprised when he responded to her. They started messaging each other over Facebook and when Tracy gave him her number, they spoke on the phone and arranged to meet up. On the 8th of March, they went on their first date which involved searching for deer antler sheds around Roberts Creek. They both loved being outdoors. Nick testified:
“The more we got to talking on the phone, it was like we had been friends forever. And then, when we finally went out, we hit it off great.”
Nick told the Court that when he met Tracy, he was still living with his wife of twenty years, Michelle Boat, and their two teenage children. In April, he left the family home and moved into an apartment with Tracy.
When asked about his marriage to Michelle, Nick testified that it was a complicated one. He told the Court it had been borderline abusive from the very start and he believed, due to her constantly telling him, that Michelle was in love with her ex husband.
He told the Court that there were many arguments between them about how she treated the children as he believed she was too tough on them. He testified that he got tired of fighting and told her he met someone else and was leaving. They separated three days after his first date with Tracy.
The Court heard that four days after he left the family home, Michelle told him that she would not divorce him and then she allegedly assaulted him. Nick had bruising on his back and a cut to his left eye. After that incident, a no-contact order between Michelle and Nick was issued. Michelle allegedly violated the order four times by calling Nick, and showing up at his place of work.
Nick testified that he did not know why Michelle wanted him to return to the family home as their marriage was not a good one:
“I don’t understand, because she never loved me.”
The Prosecution urged the Jury to find Michelle guilty of first degree murder. They said that the evidence showed it was a planned attack and she wanted Tracy out of the way so that Nick would move back in with her. Jared Harmon, an assistant Marion County Prosecutor, told the Jury that:
"It was intentional. It was malicious. And it achieved what the defendant wanted to achieve, which is to put out of Michelle’s way the one person and the one thing that she believed was standing in the way of her reunion with Nick Boat."
The Prosecution summed up their case by stating:
“Michelle Boat didn’t act because of some sudden, irresistible provocation. She was the provocation.”
It was the Defense’s case that Michelle did not plan to kill Tracy that day. They didn’t dispute that she was the person who stabbed Tracy:
“This isn’t a movie, it’s not TV. What’s happening in here is a real life tragedy. 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.”
But they argued that Michelle simply snapped when she saw her husband with another woman. They told the Jury that even though they had separated, they were still legally married and had been married for twenty years.
The Court heard that Michelle’s life fell apart in March 2020. On the 11th of March, Nick left and that was around the same time when the country descended into the grip of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Defense urged the Jury to consider Michelle’s state of mind at that time.
"Each of you, remember back to March of last year, how scary your 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 the 18th of May. So that’s the backdrop; that’s the context; that’s the big picture."
The Court heard that not only did Nick leave her and that they were in the middle of a pandemic, Michelle lost her job working in the laundry room of a hospital. She had no money. When she was arrested, she had just $6.
Her lawyer said:
“I don’t want you to sympathize with Mrs. Boat. I don’t want you to give her mercy. She doesn’t deserve it. She killed someone seat belted 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.”
They were instead asking the Jury to find her guilty of manslaughter instead.
Michelle testified. She spoke of the isolation she felt and lived through in the weeks leading up to the day she stabbed Tracy. She testified about her life and how it had changed so dramatically almost overnight. As a result, she was left 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. I just snapped, and I grabbed the knife. And I just stabbed her, and I dropped the knife.”
The Defense asked the Jury to find Michelle not guilty of first degree murder:
"The State will not have met its burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that what happened on the 18th of May 2020, was first degree murder. It was not. We will stand in front of you and ask you to hold her accountable, but only for what the evidence supports, and that is not first degree murder. Instead, it is manslaughter."
"We ask you to follow the law, discuss it with each other and not judge based upon a normal, everyday person but a reasonable person. In this circumstance, the law allows manslaughter and that's what we have here in this case."
The Jury deliberated for just 45 minutes. They found Michelle guilty of first degree murder and she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
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- Sandra Pupatello