CRESCO — Margaret Block was with her friends in the smoking room of her Cresco mobile home when she heard the gunshot.
“I went to go put my cigarette out, and that’s when I heard the gunshot. And when I looked over, Zoe was going down on the floor,” Block, a friend of Brian and Zoanne “Zoe” Fullhart, told jurors Thursday. She said she saw Brian Fullhart holding a pistol.
Brian Fullhart simply said “What? What?” Block said.
Brian Allen Fullhart, 35, is charged with first-degree murder in the death his 34-year-old wife and the standoff with police that followed. Testimony began Thursday in Howard County District Court.
Block’s then-boyfriend, Torrey Willie, said he saw Zoe Fullhart kneeling and watched as Brian Fullhart put the pistol to her head and pulled the trigger.
Prosecutors said the Feb. 28, 2018, fatal shooting was the culmination of ongoing arguing between the Fullharts.
“What you will hear is that Brian Fullhart was on a slow boil. He was bent on killing her, and that’s exactly what he did. He got the gun, put it to her head and he pulled the trigger,” Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown said.
Defense attorney Matthew Hoffey didn’t dispute his client is responsible for Zoe Fullhart’s slaying but said Brian Fullhart was suffering from psychosis at the time of the fatal shooting.
He said his client couldn’t form the intent to kill and asked jurors to find him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
“The evidence in this case will boil down to one’s intent, specifically whether the act was deliberate, willful and with premeditation,” Hoffey said.
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Witnesses said the Fullharts had been living with Brian’s brother in Cresco in late February 2018 but had been told to leave because of the constant arguing. Block and Willie agreed to allow them to stay at their mobile home for a few nights.
But by Feb. 28, the arguing was getting on their hosts’ nerves because it was bothering their small children. A few days before the shooting, the Fullharts, Willie and Block had taken Block’s 9 mm Smith & Wesson to a relative’s place near Protivin for target practice.
After that, the weapon was supposed to be kept in a box at Block’s mother’s house next to the mobile home. Block said she doesn’t know how Brian Fullhart obtained the pistol on the night of the shooting.
After the shooting, Block and Willie took the handgun and the children and left Brian Fullhart alone in the mobile home. They ended up at the home of another friend, Gilbert Lopez Jr., in Cresco, and he told them to call police. They returned to the mobile home but discovered they had left the pistol at the Lopez residence and returned to retrieve it before notifying authorities.
In the four-hour police standoff that ensued, Brian Fullhart shouted to law enforcement that his wife was “dead as (expletive deleted),” Brown said. He allegedly fired a compound bow at officers, striking a vehicle. He was detained after a tactical team used tear gas.
During his interview with police, Brian Fullhart admitted to the slaying, Brown said. Brian Fullhart called himself a murderer and said he couldn’t believe he killed his wife.
Hoffey said noted Brian Fullhart didn’t leave the mobile home in the hours between the shooting and the beginning of the police standoff. He said his client acted erratically while he was barricaded, letting the dog out to use the bathroom and threatening to fire another arrow if police didn’t bring him beer.
He said Brian Fullhart still was showing signs of psychosis later when a forensic psychiatrist interviewed him.
Another witness, Summer Luster, said during the arguing in the weeks before the shooting, Zoe had taken off her wedding ring and set it down in front of Brian. She said Brian had told Zoe if she wanted a divorce, she was dead.
Luster testified in the weeks before the shooting, Brian Fullhart had been acting bizarrely. Something would set him off, and he’d start repeating things, talking about how he was trying to protect his family, saying it over and over even though no one was trying to harm his family, Luster said.