Editor’s note: Dean Sicoli has been the executive producer for HLN’s “Nancy Grace” since the show launched 9 years ago in 2005. Kate Cavazini, a producer for the show’s website, sat down with Dean Sicoli for a one-on-one interview about why he’s completely gripped by the Martin MacNeill trial.
Days after Michele MacNeill got a facelift in April 2007, the former beauty queen ominously told her daughter Alexis, "If anything happens to me make sure it wasn't your dad,'" according to the statement of information prosecutors filed detailing the allegations against Dr. Martin MacNeill.
And sure enough, just a few days later, the mother of 8 was found dead in the bathtub of the family’s Pleasant Grove, Utah, home on April 11, 2007. Medical examiners found a powerful cocktail of drugs -- including Valium, Percocet, Phenergan, and Ambien -- in her system.
Prosecutors say her husband, Martin MacNeill, a successful doctor and attorney, used his medical knowledge to kill his wife as she recuperated from her procedure so he could continue a relationship with his alleged mistress. MacNeill has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
HLN’s Nancy Grace will cover the trial from start to finish. The executive producer and brain behind the hit HLN show, Dean Sicoli, explains why he finds the McNeill trial completely fascinating…and why you should too!
Q: Why do you think Nancy’s viewers will be hooked with the trial?
A: The trial is expected to last about 6 weeks. I think it will be a real-life soap opera for viewers, which seems to be a formula that Nancy’s fans just can’t get enough of. I’ve been working on this show for 9 years, and I hope by now I have a pretty good idea about what our audience seems to like. Many people seem to think there are obvious appearances of guilt in the MacNeill case, while others think he’s being unfairly blamed similar to the Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias trials. The mystery of this case will force viewers to take a side, weigh the evidence, and become a real-life jury.
Q: Why do you call the MacNeill case a “real-life soap opera”?
A: Well, he’s a doctor, she’s a former beauty queen, he’s got an alleged mistress named Gypsy, and the mother of 8 is found dead in the family’s bathtub from a mysterious drug overdose and apparent drowning….just a few days after she got a routine facelift. Sounds like a soap opera to me!
Q: You told me earlier Michele MacNeill’s death was disturbing. Can you explain?
A: Michele MacNeill’s 6-year-old daughter discovered her mom’s body that morning. She was found in the bathtub, face-up, head above water level, filled with reddish-brown water. Being a father myself, I can’t imagine what that child must have gone through…coming home to find her mother dead.
Q: Prosecutors seem to have a strong case, but you say there’s a lot of mystery as to what really happened. Why?
A: I think the biggest mystery in this case is how Michele MacNeill actually died. Did she overdose on medication, slip and fall in the tub, or was the scene staged to look like an accident to cover up a murder? There are many different scenarios that could have happened with this case. It will be interesting to see the different theories that emerge in the courtroom.
Q: What do you think is the most damning evidence against Martin MacNeill?
A: I find it very suspicious that just a few days before Michele MacNeill was found dead, she allegedly told her daughter Alexis, "If anything happens to me make sure it wasn't your dad.” His own daughter doubts his story. That’s his flesh and blood. I also find it odd that MacNeill allegedly pressured his wife into getting the facelift before she died. Did he use her surgery as a way to slip her pills causing her to overdose? If so, that’s quite an elaborate murder plot.
Q: What’s Martin MacNeill’s defense?
A: According to his attorney, MacNeill was at the Utah State Development Center when Michele passed away. The defense claims that MacNeill went to work between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. that morning, left his office to take his daughters to school, and was back at work by 9 a.m. MacNeill left there again at 11:30 a.m. to pick up one of his daughters. His attorneys claim they have witnesses who will corroborate his alibi. It will be interesting to see who the defense calls to testify, and if those witnesses raise any doubts in the prosecution’s case.
Q: Prosecutors believe Martin MacNeill killed his wife so he could carry on a relationship with his alleged mistress. Why do you think she will play a huge role in this trial?
A: The fact that Martin MacNeill was carrying on an alleged affair at the time of his wife’s alleged murder is incredibly suspicious, but more importantly, it shows that their marriage was clearly falling apart.
Q: What similarities do you see between this case and the Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias trials?
A: Martin MacNeill has a laundry list of alleged inconsistencies. How can you forget the multiple stories Casey Anthony told her parents and police about what happened to Caylee? She led police on a wild goose chase. And of course, Jodi Arias, a proven liar, was caught in a web of lies that became her ultimate undoing. When you’ve got a murder defendant allegedly lying and telling different stories, that immediately raises red flags in my book.
Q: You mentioned some unnerving details about the case that you can’t get out of your mind. What are they?
A: The fact that MacNeill’s alleged mistress became the family’s nanny right after his wife died is just creepy. We also know of one forged document where MacNeill and his alleged mistress listed themselves as “married,” with a wedding date as the same day of Michele MacNeill’s funeral. But don’t forget – there’s more than one alleged mistress in the picture. Another woman claims MacNeill had a fascination with killing. That woman allegedly told a psychiatrist she was having an affair with a serial killer!
Q: Do you think all the witnesses in the MacNeill trial will be as unforgettable as the ones who testified in the Jodi Arias case?
A: Absolutely. Think of all the characters who could take the stand! You’ve got 8 children, 2 alleged mistresses, possibly even Martin MacNeill himself. Every day of this trial is going to be exciting, full of drama and shocking evidence. Like I said earlier -- this is going to be a real-life soap opera.
Q: Lastly, what do you predict will be the outcome of this trial?
A: That’s a really hard question to answer. Like you said, there’s a lot of evidence against Martin MacNeill and his alleged involvement in his wife’s death. But you never know what’s going to happen… I learned my lesson with the Casey Anthony trial. I couldn’t imagine a jury finding her not guilty, but they did. We’ll have to see how this pans out in the courtroom and what evidence the defense will present.