Former Utah doctor Martin MacNeill had to face his oldest daughter Thursday as she cried and visibly trembled for much of her testimony against him, the man she said she once called her best friend.
Rachel MacNeill told jurors that her father moved his mistress into the family’s home within two weeks of her mother’s funeral. She also said that, in the hours after her mother, Michele MacNeill, died, her father was adamant about showing her how he found the body.
“He said that my mother was under the water. He said that her head -- that she was under the water, feet sticking out,” Rachel MacNeill said, stepping down from the witness stand and hunching over the bathtub prosecutors had hauled in the Provo, Utah, courtroom. It’s not the actual tub from the family’s home that Michele MacNeill was found in, but it's the same make and model.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Susanne Gustin pulled out a medical record stating that Rachel MacNeill suffered from "delusions and psychosis" in August 2012, and when questioned, MacNeill admitted she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
The way Rachel MacNeill said her father described the position of her mother's body in the tub conflicts with the testimony of other witnesses. Several neighbors who saw Michele MacNeill the morning of her death said she was on her back and slumped down inside the tub, not slumped over the side with her head under water in the manner Rachel MacNeill said her father depicted.
Martin MacNeill has pleaded not guilty to murder and obstruction of justice in the death of his wife, who had a powerful cocktail of drugs in her system on April 11, 2007, following face-lift surgery. His attorneys say Michele MacNeill died of natural causes, but prosecutors accuse Martin MacNeill of murdering her in order to be with his mistress, Gypsy Willis.
Rachel MacNeill told the jurors about the first time she met Willis in 2007, about a week after her mother's funeral. Willis introduced herself as "Jillian."
“My father was adamant that we go to the temple to pray about getting a nanny,” MacNeill said. Willis came up to them outside the temple, introduced herself as a nursing student and Martin MacNeill took down her phone number, Rachel MacNeill testified. Prosecutors allege Willis and Martin MacNeill were already involved in an extramarital affair at this point.
Following that encounter outside the temple, Willis was quickly hired on as nanny and moved into the family’s basement, according to Rachel MacNeill.
“I expected her to be focused on the children,” Rachel MacNeill said. “To cook or clean or take care of the children. My dad was cooking, she was sitting there staring at my dad -- things like that. The children were taking care of themselves... there was nobody looking after the children. It was very, very different than when my mother was there.”
Rachel MacNeill also told jurors that she found a pile of her mother’s things in the family's garage, including towels, sheets, the clothing she was wearing when found dead in the bathtub and the stuffed animals the younger children had given her for her surgery. She called it a “big bloody mess” and said she pulled her mother's clothes out of the pile and showed them to her father.
“He told me, 'How dare you show me those things, get rid of it,'” said Rachel MacNeill. “I washed them. I washed my mother’s things. Put them in a bag and kept them. Then turned them over [to investigators].”
Martin MacNeill also allegedly told his daughters that he wanted an autopsy done on his wife immediately.
"It didn’t make sense to me... he specifically said to me that he was concerned there would be a police investigation -- he didn’t want anyone to think he murdered my mother," Rachel MacNeill said. "It was so shocking to me. I said, 'Why would anyone think that?'"
Rachel MacNeill also described her father's seemingly jovial behavior during a luncheon after her mother's funeral.
“He was making jokes about being single and just laughing -- made me sick. I left," she said.
On cross-examination, Gustin accused Rachel MacNeill of not telling anyone about her father's joking behavior after the funeral until today. Gustin also said that Rachel had stated in the past that her father was "distraught" the day her mother died and was also upset, in addition to smiling, at her mother's funeral.
Gustin additionally suggested that Martin MacNeill didn't accept an offer from Rachel MacNeill to be her younger siblings' nanny because of her mental state.
Another witness, Jacqueline Colledge, took the stand briefly to talk about the funeral of Michele MacNeill, whom she described as an outspoken, wonderful friend.
"I do remember him talking about how he would survive and the children would survive this terrible thing that happened to them," Colledge said. "It just had a feeling it was about him and his grief."
Colledge also testified that Martin MacNeill told her Michele MacNeill "had health problems her whole life and refused to take medication."
Friday morning, the judge will announce his decision on whether he'll allow Martin MacNeill's 12-year-old adopted daughter, Ada, to take the stand and describe how -- at age 6 -- she found Michele MacNeill's lifeless body in the tub.
Ada was adopted by the MacNeills and is also the couple's biological grandchild by daughter Vanessa MacNeill. Another one of the MacNeills' daughters, Alexis Somers, now has custody of three of her adopted sisters, including Ada. Martin MacNeill's defense attorneys have said that Ada's testimony has been tainted by Somers, who is expected to take the stand and testify against her father.
Martin MacNeill faces life in prison if convicted. His murder trial is expected to take approximately five weeks. Testimony is scheduled to resume Friday at 11:00 a.m. ET.