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Michele MacNeill was found dead in the bathtub of her family's Pleasant Grove, Utah, home on April 11, 2007. Her husband, Dr. Martin MacNeill, is now charged with first-degree murder in her death.
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The medical examiner listed the official manner of Michele MacNeill's death as "undetermined." Prosecutors and MacNeill's daughters say it was murder, but the defense says the case is full of reasonable doubt and the doctor did not kill his wife. There are several important characters in this story, and they're all saying something different. So we've rounded up the key players in this case and what you need to know about them.
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Martin and Michele MacNeill
On the surface, the MacNeill family was living quite a nice life. Martin MacNeill taught Sunday school at the family's Mormon church and his wife, Michele MacNeill, was a former beauty queen. The couple lived in a gated community in Pleasant Grove, Utah, where residents drive past a neighborhood pond to get in and out. The MacNeills' home even overlooked a children's playground, which was fitting for the couple's eight kids -- four biological and four adopted. It was later discovered that one of the MacNeills' adopted daughters, Ada, is actually their biological granddaughter. In fact, after Michele MacNeill's tragic death in 2007, several family secrets began to unravel. On the morning of April 11, 2007, Michele was found dead in the bathtub of her family's home. The first autopsy report stated that Michele died of natural causes, but after further investigation, the manner of death was changed to "undetermined." The medical examiner added that the information provided "raises questions as to whether the decedent’s ingestion of the medications found was solely the result of her independent and fully informed actions.”
MacNeill, 57, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Michele. His trial is set to begin October 15, and he's currently living in the Utah County Jail. MacNeill claims he was working on the morning of his wife's death and that it was an accident. Prosecutors claim MacNeill also obstructed justice in the case. They say following Michele's death, he removed his wife's pants, lied to a 911 dispatcher about performing CPR and drained the tub where Michele was found. He also allegedly told different stories about the position of Michele's body when she was found.
On the night of his wife's death, MacNeill also allegedly had his son's girlfriend dispose of the remaining drugs prescribed to Michele following her surgery, because he said he wanted to keep her facelift a private matter, according to MacNeill’s son's girlfriend, who testified during a preliminary hearing. Prosecutors claim MacNeill attempted to stage Michele's death to look like an accident.
This wasn't MacNeill's first run-in with the law. In 1977, he was caught forging $35,000 in checks in California and was put on felony probation for three years. In 1978, four months after he and his wife had eloped, Martin served a six-month jail sentence for forgery, theft and fraud related to the check scheme. In July 2012, MacNeill was released from federal prison after serving three years on charges of identity fraud he allegedly committed with his mistress after his wife's death. On August 24, 2012, murder charges were filed against MacNeill in the death of his wife.
Michele MacNeill was found dead in her family home on April 11, 2007. Michele had turned 50 earlier that year, and she underwent cosmetic surgery about one week before her death. Michele's daughter said she agreed to the facelift her husband requested because she thought it would help her marriage. Prosecutors say the evidence shows that her husband used the surgery and recovery period to "obtain the necessary drugs and set in motion the circumstances to intentionally or knowingly cause Michele's death and conceal his involvement." Medical examiners found a powerful mixture of drugs -- including Valium, Percocet, Phenergan and Ambien -- in Michele's system after her death.
At the last pre-op consultation before Michele MacNeill's surgery, Martin MacNeill allegedly gave the surgeon a list of drugs that he wanted his wife to have after the operation. The surgeon prescribed Lortab, Ambien, Valium, Percocet, Phenergen and Keflex. During a preliminary hearing, the surgeon testified that he did not normally give Percocet and Valium with the other drugs, but because MacNeill was a physician, he did so at his request. The doctor told investigators he had never prescribed that combination of drugs to a patient and would not have in this case had it not been for the recommendation of Martin MacNeill. He said he did so only on the condition that MacNeill monitor the administration of the substances as a physician.
According to a search warrant affidavit, Martin MacNeill began an affair with Gypsy Willis in April 2004. In July 2004, Willis allegedly told her roommates she wanted to "get rid" of MacNeill's wife, mentioning cutting brake lines and giving undetectable medications. Willis testified during a preliminary hearing that she and MacNeill met in an online chat room in 2005. She claims they met for the first time for lunch in November 2005, and by January 2006, the relationship became sexual. In 2007, between April 7 and April 9, just days before Michele's death, MacNeill and Willis exchanged 32 text messages. On April 17, 2007, MacNeill told his children he needed a nanny to help with the younger kids. He asked his daughter Rachel to go with him to pray about a nanny. Just outside the temple, Willis -- whom MacNeill pretended not to know at first -- began talking to Rachel and Alexis. MacNeill later announced Willis as the family's new nanny, and she moved into the family home later that month. Over the next few months, Willis took on the identity of Jillian Giselle MacNeill and used the passport belonging to one of Martin's adopted daughters, whom he had sent back to the Ukraine. In at least one instance, Willis used Michele's funeral date as the date of her supposed marriage to MacNeill. MacNeill and Willis were ultimately caught, and Willis pleaded guilty to identity fraud, among other charges. She was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 36 months probation. According to Michele's family members, the jacket Gypsy wore at her sentencing hearing on May 17, 2011, belonged to Michele.
Alexis, 30, is one of MacNeill's biological daughters, and she took care of her mother after her facelift, in the days just before her death. Alexis led the campaign with her sisters to prosecute their father. According to Alexis, leading up to her mother's death, MacNeill had become more verbally and mentally abusive toward Michele and often threatened to leave the family. During a preliminary hearing, Alexis said she remembers MacNeill saying he no longer loved Michele and didn’t want their adopted daughters anymore. MacNeill hasn't commented on that accusation. Just days before Michele's death, on April 5, 2007, she allegedly told Alexis, "If anything happens to me make sure it wasn't your dad,'" according to a statement filed by prosecutors. On April 10, Alexis returned to Las Vegas, where she was attending medical school. The next day, she received a voicemail from MacNeill saying Michele wouldn't stay in bed. Alexis was in class and didn't hear the message until later. She said she tried calling her mom multiple times and her dad finally picked up and said he found Michele in the bathtub and that police had been called.
Rachel, 33, is the MacNeills' oldest biological child. Rachel said when she met Willis outside the temple -- when MacNeill asked her to help him pray for a nanny -- her father was acting very strange. Rachel said, "That's the first time I realized something was wrong...The whole thing had been scripted."
The MacNeill Family
The MacNeills had four biological children: Rachel, Alexis, Vanessa and Damian; and adopted four more children from Ukraine, or that's what they told people. In 2010, the couple's only son, Damian, committed suicide. During a preliminary hearing, Rachel MacNeill testified that Ada, who everyone knows as one of the MacNeills' adopted daughters, is actually the MacNeills' biological granddaughter. Ada is Vanessa's daughter.