PROVO, Utah (AP) – Using a bathtub brought into court by prosecutors, neighbors of a former Utah doctor charged with murder in his wife’s death demonstrated Friday how they found the woman’s body.
They also described frantic moments at the home after they were summoned for help by a daughter of defendant Martin MacNeill.
They recalled finding MacNeill in a lab coat, blaming his wife for her condition while asking for help lifting and trying to resuscitate her.
“She looked lifeless and collapsed,” testified Doug Daniels, MacNeill’s next-door neighbor at the time.
MacNeill is accused of killing his wife, Michele, by giving her a lethal combination of prescription drugs after persuading her to get a face-lift.
Prosecutors say he had helped her into the tub.
Defense lawyers have claimed that Michele MacNeill had a heart attack and fell into the tub after drawing water for a bath.
On the day she died, Martin MacNeill was yelling, “‘Why did you do this? All because of a stupid surgery,'” Doug Daniels recalled. “He would have a bit of outburst, then he would tell me very calmly, `OK, continue'” resuscitation efforts.
Ray Ormond, a Pleasant Grove police officer at the time, said he found MacNeill’s behavior threatening _ “very loud, very agitated” _ while accusing his unconscious wife of having taken too much medication.
“It made me feel uncomfortable,” Ormond said.
The neighbors also testified that MacNeill previously told them he was dying of cancer. Prosecutors have alleged that he was lying to deflect any suspicion in his wife’s death.
Prosecutor Chad Grunander said he bought a small, round bathtub for the demonstration on Friday, the second day of testimony. The tub was similar to the size of the one where Michele MacNeill was found.
Investigators have said Martin MacNeill plotted his wife’s death to carry on an affair with his mistress, Gypsy Willis, who the doctor invited to his wife’s funeral and asked to marry him weeks later. They said he had pressed a plastic surgeon for drugs that his wife _ a former beauty queen _ didn’t need then gave her the fatal dose.
Medical examiners couldn’t determine exactly how the 50-year-old woman died. A doctor who examined her before the face-lift testified she was generally healthy.
MacNeill, 57, was charged in August 2012, nearly five years after his wife was found in the couple’s Pleasant Grove home.
The case shocked the Mormon community of Provo, 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, because the suspect was a doctor and had been a church leader. He was clinical director at the Utah State Hospital but has surrendered his medical license.
The drugs his wife was taking weren’t necessary for most people getting a face-lift, the surgeon, Dr. Scott Thomson, testified Thursday. He said he would not normally prescribe Valium or Oxycodone, among other painkillers and sleeping pills, for recovery, but did so because MacNeill was a physician and asked for the prescriptions.
Michele MacNeill required only antibiotics, and he advised her to use painkillers sparingly, Thomson said.
Von Welch, another doctor who examined Michele MacNeill before cosmetic surgery, said her husband was eager to “get things going.” Welch was surprised the couple rejected his advice to put off the surgery until she got her high blood pressure under control.
The MacNeills had eight children, and their oldest daughters have been outspoken in their belief that their father killed their mother.
Rachel MacNeill and Alexis Somers have gone on national TV with their claims and sat in his court hearings holding up photographs of their mother. They insist his motive was the affair.
The trial will resume Tuesday.
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