5 Things to Know about Utah doctor murder trial

Nov 5, 2013, 12:44 AM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Utah prosecutors are trying to persuade jurors in Provo that Martin MacNeill knocked out his wife with painkillers and other drugs after insisting that she get a face-lift, then left her to die in a bathtub in 2007.

The death of Michele MacNeill, who raised eight children, shocked the Mormon community of Pleasant Grove, about 35 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Martin MacNeill was a doctor and a lawyer and had been a bishop in his congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Here’s what you need to know:


The fourth week of trial begins Tuesday with former prison cellmates of Martin MacNeill set to testify as prosecutors wrap up their case. MacNeill was in federal prison on fraud charges when prosecutors say he told inmates his wife was a “bitch” and that he was glad she was dead. They also say MacNeill boasted that authorities couldn’t prove he killed her. Defense lawyers say the inmates never heard MacNeill actually confess. MacNeill’s attorneys are expected to begin calling their witnesses by mid-week.


On the defense witness list is a doctor who believes Michele MacNeill died of a blood clot, and an expert who will testify how people can acquire faulty memories over time. Also on the list _ even though the lawyers haven’t definitely revealed who they will call _ are police investigators who wrongly suspected two people in another murder case based on perceived odd behavior, according to court documents.


A medical examiner could not determine how Michele MacNeill died but said it could have been from a combination of heart disease and drug toxicity _ or from drowning. Defense testimony will continue to focus on the uncertainty.


Martin MacNeill had at least two mistresses, both of whom have testified during the trial. Prosecutors believe his motive for killing his wife was to be with Gypsy Willis, a 37-year-old former nursing student, who told the court that she started an affair with MacNeill 15 months before his wife’s death. She went to the funeral and was hired as a nanny and given a marriage proposal shortly afterward. An earlier mistress, Anna Walthall, testified that MacNeill discussed in 2005 how he could induce a heart attack in someone that would appear natural.


Prosecutors brought an oval bathtub into the courtroom to have neighbors, daughters and police demonstrate how they found Michele MacNeill and to recreate the scene they encountered in April 2007. One neighbor said she found the woman partly dressed in the tub, with her head face up and legs inside. Witnesses also described finding Martin MacNeill in a lab coat, acting erratically and yelling, “‘Why did you do this? All because of a stupid surgery,'” and later, “‘I’ve been a bishop. I pay tithing, and this is the way you repay me?'”

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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5 Things to Know about Utah doctor murder trial