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Pleasant Grove doctor pleads not guilty to murdering wife

Published October 22, 2012 3:50 pm

Courts • Five-week trial of Martin MacNeill begins March 5.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • A 56-year-old Pleasant Grove doctor accused of killing his wife so he could be with another woman pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice.

Martin MacNeill allegedly killed 50-year-old Michele MacNeill with a deadly mixture of prescription drugs after she came home to recover from cosmetic surgery in April 2007, according to prosecutors.

Fourth District Court Judge Samuel McVey set a five-week trial to begin March 5.

MacNeill's pleas are a follow-up to a six-day preliminary hearing earlier this month that consisted largely of circumstantial evidence.

At the end of the preliminary hearing, McVey said there wasn't any single piece of evidence that convinced him to advance that case to trial. But the judge rehashed a number of details of the case that, he said, seemed suspicious or showed MacNeill may have had a guilty mind.

On April 11, 2007, MacNeill picked up his 6-year-old daughter from the American Heritage School around 11:35 a.m. and drove home. The child ran upstairs and found her mother in the bathtub partially filled with reddish-brown water.

MacNeill called 911 but screamed too loudly for the dispatcher to initially make sense of the call. Later, he gave a wrong address that slowed the response. When a woman who lived next door entered the house after the MacNeill daughter went to her home for help, MacNeill said he needed a "man's help" to pull his wife from the tub. The woman's husband arrived at the home a few moments later, and helped get Michele MacNeill out of the tub.

Prosecutors claimed MacNeill's motive for the murder was to continue his affair with a woman named Gypsy Willis.

Willis testified that her sexual relationship with MacNeill began in November 2005, but was "just for fun, just exciting ... Just for on the side."

But after Michele MacNeill's death, Martin MacNeill claimed he needed support, Willis said, so he decided to bring her into the family — but he staged a meeting, pretending she was only an acquaintance and brought her into his home as a nanny.

The state medical examiner has never ruled Michele MacNeill's death a homicide. After an autopsy in 2007, her manner of death was ruled "natural," the result of "chronic hypertension and myocarditis, which are capable of causing acute unexpected arrhythmia and sudden death."

But investigators say MacNeill called the medical examiner multiple times and gave misleading information. In 2010, in a new investigative report, Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey changed the cause of death to the combined effects of heart disease and drug toxicity. The manner of death was changed to "undetermined."

In recent years, other experts have also reviewed the case. A University of Utah professor of pharmacology and toxicology said he believed Michele MacNeill had taken a potentially lethal dose of medication. A medical examiner in Florida determined the immediate cause of death was drowning and that, contrary to the Utah medical examiner's findings, there was no evidence of acute or active myocarditis.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller