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Martin MacNeill's neighbor describes tub death scene

Published October 18, 2013 1:45 pm

Neighbors, officer testify about frantic scene at home in 2007.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • When Martin MacNeill performed CPR on his wife moments after she was pulled unconscious from her bathtub on April 11, 2007, was the doctor performing life-saving breaths — or faking it, as evidence presented by prosecutors Friday implied.

During Friday's testimony of a trial for Martin MacNeill — who is accused of giving 50-year-old Michele MacNeill a fatal combination of prescription medications after she came home to recover from plastic surgery — prosecutors began presenting evidence that implies the trained doctor may have incorrectly administered CPR to his wife, who was found unconscious in the bath tub by their young daughter.

Doug Daniels, a neighbor who was called to the MacNeill home to help, testified Friday that after he helped Martin MacNeill pull his wife out of the tub, the two began performing CPR on the woman, who he described as "lifeless." Daniels performed chest compressions, while Martin MacNeill gave the woman breaths.

But prosecutors questioned Daniels whether MacNeill gave proper CPR.

"Did you see [Michele's] chest rise?" Prosecutor Jared Perkins asked Daniels Friday.

"No, I did not," Daniels replied.

"At all?"


Prosecutors also questioned whether Daniels saw a transfer of mucus found on Michele MacNeill's nose and mouth to Martin MacNeill's face after giving the woman breaths. Daniels said he didn't remember seeing any mucus on Martin MacNeill.

Daniels' testimony came Friday as part of a five-week trial for Martin MacNeill, 57, who is charged with murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony.

Also Friday, neighbor Kristi Daniels — Doug Daniel's wife — testified that she was asked to come to the MacNeill home after 6-year-old Ada MacNeill knocked on the door.

"She just said, 'My dad needs some help,'" Daniels said during testimony in 4th District Court Friday, adding that the small child seemed calm, and not panicked.

Once Daniels made it across her driveway, she could hear Martin MacNeill yelling from inside his home. She testified that she ran into the MacNeill home, and followed Martin MacNeill's voice until she found the man standing over his wife who was "slumped" in a bath tub face-up, wearing only a black shirt.

To demonstrate exactly how witnesses saw Michele MacNeil in the bath tub that April day, prosecutors brought in a similar bath tub — a narrow, but deep, jetted tub — to the courtroom Friday, and asked them to point out exactly where Michele MacNeill's body was positioned.

Kristi Daniels said after finding the MacNeills in the bathroom, she left the house to get her cell phone to ask her husband for help and also asked for Angela Aguilar — who was visiting at her house — to come help.

Aguilar testified Friday that she briefly saw Michele MacNeill slumped in the tub, with her head near the faucet. She said that she didn't offer to help lift the woman out of the tub because Martin MacNeill wouldn't let her.

"He wanted a man," Aguilar testified.

Doug Daniels soon arrived and helped Martin MacNeill lift his wife out of the tub. After Martin MacNeill and Doug Daniels did CPR, two Pleasant Grove police officers responded to the home and continued life-saving efforts.

Officer Ray Ormond testified Friday that he performed rescue breaths on Michele MacNeill using a bag valve mask. Once he started, he testified that Michele MacNeill coughed up about three cups of clear fluid, then coughed up foamy, more mucus-like fluid.

But while conducting CPR on the woman, he said he became somewhat distracted by Martin MacNeill — who appeared to be agitated and would sporadically start yelling.

"My feelings at that point were more an officer-safety issue," he testified. "Was it going from me doing compressions to me having to restrain him or defend myself?"

Michele MacNeill was eventually taken to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Prosecutors allege that Martin MacNeill killed his wife in order to continue an affair with a woman named Gypsy Willis.

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 Martin 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."

After Michele MacNeill's death, Martin MacNeill told both Aguilar and Kristi Daniels that his wife died of a heart arrhythmia, both testified.

"He said that the doctor had called, and made sure the family knew that it was nobody's fault," Kristi Daniels testified. "And it was all natural."


Twitter: @jm_miller