Michele MacNeill, the mother of eight children and a former beauty queen, seems an unlikely candidate to have been killed in her own bathtub. While her husband, a well-known Utah County doctor who also has a law degree, seems just as unlikely in the role of murder suspect.
But prosecutors say Martin MacNeill, 57, had an age-old motive — he was driven to kill his wife so he could continue having an affair with a younger woman.
— Continuing coverage
Reporter Jessica Miller will be in the courtroom throughout the trial. Follow her tweets from the courthouse: @jm_miller.
And some of those closest to Michele MacNeill have believed for years that her husband was capable of harming her.
Jury selection begins Tuesday in 4th District Court in Provo. Jurors are expected to listen to five weeks of evidence, then will be asked to decide if what happened six years ago in the couple’s Pleasant Grove home amounted to murder.
Homecoming queen » Michele Somers MacNeill was born and raised in California, one of seven siblings. Even from an early age, she displayed a love for learning.
"I just remember how excited she was to turn 5," older sister Susan Hare said in a phone interview Friday. "To get to start kindergarten. That enthusiasm for school never left her. She adored school."
Michele MacNeill excelled in high school in Concord, Calif. — she was a cheerleader, homecoming queen and loved learning French.
"She was like a princess," younger sister Terry Pearson remembered. "She was outgoing, very kind. She was very sweet to everybody that she came in contact with."
In 1977, the Somers family moved to Mission Viejo, Calif., and Michele met Martin MacNeill. The Somers family did not approve of MacNeill, and just months into dating, the two eloped, according to a blog that Michele’s sister Linda Cluff has maintained since 2010.
"I thought he was arrogant," Cluff wrote about her first impression of her new brother-in-law. "He walked in our house for the first time like he owned the place. He was self-absorbed. It became more and more apparent each time I saw him that he believed he was more superior than anyone else and thought very highly of himself."
During their courtship, Martin MacNeill told his future wife that he was in trouble with the law for writing a few bad checks, Cluff wrote, but that it was "no big deal."
After the two had wed, the Somers family soon learned that Martin MacNeill had actually been charged with 14 felony counts of fraud, according to Cluff. Michele MacNeill’s mother gathered together newspaper clippings about the case, as well as court documents and two psychological evaluations her son-in-law underwent as part of the criminal prosecution. Cluff wrote her mother kept the documents in case they needed them in the future.
"I won’t be surprised if he killed her some day," Cluff recalled her mother telling her over 30 years ago.
Something was wrong » After the young couple moved to Mexico, back to California and then to New York for Martin MacNeill’s medical school and internships, they eventually settled in Utah, where they raised eight children — four biological and four adopted.
"Above all, her kids meant everything to her," Hare said. "Her life pretty much circled around whatever they were involved in doing. That’s what her days were really filled with, was all the things with her children."
Michele MacNeill had a knack for decorating, loved watching ballet and enjoyed listening to classical music, according to her sisters. But after her first child, Rachel, was born, her world quickly centered around being a mom.
"I always thought my sister was not just beautiful, but she had tremendous talent," Cluff said in an interview Friday. "She had the potential to do whatever she wanted, but what made her happiest was being around her children and loving them." Though Michele MacNeill continued enjoying her children, toward the end of her life, her sister could tell something was wrong.
"Towards the end, my impression was that something seemed to be bothering her," Cluff said. "At the end, she seemed to not be very happy."
In February 2007, Michele MacNeill confided in her daughter that she believed her husband was having an affair, according to a search warrant affidavit written by Utah County Attorney’s Office investigator Jeff Robinson. A month later, Martin MacNeill began pressuring her to get a facelift.Next Page >
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.