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MacNeill offered doc $10K to keep resuscitating wife

Published October 23, 2013 3:31 pm

Martin MacNeill's team will use "alibi defense" by claiming he was at work when his wife died.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

In Dr. Scott VanWagoner's 15 years of practice, he'd never received a more odd request than the one he did on April 11, 2007 from Martin MacNeill.

Martin MacNeill, a fellow physician, had come to the emergency room at the American Fork hospital where VanWagoner and staff were attempting to revive his wife, Michele MacNeill.

"He offered me $10,000 to continue my resuscitation and not quit," VanWagoner testified Wednesday in Provo's 4th District Court.

VanWagoner testified that he didn't know why Martin MacNeill would make such a request, especially considering that it was obvious to him that Michele MacNeil had already passed away.

"I think she was dead by the time she arrived at our door," VanWagoner testified.

Jessica Miller tweets from courthouse

VanWagoner's testimony came Wednesday during a five-week murder trial for Martin MacNeill, who is accused of giving his wife a fatal combination of prescription drugs after she came home to recover from cosmetic surgery.

Michele MacNeill was found unconscious in a bathtub by her 6-year-old daughter, fully clothed and face-up, according to the girl's preliminary hearing testimony. The child went to a neighbor's house to get help, and eventually Michele MacNeill was pulled from the bathtub by a neighbor and Martin MacNeill. The two attempted CPR before medical crews arrived.

Those medical crews also attempted to perform CPR and other life-saving efforts before Michele MacNeill was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Martin MacNeill, 57, of Pleasant Grove, is charged with first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice in Michele MacNeill's death. Prosecutors allege that Martin MacNeill killed his wife in order to continue an affair with a younger woman, 31-year-old Gypsy Willis.

Martin MacNeill's attorneys have filed notice that they plan to use an "alibi defense" at trial, claiming that the man was at his work during the time frame when Michele MacNeill had died and could not have killed her. On Wednesday, many of Martin MacNeill's co-workers at the Utah State Developmental Center were called to the witness stand by prosecutors, in an attempt to show that Martin MacNeill appeared rushed, hurried or did not stay long at the safety fair that was being put on the morning of Michele MacNeill's death.

Melissa Frost, who organized the safety fair, testified that Martin MacNeill's department was scheduled to receive an award that morning around 11:45 a.m. However, throughout the morning, she received several calls indicating the award ceremony should be moved to accommodate Martin MacNeill's schedule. The award was instead given out around 10:40 a.m.

"There was this big rush to have [the ceremony]," Frost testified. "But then [MacNeill] stayed and talked to a vendor."

David Laycock, who worked in human resources at the center, said Martin MacNeill approached him that morning, and insisted his picture be taken because he had received an award.

"He was adamant," Laycock said, adding that MacNeill's request seemed strange.

After the safety fair, Martin MacNeill picked up his young daughter from kindergarten, and came home to discover Michele MacNeill in the bath tub.

Eileen Heng, who at the time was dating the MacNeill's son, Damian MacNeill, testified that later on April 11, 2007, she was instructed by Martin MacNeill to flush a number of pills prescribed to Michele MacNeill after her plastic surgery down the toilet, a request that she complied with, but found strange.

Heng said that in the days after Michele MacNeill's death, she was asked to be on a hiring committee to interview potential nannies to watch the younger MacNeill children. However, there was only one applicant: Gypsy "Jillian" Willis.

After the interview, she testified that she told Martin MacNeill to not hire the woman, because two of his daughters, Alexis Somers and Rachel MacNeill, had accused him of having an affair with Willis before Michele MacNeill's death.

He hired her anyway, Heng testified.

"He said he didn't want his kids controlling his life," Heng said.

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 investigations 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."

Testimony is expected to resume Thursday, with Martin MacNeill's daughters Alexis Somers and Rachel MacNeill expected to testify.

Also Thursday, Judge Derek Pullan is expected to decide whether 12-year-old Ada MacNeill, who found her mother in the bath tub, will be allowed to testify.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller