Martin MacNeill's ex mistress says they pretended to be married
Provo • Martin MacNeill's defense attorneys called only four witnesses Thursday to bolster his claim that he did not kill his wife, relying on short testimonies from MacNeill's co-worker and his child's kindergarten teacher to back his alibi theory that he was at work at the time of Michele MacNeill's death.
Jim Van Zant, who worked with the Pleasant Grove doctor at the Utah State Developmental Center, said that between 11 a.m. and noon on April 11, 2007, he saw Martin MacNeill leaving work to pick up his then 6-year-old daughter from kindergarten. He said he didn't notice anything unusual at that time.
An hour or two later, Van Zant said Martin MacNeill called him, saying he "was doing a code on his wife."
Michele MacNeill was found unconscious in her bathtub on April 11, 2007 by her 6-year-old daughter, Ada MacNeill. The child was sent by her father 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 American Fork hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Linda Strong Ada MacNeill's teacher was also called to the witness stand Thursday, where she verified that kindergarten was released around 11:30 a.m., and that Martin MacNeill picked up Ada at about that time.
According to phone records, Martin MacNeill called 911 at 11:46 a.m. and 11:48 a.m. that day.
Utah County Attorney's Office investigator Jeff Robinson had previously testified that the drive from Martin MacNeill's work to his Pleasant Grove home took about five minutes, going about 30 mph.
Defense attorneys also brought in ergonomics expert and industrial hygienist Brett Besser, who told the jury that it would have been difficult for Martin MacNeill to have lifted his wife from the bathtub by himself. Using a courtroom tub to show the body position he "assumed" Michele MacNeill may have been in, Besser said, "I would say, at those levels, it's highly unlikely that someone would be able to do that [lift the woman out.]"
He added: "It's not to say it's impossible, but it would be quite a lift."
During cross-examination, Deputy Utah County Attorney Sam Pead attacked the sources Besser used to come to his conclusion, saying most of the literature Besser relied on dealt more with workplace safety and injuries, not whether someone had the strength"capability" to do the lift.
Martin MacNeill did not take the witness stand in his own defense.
Before resting their case earlier Thursday, prosecutors recalled Martin MacNeill's former mistress, Gypsy Willis, to the witness stand, and asked her to read a number of love letters the two exchanged in the fall of 2009 while they were incarcerated in federal prison for identity theft.
"You are worth everything I go through to get you back in my life," Willis read from a letter sent to her from Martin MacNeill.
The prosecution claims 57-year-old Martin MacNeill's affair with the younger woman was the motive for the Pleasant Grove doctor to allegedly kill 50-year-old Michele MacNeill.
Willis, 37, testified Thursday that although she and Martin MacNeill obtained a marriage license in July 2007, they never were officially married.
"Very shortly after 2009, we were indicted and separated," she testified, but said they had lived together and held themselves out to be married for several years before their arrests.
Martin MacNeill pleaded guilty to identity fraud and was sentenced in 2009 to spend four years in a federal prison for using his adopted daughter's Social Security number so that Willis who also went to prison could open bank accounts under a false name.
While Willis read a handful of letters sent to her from Martin MacNeill, the man appeared to become emotional, wiping a tear from his eye.
"Know that I love you and have loved you from the day we met," Willis read from Martin MacNeill's letter.
Willis testified that she never told him that, from her perspective, the relationship was over.
"I was so lonely," she testified about her time in prison. "I was thrilled out of my mind to get a letter."
But Willis also wrote back to Martin MacNeill, and read from one letter: "I have always loved you and always will."
Willis insisted that her relationship with Martin MacNeill has been over "for years and years" and that she has not had contact with him since she was released from prison over four years ago. She said she is currently in a relationship with someone else, and insisted she was not trying to protect Martin MacNeill in her testimony.
Also Thursday, 4th District Judge Derek Pullan denied a defense request for a directed verdict a request that the judge find prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence of the crimes charged, and that the case should be dismissed and not go to the jury.
The defendant is charged with first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice.
Defense attorney Randall Spencer had argued that the evidence presented in connection with homicide charge is "not believable," and that the evidence does "not support the obstruction charge."
Prosecutor Chad Grunander responded by saying the case should remain with the jury.
Prosecutors claim Martin MacNeill gave Michele MacNeill a toxic combination of prescription medications after she came home to recover from plastic surgery. However, the state medical examiner's office has never ruled the woman's death a homicide.
After an autopsy in 2007, Michele MacNeill's 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 combine effects of heart disease and drug toxicity. The manner of death was changed to "undetermined."
It is expected that the jury could start deliberating by noon on Friday, after they are read the jury instructions and hear closing arguments from both prosecutors and the defense.