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MacNeill found guilty in slaying of wife

First Published      Last Updated Nov 09 2013 02:46 pm

Provo • It took a jury 11 hours to return a guilty verdict on Friday for Martin MacNeill, accused of killing his wife at their Pleasant Grove home six years ago.

The decision from the five-man, three-woman jury came after 13 days of testimony over four weeks, where prosecutors tried to build their case alleging MacNeill gave his wife, 50-year-old Michele MacNeill, a fatal cocktail of prescription drugs, then drowned her in a bathtub in their Pleasant Grove home. The motive, they argued, was to continue an affair with 37-year-old Gypsy Jyll Willis.

As the guilty verdict was read at 1:10 a.m. Saturday, Michele MacNeill's supporters — including her sisters, her friends and two of her daughters — gasped loudly as the verdict was announced, and immediately began sobbing and hugging. Martin MacNeill showed little to no emotion.

"We're just so happy he can't hurt anyone else," daughter Alexis Somers tearfully told a crowd of media after the verdict was read. "...There is justice for my mom today."

Martin MacNeill, 57, was found guilty of murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 7.

Deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander told members of the media at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday that Martin MacNeill's case was the most difficult he had ever prosecuted.

"We are absolutely thrilled," Grunander said of the verdict. "It was an amazing moment to meet with the family... I love it when the system works and it worked these last four weeks."

Martin MacNeill's defense attorney, Randy Spencer, declined to speak with the media after the verdict, but said, "Of course, I'm disappointed."

Grunander said during closing arguments Friday morning that the drugs given to Michele MacNeill after she underwent plastic surgery was her husband's cover to hide an "almost" perfect murder.

"Along the way, he left a number of clues that all point to him as a murderer," he told the jury.

For prosecutors, Grunander said the most damning piece of evidence was a government identification application that Martin MacNeill, 57, submitted for Willis, who represented herself in the application as his wife, Jillian MacNeill. On the line asking for their wedding date, Martin MacNeill inked April 14, 2007 — the day of Michele MacNeill's funeral.

"That is not short of an admission of guilt," Grunander told the jury during closing arguments. "He might as well have said in that application, 'I murdered Michele.' "

Reasonable doubt • But Spencer countered that there was no evidence presented by the state "that rises to the level of beyond a reasonable doubt." He accused prosecutors of "cherry-picking" facts that support their theory that Martin MacNeill killed his wife in order to welcome Willis into his life.

Spencer pointed to wording in the Utah medical examiner's report indicating that drug toxicity "could potentially" or "may have had an effect" on the woman's death.

That equals reasonable doubt, Spencer argued.

"I feel like I could sit down right now, because the medical testimony is so clear," Spencer said about 20 minutes into his 90-minute closing argument.

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