Dr. Martin MacNeill: Facts
As he entered the courtroom for his arraignment, Dr. Martin MacNeill walked past his daughters, who were clutching photographs of his alleged victim – their mother.
MacNeill was charged with murder and obstruction of justice for the murder of his wife, Michele. He might never have been arrested in this bizarre case but for his daughters Alexis and Rachel, who hired their own investigator to examine the case after local authorities declared their mother died of natural causes while recovering from a facelift.
A few days before she was found dead, Michele MacNeill made the ominous comment to her daughter Alexis, “If anything happens to me, make sure it wasn’t your dad.” When the youngest child, six-year-old Ada, found their mother dead, the older daughters knew they needed to figure out if their father was involved.
For five years, the daughters asked anyone who would listen to investigate their father for their mother’s 2007 death. For five years, they fought to keep their mother’s death at the forefront of police and media investigations. After a long investigation, spanning the country, Utah County authorities believed MacNeill murdered his wife with an overdose of medication to end his marriage without the burden of divorce, to cover up an affair he was having with a woman named Gypsy Willis.
The 56-year-old MacNeill is a prominent doctor and lawyer from Pleasant Grove, Utah, a suburb of Provo. The MacNeills were known in their community as a good-looking, compassionate, loving Mormon couple whose seemingly boundless goodwill led them to adopt four little girls from Ukraine after their natural children were grown. Michele modeled professionally before she met her husband, then she became the ultimate stay at home mother and homemaker. MacNeill worked as the clinical director of the Utah State Developmental Center.
But as Alexis and Rachel began looking into their mother’s death, they realized that the fairytale marriage and happily ever after they had taken for granted was always a lie.
Shortly before Michele passed away, Alexis was looking through her father’s cell phone and found records of calls to someone named “Gypsy” at all hours of the night. At Michele’s funeral, MacNeill introduced 35-year-old Gypsy Willis to his adult daughters, explaining that she was going to be the new live-in nanny for the younger daughters. Alexis and Rachel suspected an affair, and aided by their aunt, Linda Cluff, they began lobbying the police for an investigation.
When the police were reluctant to help the family investigate an apparently accidental death, Alexis, Rachel and their aunt began to unravel what they called MacNeill’s “web of lies” themselves. They found out that Gypsy was only the latest in a long line of extramarital affairs. They discovered that their father’s school records were falsified and that he had no business practicing medicine or law. They even discovered allegations that he may have killed other people. An ex-girlfriend of MacNeill’s said that he previously confessed to killing his brother, to trying to kill his mother, and to several mercy-killings at the hospital where he worked.
As Michele’s family delved deeper into MacNeill’s history, they discovered that MacNeill had been the force guiding the still-beautiful Michele to pursue “facial reconstruction surgery.” He also prescribed her the combination of drugs that would ultimately turn lethal: Lortrab, Ambien, Valium, Phenergan and Percocet. Alexis visited her mother during her recovery and found her “listless and unresponsive,” and she argued with MacNeill about overmedicating Michele. Prosecutors believe MacNeill was planning Michele’s death for months.
Shortly after Michele’s death, MacNeill sent Giselle, one of his adopted daughters, back to Ukraine, abandoning her there for nearly a year. While she was gone, Gypsy assumed Giselle’s identity to cover up her debt history. When the older MacNeill girls realized what was happening, they rescued Giselle from Ukraine. Alexis eventually won custody of all of Michele’s adopted children, knowing her mother would want the family to stay together.
Further investigation revealed that Gypsy was just as suspicious. Her roommate said Gypsy talked about ways to kill Michele. MacNeill made Gypsy his financial beneficiary after Michele’s death. Gypsy also assumed the identity of one of the MacNeill daughters for her own financial benefit.
While the investigation into Michele’s murder was taking place, Gypsy and MacNeill were convicted for fraud-related charges including identity theft and forgery. MacNeill was released from his three-year sentence on July 6, 2012 and was re-arrested for Michele’s murder five weeks later.
The three week trial included testimony from MacNeill’s daughters, jailhouse informants, medical examiners, former mistresses, and the highlight of Gypsy Willis herself, who prosecutors alleged was the motive for the murder plot. After 11 hours of deliberations, ending shortly after 1 a.m. on November 9, 2013, a jury convicted MacNeill of the murder of his wife Michele.
He faces 15 years to life for first-degree murder when he is sentenced January 7. He also was found guilty of obstruction of justice, which could add one to 15 years.
MacNeill showed little emotion when the verdict was read. He hugged his lawyer and said, “It’s OK.” Deputies then led him back to Utah County jail.
The drugs found in the deadly cocktail of prescription medication are identified as Valium, Phenergan (anti-nausea or cough-suppressant) , Ambien (sleep medication), Oxycodone (powerful opiate). All are sedatives.