Mistress returns to murder trial of Utah doctor
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A mistress of a Utah doctor charged in his wife’s death testified Thursday that she and Martin MacNeill pretended to be married and traded love letters while both served prison terms for fraud charges.
Gypsy Willis was called back to the stand by prosecutors trying to show she was MacNeill’s motive for killing his wife. MacNeill is accused of knocking out Michele MacNeill with drugs after cosmetic surgery, then leaving her to die in a bathtub.
Willis testified she and Martin MacNeill acted as though they were married shortly after his wife’s death in 2007, even though that wasn’t the case.
Two years later, both were in federal prison on charges involving Willis stealing the identity of one of Martin MacNeill’s adopted daughters to escape a debt-heavy history.
On the stand Thursday, Willis read from numerous love letters she traded with Martin MacNeill at the time. She insisted, however, that she never planned to reunite with the doctor, who was arrested on the state murder charge shortly after his release from federal prison in July 2010.
Prosecutors suggested Willis is still in love with Martin MacNeill and is trying to protect him. She denied it and said she is seeing a different man.
“Martin and I have not been in a relationship for years and years,” she said.
Prosecutors then rested their case.
Defense lawyers called an ergonomics expert to testify it was “highly unlikely” that Martin MacNeill could have lifted his 180-pound wife out of a high-rim tub, especially with the doctor having to bend over to do it. The forces required to lift her were three to four times the safe limit for a man of Martin MacNeill’s proportions — he could have damaged his spine trying, the witness said.
“It’s not to say it’s impossible, but it would be quite a lift,” said Brett Besser, an industrial hygienist for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Martin MacNeill told a police dispatcher he was unable to lift his wife from the tub, and it finally took a neighbor’s help to accomplish it. Prosecutors have questioned his account.
Defense lawyers also called a co-worker of Martin MacNeill’s who testified there was nothing unusual about the doctor’s demeanor before he left work to discover his wife unresponsive in the tub. Martin MacNeill was medical director at the state psychiatric hospital, located just a few miles from his Pleasant Grove home.
On Wednesday, two men who spent time behind bars with Martin MacNeill testified he had acknowledged killing his wife.
One witness recalled the defendant saying he was getting away with murder. Another said Martin MacNeill told him he had held his heavily drugged wife underwater in a bathtub.
Defense lawyers argue Michele MacNeill died of natural causes. They contend she had a heart attack and fell into the tub. A cause of death was never established.
Closing arguments could begin as soon as Friday.
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