After deliberating for 11 hours, a Provo, Utah jury of five men and three women has found Martin MacNeill, a former physician, guilty of the first-degree murder of his wife, Michele, 50.
As the verdicts were read aloud just after 1 a.m. Saturday, an emotional cry was heard from the courtroom audience. MacNeill’s daughters Rachel MacNeill, 34, and Alexis Somers, 31, as well as their aunt Linda Cluff, 53, were visibly shaken as they hugged each other and cried. MacNeill, wearing a gray suit, stood emotionless.
MacNeill, 57, whom prosecutors say overmedicated then drowned his wife in a bathtub in April 2007 following a face-lift operation, faces life in prison. His motive, they alleged, was to start a new life with his mistress of 15 months, Gypsy Willis, 37.
In perhaps one of the most damning moments in the trial, Willis testified that, just over a year after his wife’s death, MacNeill listed his and Willis’s fictitious wedding date as April 14, 2007 – the day his wife was buried.
“That is nothing but an admission of guilt,” Deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander said during closing arguments before a packed courtroom Friday. “[MacNeill] might as well have said, ‘I murdered Michele.’ ”
The case was problematic in that a Utah state medical examiner was never able to determine whether Michele’s death was a homicide or not.
“In the end, the mountain of circumstantial evidence against MacNeill – his multiple lies and contradictions – was enough for the jury to look past the questionable scientific evidence,” says Joey Jackson, a criminal defense attorney not involved with the case.
The trial against MacNeill was the result of a five-year-long crusade by his daughters and their aunt – each of whom investigated MacNeill shortly after Michele’s death, revealing his disturbing history of past fraud.
His sentencing hearing was set for Jan. 7.
MacNeill faces a second trial at a later date for allegedly sexually assaulting Alexis in the aftermath of his wife’s death.