The mistress at the center of the Martin MacNeill murder trial testified Friday about how the couple called and texted multiple times in the days leading up to his wife’s mysterious April 2007 death.
Wearing a beige jacket, matching pants and her straight, reddish-brown hair past her shoulders, Gypsy Willis, 37, a former nursing student, calmly spoke about how she and the then-married MacNeill, 57, first met online in November 2005.
“We would see each other a couple times a month,” said Willis, who smiled often while on the stand. Asked when the relationship became sexual, she replied, “In January 2006. It was a casual thing, whenever we had time and it could be arranged. I think we’d have sex half the time. Sometimes we’d just have lunch.”
MacNeill, once a respected medical doctor, allegedly overmedicated and then drowned his wife Michele in their Pleasant Grove, Utah, home to be with Willis, prosecutors say. Attorneys for MacNeill, who has pleaded not guilty, have asserted his wife died from natural causes due to heart disease.
Seated at the defense table wearing glasses and a dark-colored suit, MacNeill appeared mostly stone-faced throughout her nearly 40-minute testimony.
Multiple Calls and Texts
Using phone records, prosecutors meticulously pointed out the crescendo of calls and text messages between MacNeill and Willis prior to his wife’s death. (The content of those conversations weren’t immediately revealed.)
Asked why MacNeill mostly texted her from his cell phone instead of calling, Willis replied: “We were not interested in other people knowing [about the affair]. He wanted to keep it quiet. And I respected that.”
The pair exchanged about 30 texts on April, 11, 2007 – the day Michele MacNeill was found unresponsive in a bathtub in the family home and later pronounced dead. They also texted multiple times on the day of Michele’s funeral.
A Bizarre Introduction
Prosecutors also questioned Willis about a strange meeting that MacNeill allegedly masterminded at a Mormon temple just days after the funeral, prior to MacNeill hiring her as a nanny to his youngest children.
Although MacNeill and Willis had been dating almost a year and a half, they pretended to meet for the first time after she ran into MacNeill and his eldest daughter, Rachel, outside the temple.
“I was supposed to walk up and introduce myself, and maybe strike up a small conversation,” Willis testified, who in a police interview admitted the scene was staged. “[MacNeill] wanted me to meet his family on the best possible terms.”
MacNeill’s daughter Rachel, 34, testified Thursday about her horror in quickly realizing after her mother’s death that her father was romantically linked with the supposed new nanny.
“I expected her … to cook, clean, or take care of the children,” said a visibly distraught Rachel, who recoiled when prosecutors showed her a photo of Willis. “[But] she was sitting there staring at my dad, she was [making] goo eyes at my dad.”
MacNeill and Willis were both convicted of identity theft in 2009. Willis, who served a 21-month sentence in federal prison, is testifying as part of her plea deal to avoid further time behind bars.
She resumes testimony Tuesday.